I started the six-day drive to Denton on a Friday, waved goodbye to my friends in Oakland, and made my way down on California’s occasionally scenic 101. The three-hour drive from Oakland to Pinnacles traverses interesting landscapes, first the bustling Silicon Valley then the expansive agricultural middle of the state. I passed through Gilroy, also known as the Garlic Capital of the World, which not only houses an annual garlic festival but also garlic-flavored everything from lollipops to chocolate to ice cream. It's definitely a fun place to stop or a nice day trip from the Bay if you need a garlic pick-me-up.
As you get to Pinnacles National Park in Salinas Valleys, the road winds more and you start to see the large namesake rocks popping up. These geological features were formed by a now-extinct volcano and provide awesome challenges for visiting rock climbers. The park is also home to plenty of caves, and therefore bats, as well as prairie falcons and California condors.
I wish I had more time to spare, but I enjoyed the drive through the park and seeing the beautiful landscape here. This is the closest National Park to the Bay, and it's one I'll definitely be hitting up again.
Three more hours of driving brought me to my first stop in Bakersfield. Located in the Central Valley, the city has somewhere shy of half a million inhabitants and a reputation for its bustling country music scene. It is definitely worth more than just a stopover to see its best sights like the popular antique shops downtown and the spacious Kern River Parkway Trail. Unfortunately, I didn't have energy for much other than In-N-Out and checking tomorrow's weather. I was stoked for Joshua Tree!