A Saunter at Pinnacles

November 13, 2020 at 8:51 am (California, California Central Coast, Monterey County, National Parks, Nature, Nature photography, Photography) ()

“I don’t like either the word [hike] or the thing. People ought to saunter in the mountains – not ‘hike!’ Do you know the origin of that word saunter? It’s a beautiful word. Away back in the middle ages people used to go on pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and when people in the villages through which they passed asked where they were going they would reply, ‘A la sainte terre’, ‘To the Holy Land.’ And so they became known as sainte-terre-ers or saunterers. Now these mountains are our Holy Land, and we ought to saunter through them reverently, not ‘hike’ through them.”

― John Muir

From the end of the road, west side of Pinnacles

I had an early morning assignment to photograph the setting of flags on Veterans Day at the King City Cemetery, and it was the perfect opportunity to continue on to Pinnacles National Park a short drive from there.

On the Balconies trail

I had struggled with hiking for several years due to arthritis. I didn’t realize how much a bad hip contributed to that struggle until it became literally crippling. Since hip replacement surgery in March, I’ve celebrated every step. Even arthritic knees don’t stop me.

My idea of hiking is really what John Muir called “sauntering.” I stop to rest. I stop to watch birds. I stop for photographs. I look at patterns in the leaf litter or tree bark. I enjoy the experience.

The famed Balconies cave is closed, possibly due to COVID–19. But the trail itself is a five-star joy. First you approach the peaks that shelter the cave, then you enter a shady and quiet oak forest.

Giant boulders decorate the walk, evidence of earthquakes (Pinnacles is on the San Andreas Fault) or glaciers or other momentous upheavals.

It was a popular trail, and not difficult or crowded. Elevation gain was only 100 feet (seemed like more) but the loop couldn’t be completed due to the portion that goes to the cave. Backtracking, however, was still lovely.


One small section had a lot of songbird activity due to a hatch of some type of slow-flying insect. Wrentits, spotted towhees, oak titmice, Bewick’s wrens, ruby-crowned kinglets were all over the mini-swarm, and even my 120mm zoom managed to do justice to the wrentit.

Low clouds gathered and thickened by the end of my 4-hour saunter. That is my favorite type of light. It is wonderful for photography.

Most folks pulled up masks or covered their faces when passing on the trail. Definitely the 2020 Trail Etiquette everywhere. I can’t wait to return in Spring.

Photos and text copyrighted by Cindy McIntyre
Feel free to reblog or share
Website:  CindyMcIntyre.com
Online gallery:  Smugmug and Fine Art America
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  1. DesertAbba said,

    Beautiful quote from Muir about sauntering and beautiful pics! Thanks!

  2. Patti said,

    Glad you can saunter and take such wonderful photos. After Covid I look forward to going to Pinnacles and visit friends along the way.

  3. Joyce said,

    As always, you take me away from my desk and into a place I need to go.

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