I recently had the blessing of spending a week with my son and his wife in the area where they live in Northern California. They took me to explore several trails in their part of the Pacific Northwest, and this blog post is about the section of the Pacific Crest Trail we hiked, near the small town of Dunsmuir, California.
Myson took this photo of me as we started out the hike, with the trail sign "PCT" pointing the way up the mountain, where this "dog leg" or "spur" trail would connect with the PCT---Pacific Crest Trail.
I convincedmy son and his wife to pause, so I could get a picture of the sign indicating we were in the Castle Crags Wilderness section of the Shasta-Trinity National Forest.
And naturally, I wanted a photo of all three of us "selfie" style, which my son obliged with his long arms!
The spur trail leading up to the main Pacific Crest Trail was very steep and rocky, which is understandable since the PCT in this area traverses mostly the upper heights of the mountains, rather than the river valleys. It closely aligns with the highest portion of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade Mountain Ranges, which lie 100-150 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean. Another reason for the roughness is that the PCT is an equestrian, as well as pedestrian, long-distance hiking trail.
When the spur trail connected with the Pacific Crest Trail, this sign confirmed that we were now officially on the PCT. We hiked to the left, towards the Trinity Divide. Detailed maps of the PCT are available at www.pcta.org .
Several years ago, I was able to do some hiking with my husband on the Pacific Crest Trail at its lowest elevation, The Cascade Locks, on the Washington/Oregon border. That was just a few years after the PCT was officially completed in 1993. (It was first designated as a National Scenic Trail in 1968, when President Lyndon Johnson signed the "National Trails System Act". ) I purchased a Pacific Crest Trail medallion for my hiking stick in the 1990's, so I was delighted to have the opportunity to hike a section of the PCT in California, because that meant my hiking boots had at least "touched down" on the PCT in all three states it goes through in the USA---California, Oregon, and Washington.
We started our hike about mid-morning, so much of the walking was in the shade, and the June temperatures in the mountains were very pleasant. As this photo indicates, I was usually several paces behind Grover and Stacy, which I attributed to being a "flatlander", who had not yet adjusted to hiking at the higher elevations!
As we approached the summit, where the base of the famous stone outcropping known as Castle Crags is located, there was more sun exposure.
This photoshows the jagged formations of Castle Crags on the distant horizon. This is one of 25 National Forests that the PCT passes through. In addition, is passes through 7 National Parks. In fact, its midpoint is near Chester, California, in the Lassen National Park area. ( We had hoped to hike to the top of Lassen Peak later on this trip, but its access roads were closed due to excessive snow).
Stacy spotted a lizard alongthe trail, and fortunately, that was the only reptile we encountered. I say fortunately, because I tend to scream when I see a snake on the trail, regardless of whether or not it is poisonous!
When I was reading about the trail on the Internet before we went, there was a warning to be on the lookout for poison oak, which the literature said was prevalent. The warning was accurate, as the bright green, very lush-looking, low ground cover lined some sections of the path.
I started to stick my hiking boot into it, to give some scale for a photograph, but my son warned me that the oils from the leaves of poison oak can get onto your hiking boots. Then the next time your hands touch those hiking boots, the oil is transferred to your hands. Of course, this can cause you to expose other parts of your body, especially eyes and face, to the noxious chemical .
Groverand Stacy each stepped to the side to let a pair of through-hikers go past us, with their heavy back packs making them easily identifiable as someone not out for a short stroll in the woods. The girl and guy were the only other hikers we encountered the whole time we were out. In other words, it was not a crowded trail! However, awareness of the Pacific Crest Trail has been elevated after the publication of the book Wild, by Cheryl Strayed. The book inspired the movie by the same name, starring Reese Witherspoon.
We were not trying reach the Trinity Divide on this hike, rather a picturesque location called Burstarse Creek. I say "picturesque", because it is not every day that you can get a photo of what appears to be a tree "biting down" on a wooden sign! It was about 3.2 miles to Burstarse Creek, so our total mileage for the day was about 6.5 miles.
The creek was not flowing heavily, but there were pools of water that could have served as a source for through hikers, needing to filter some drinking water for their trek.
The moss-covered rocks are a clue that this area regularly receives run-off from higher elevations, brought on by rain or snow-melt.
There was spotty cell phone coverage where we hiked, but if you could use the Internet, you would learn that the Pacific Crest Trail is 2,659 miles long, and ranges from just above sea level at the Oregon - Washington border, to 13,153 feet at Forester Pass in the Sierra Nevada mountain range.
There were a few spots where water trickled over the boulders, and made a pleasing waterfall sound. This is the spot where I stopped to rest and have my lunch.
Grover and Stacy continued up the rock race of the mountain, with Grover assuring his wife that the summit was just a short distance away, and they would be back "in a wink". (I took so many photos of my son during my week visiting him, that he told me he felt like he was being followed by the "mamarazzi", rather that the "paparazzi"!)
I handed over my camera to my son, and asked him to take some photos of the trip up, so I could see what I missed. Judging from the steepness of this photo, I think I made a wise decision in staying behind!
After climbing a distance on the rock face, they came to a location where Grover could get a photo of water cascading over the top of Castle Crags.
There was still snow on area mountain tops, so part of this waterfall is probably made up of snow melt.
I became aware of this area by an email I received from my son the first month he moved there, several years ago. It said, "Totally stoked! Climbed Castle Crags today!" To show you how uninformed I was, I had to google the slang meaning of "stoked", as well as what in the world was "Castle Crags"??!!
Most of the jagged peaks that give the mountain top the name "Castle Crags", have individual names, and many of them are used by recreational rock-climbing enthusiasts.
www.Amazon.com ), as well as the local Mt. Shasta Chamber of Commerce office, as shown in the photo below:
As I was writing this blog, I was reminded of a Road Scholar ( www.roadscholar.org ) hiking program I attended in the California Redwoods. One of the advertised features of that particular program, was the opportunity to hike with the author of the definitive hiking guide book, for the trails in the Redwoods. Now I was getting to hike in the Castle Crags Wilderness with the author of a similar guide book, who was also the photographer who used a photo he took of Castle Crags on his book cover. And, he was my son!! How cool is that!!??Getting to spend time in the mountains of California, with my son and his wife, gave me "MILES OF SMILES"!! Tricia