The Pinnacles seem like a legend—could this exotic jumble of minarets, said to be hidden among the rolling hills between Salinas and nowhere, really exist? Ask any Bay Area native and he’ll say, “Yeah, I’ve always wanted to take a day.” But my wife and I just couldn’t face the four to five hours of driving there and back until we: a) heard that the condors really are returning (30 birds are now flying free) and b) realized we could arrange a big reward for ourselves afterward. We chose our anniversary weekend, finally did that gorgeous morning drive into Pinnacles National Monument, climbed the steep trail toward the High Peaks, and, once at elevation, hoofed awestruck among the craggy rocks. The sun shone bright on the park’s strange pink and tan towers; shadows cast by the capelike wings of massive circling condors raced across the rock faces; a sea of roadless ranchland surrounded us. As soon as we descended, we got on the road to Carmel (75 miles away) and our two-story pad at the Hyatt Carmel Highlands inn, with its king-size bed overlooking the sea. The views of the bay stunned us into silence, and the resort itself is sweet—it was recently refurbished. We breakfasted onsite at the California Market, rode the free bikes through Point Lobos, and drove home, with the Pinnacles—finally, after our 26 years together in the Bay Area—in our rearview mirror.