Sun, Jul 18, 2010
Luckily, it was not as dreadful as things had first appeared. Much of the Crags Trail is in shade and the temperatures cooled off some as we climbed higher and the afternoon wore on. After crossing the PCT and passing another junction with an unusually named trail, we managed to catch a lizard using a grass noose. This particular lizard was either lazy, unafraid, or possibly scared stiff, because it seemed content to sit in one's hand without scurrying off. This was all the amusement necessary to turn this hike from loathing to fun. Jackie carried the lizard in her hand or her hat for next hour was we made our way up the 2.7mi trail. We took a few breaks along the way and wowed at the sight of Mt. Shasta looming large on the skyline.
As we neared the Castle Crag formations, Ryan got ahead of us and out of sight and hearing range. Jackie and I momentarily took a wrong turn and then spent some time searching for her brother, thinking he may have made a similar error. There were rock climbers in the area, some we saw nearby, others only by their voices. We tried shouting for Ryan, but our words dissipated in the air and against the rocks without answer. We passed a guy heading down wearing sandles and a budhist-like garb and cradling a something in his outstretched hands (not a lizard) - he didn't seem like the guy to ask about a lost boy so we left him to his concentration. Another hiker some minutes later gave a positive ID on a boy fitting Ryan's description ahead on the trail. We found him at a switchback sometime later, quietly tossing rocks down from above. That they were bouncing on the trail below with significant velocity AND that this might somehow be dangerous had not occurred to him - thankfully the trail was not highly used today. We had a short, "Trundling - Bad" lecture as we continued up together again.
We reached the base of the Castle Dome feature in an open clearing where the forest thins out. The kids had been asking if they could stop and wait for me to finish, but I had not allowed it earlier because I didn't want to be gone for too long. But this seemed a fine, shady location where we could keep an eye on each other while I went up to scramble to the summit. I managed the round trip in about 35 minutes and found it highly enjoyable. I think the kids would have loved it too, but they seemed to enjoy spending time with the lizard and each other just as much.
From a notch at the base I scrambled up slabs to a light orange colored "stairway" of sorts on the southwest side. It led up an otherwise blank section of the dome with considerable exposure. The holds were all excellent and it was no more than class 3, but an exhilarating 100ft or so. There is a fine view of Mt. Shasta from the summit to the northeast, but otherwise features unrecognizable to me in the other directions. Below, to the southwest, I could see Ryan and Jackie still playing in the shade. I was somewhat surprised to find that Castle Dome was not the highest point in the area. That honor goes to some other feature to the northwest (in fact, from perusing the map one can see that the elevation of Castle Crags increases almost continuously for some miles, culminating at Peak 7,200ft about six miles distance).
I left the summit via another options, using a narrow chimney-groove on the southeast side to bypass the stairway. The route reconnected with the same path I had taken on the lower half of the face, dumping me back at the notch on the west side. In my absence Jackie's lizard had run away (Jackie says her brother scared it off), but otherwise they had had a pleasant enough time. It took us little more than an hour to descend what had taken us two hours to ascend. The air was noticeably cooler now there was even some admission that it had been a fun outing.
We drove north on I-5 past Mt. Shasta and Black Butte (location for another adventure at the end of the week), and on to Yreka where we spent the night at the Motel 6. The kids had ample time to enjoy the pool there and we ate at the ubiquitous Black Bear Diner that evening. Onion rings, shakes, burgers, mmmmm... Makes hiking with Dad almost worth it.
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Castle Dome
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