Friday, June 28, 2013

Part 120 - The Massive Castle Crags

The trail commenced on the other side of the bridge that crossed over the Sacramento River where Martha picked me up two days ago.  It was a mile-and-a-half walk back to this point and I walked the frontage road all the way.  Just as I stepped foot on the trail, a car pulled up beside me and out stepped Cookie and Runs-with-Elk.  They had hitched from Mount Shasta, and were set to continue the trail.

The climb for the day was going to be up the steep face of Castle Crags, a massive granite monolith that formed deep in the earth’s crust eons ago.  Overriding continental plates pushed this column towards the earth’s surface, with the softer rock eventually being eroded away, exposing the crags and spires.  Today, the crags are fully exposed, and ever so slowly, they too are being washed to the sea, grain by grain.  Viewing satellite images of the crags, they appear as a bright, irregularly formed crystal, lying on a mantel of green fabric
Getting a late start on today’s hike, coupled with an exhausting, punishing climb up three thousand feet of dusty trail only advanced me a few miles beyond the far western edge of Castle Crags Wilderness area, for a total of twenty-five miles. These were hard miles, and I earned every one of them the old-fashioned way – I worked for them, eight steps at a time.  But the views back along the trail, looking up at the domes, spires, and pinnacles of the crags were stunning, and well worth the effort of the hike.

The trail this day alternated between following ridgelines and/or contours for miles across the steep slopes of the mountainsides.  Getting in late in the evening, I kept looking for a place to set up camp, but the trail was still traversing across the side of the mountain.  Finally, at the corner of a switchback, a sloping flat spot among the rocks appeared, and I took it, but to make the spot level enough to sleep on, I had to place the lower half of my air mattress on top of my backpack.

The night was pleasant; the ambient temperature was warm and the ants were minimal.  I set my internal clock for 3:00 a.m.  I know it's ludicrous; nobody else gets up this early just to hike, but I recognize that I’m different; I’m highly goal-oriented and I wanted to make as many miles as possible tomorrow – I had Etna on my mind.

At three in the morning my eyes popped open and a half hour later, I was on the trail following the beam of my headlamp.  The trail continued to contour around the side of the mountain.  Around five o'clock, it was light enough to see the trail without the use of the headlamp, so I stowed it inside my Camelbak hydration pack.  I had a small snack when I left this morning, but at seven o'clock, I stopped to fix a proper meal for breakfast.  A proper meal was nothing more than hydrated oats with crushed nuts, spices, and powdered milk.  To my chagrin, I fell asleep eating my breakfast, so I pulled my Z-pad off my backpack, laid it on the ground and sacked out for twenty minutes.

This area of the Klamath Mountain range in times past was heavily glaciated, resulting in the formation of numerous lakes; however, the trail has been routed to avoid most of them as they are still frozen and snowbound even into late July.

From the trail, I could see Seven Lakes Basin, and shortly thereafter I passed over a major crest - the Trinity Divide, which diverted surface water either to the Sacramento River to the east or the Trinity River to the west.  In either direction, both rivers entered the Pacific Ocean only 280 miles apart.  [1]

The walk this day was long and the scenery was monotonous, being mostly forested lands, with some areas showing logging activity, so to pass the time as I walked, I let my mind wander.  My memories were my only form of entertainment, for I carried no electronic entertainment center like an iPhone, an iPod, or a shuffle.  

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