Friday, June 22, 2012

Castle Dome

Welcome to sunny California!
Castle Crags State Park is closed! I know California has its money problems but it almost seems criminal to shut down this venerable park with its magnificent crags. However, the park remains accessible to intrepid hikers so the Friends of the Umpqua Hiking Club organized a campout in a rare foray to sunny California.

Well, the only problem with sunny California was that we brought our Oregon weather with us, the skies were dark and moody with rain imminent. Setting out on the Pacific Crest Trail, we immediately began heading uphill, gaining the first of nearly 2,600 feet of elevation gain in a wooded forest with very little ground cover.

Prince's pine

My namesake trail

Shortly after an intersection with the signed Kettlebelly Trail, Dollie began snickering and calling me "Mr. Kettlebelly". There weren't a lot of wildflowers but there were several clumps of Cascade lily and tiger lily growing alongside the trail. The saprophytes (plants lacking chlorophyll) were represented by the alabaster white phantom orchid and pink wintergreen. And, of course, there was a healthy poison oak population growing underneath all the trees.

Direct quote:  "This is awful!"
Arriving huffing and puffing at the intersection with the Castle Dome trail, we were dismayed to discover all the uphill climbing so far was a mere preamble to the "real" climbing as the Castle Dome Trail cranked up the steepness. I tucked in behind Dollie and we continued the hike at wife-speed as she muttered "This is awful!"

On the goat path
I did my part, telling her we were almost there but after three miles of me telling her we were almost there, she didn't believe me any more. Eventually, the forest thinned out, the earthen tread became a rocky goat path, and we were walking around and through a granite wonderland of crags, towers, pinnacles, and minarets. Coming from lava-based geology as we do, this was quite exotic stuff and we reveled in the scenery.

Castle Dome
Gaining altitude relentlessly, the forest thinned out and we entered an alpine scrubland consisting of low-growing manzanita and oak with a crest of rocky pinnacles rising above us.  The views opened up and were impressive despite the overcast sky. Castle Dome, our intended destination was relatively close and a short push brought us to a saddle at its base.

Castle Crags rock!
It is possible to climb Castle Dome but a wall of black clouds was heading our way and this is not the summit scramble to do in bad weather. So Ray and I left tired wives at the saddle and continued exploring the crags above for a bit. We were on a ridge crest and steep and precipitous valleys dropped at our feet while the crags kept going on and on in a seemingly infinite procession.

Feels like Oregon!
On the way down, the wind began to absolutely howl and the heavens opened up, delivering on the threatened rain. It was a soggy return to the trailhead where we removed sodden raingear, heading back to our Siskiyou Lake camp for the remainder of our wet weekend.

1 comment :

  1. Too bad you weren't able to do it. I have done the scramble twice before (in addition to a wonderful 6-pitch rockclimb on The Ogre nearby) and it is really fun!