Thursday, December 1, 2011

Castle Crags Expedition

The first time I ever heard the phrase "castle crags" was several years ago when my son first moved to northern California. I received a text message from him that said "Stoked!! Just climbed castle crags!" His epistle only contained five words, and I had to look up three of them, in an attempt to figure out what he was talking about! By looking on Wikipedia, I learned that Castle Crags is a dramatic and well-known rock formation in Northern California. However, as an Arkansas native, not at all familiar with Northern California at the time, Castle Crags was hardly "well-known" to me! I also learned that "stoked" did not mean that he was literally "on fire"; rather, his level of excitement at his climbing accomplishment was "on fire"! I was somewhat awe-struck when I saw the photos of Castle Crags for the first time on the Internet, and continue to be awe-struck at their beauty the times I have seen them in person since then.

When I was there last week, wispy clouds were periodically encircling the summits, making them truly appear like a castle in the sky! Elevations range from 2000 feet along the Sacramento River near the base of the crags, to over 6500 feet at the summit of the tallest crag.

Exploitation of the land by lumber and mining operations encouraged concerned citizens in 1933 to acquire much of the land, which would eventually become Castle Crags State Park ( ). Located just west of Interstate 5, between the towns of Castella and Dunsmuir, Castle Crags is today a popular tourist stop along the highway.

Castle Creek Road will get you to the entrance of the park, where there is a Visitor Center, campsites, and hiking trails. However, due to budget cuts within the state, weather conditions, and seasonal closures, be sure to call ahead (1-800-444-7275) if you are hoping to reserve a campsite within the park.

When I visited on November 25, most of the deciduous trees had lost their leaves, but I did find this one beautiful maple tree that still was clinging to its colorful autumn "wardrobe".

Castle Creek runs beside the main entrance to the park, plus physically fit visitors can take the River Trail to a pedestrian underpass of Interstate 5, and access a Day-use picnic area along the Sacramento River.

When the state park gates are open, visitors can drive their vehicles up to Vista Point to get a closer view of the giant spires of granite that remind one of sky-scrapers. There are placards at Vista Point that help explain the history of these unusual formations, as well as their common names.

My son continues to be "stoked" about his trips to Castle Crags, and his wife (they are pictured here), has accompanied him on some of these climbing adventures. If you would like to visit Castle Crags, but you are not into rock climbing---consider this: Go there to cut down your Christmas tree!! I read that many families in Northern California have the tradition of purchasing the $10 permit from the U.S. Forest Service that entitles them to trek into the woods and pick out their very own fir tree to put up in their home! Since much of the Castle Crags area is part of the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, you can pick up your permit at any of the ranger stations in that area, or go on-line to for more information.

My son is currently working on a project of writing a guide book about rock climbing in this area. This fact made a Bible passage I read from The Message really come alive when I read it today. It is from Psalm 145 and says "I lift you high in praise, my God, O my King! ... Generation after generation stands in awe of your work; each one tells stories of your mighty acts. ...Your marvelous doings are headline news; I could write a book full of the details of your greatness." I am not writing a book, BUT, I am writing a post for this blog, urging you to get out there and enjoy God's marvelous creation! Get "stoked" about seeing the glorious splendor of God's great outdoors! Miles of smiles! Tricia

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