Storming the Castle
Before Elevation = 2,100
Ending Elevation = 6,300
Weather: Mostly cloudy, Mid 80’s
I’d gotten as much of my pack ready last night so that I didn’t have to deal with it in the morning. I even filled my hydration bladder up last night. This morning however, just before I was supposed to meet out on the porch for my ride, as I was finishing up packing I was a bit mystified to find the 1.5 liters of water I’d filled had gone missing!
Surely I hadn’t thread the cap on correctly and it drained, but I didn’t see any water on the floor. My pack, I noticed however, was definitely damp near the bottom. But, there wasn’t time to pull everything out and investigate further. I’d have to do so on trail.
Everything worked out smoothly with my ride back to the trail and I started hiking around 7:30am. The trail was steep right away. I was expecting it, I’d looked at my app and saw that I was in for a rough day, climbing from near 2,000 feet out of town and into the 6,000 range! I was ready though and began my ascent, bombing up the slope.
Sometime around 9:00am I stopped for a breakfast break. I pulled everything out and found a few items that were a bit wet, but really not too bad. Definitely not 1.5 liters worth of water, so not sure where it all went, yikes! I set my clothes and sleeping bag out in the sun while I snacked.
After breakfast, the trail continued going up. In fact, I found myself having thoughts go through my head such as, “I don’t remember the elevation profile on Guthook’s looking this steep!” and “I’m don’t know how they think a horse could get up this trail (the PCT is supposed to be graded for horses)!” and “This has to be the hardest, most ruggedly steep section I’ve done yet on the PCT!” Maybe you see where this is going…I also had thought “Hmm that’s interesting that I’m not seeing any of the Altra Lone Peak shoe prints” and “I wonder why I havn’t seen any other hikers yet this morning?”
You guessed it, I’d gotten off the PCT onto another trail by accident….the Castle Crags Trail I’d find out later. This was a big stupid moment for me! I really did think about all that stuff above and yet didn’t put it together. I think I’d just been so prepared to have a tough day that I was in power mode, not thinking mode apparently. I’d only gone about two PCT miles out of town, then veered off. And went a ways off trail, like a few miles and about 1,500 feet off trail. Goo! So frustrating. It was a very cool hike up the steep stuff though, I’d gone straight up into Castle Crags. I got all the way to the base of one called Castle Dome. So here are the pictures I took during my detour expedition…
Below is where I turned around finally, at a sheer drop chained off. I even considered going through that little hole underneath the leaning boulder, but found out my mistake beforehand.
Here’s the screenshot I took of my map app. I was way up by the “A” in “Castle Dome” when I turned around!
I contemplated finding some other way to meet up with the trail, just bushwack my way directly towards it, rather than backtrack. But, I’m happy to report that I made the smart call to go back down the trail I’d taken. It was about 3 hours that I estimated I was off the PCT. So that’s cool. Especially when I was already in for a rough climb of about 4,000 feet gain, let’s kick on a other 1,500. I wasn’t very excited about being a fool, but onward I went, determined to reach my same goal despite the delay.
The tent site I was shooting for was about 18 miles from the trailhead. I’d heard from multiple others that it’s a beauty of a site with views of Castle Crags, Mt. Shasta, and distantly Lassen Peak still.
With the help of some audiobooking (HP7), some tunes (Defying Gravity from Wicked soundtrack was a hit), and a bag of some of the best “sour” gummy bears I’ve ever had, I made my goal. Hooray! Turns out, the storming of the Castle Crags wasn’t part of the PCT agenda at all. Instead, the trail stayed relatively low in the 2,000-3,000 range, looping around and flanking the Crags before the big climb up around behind them. Not what I was expecting. It was pretty spectacular though…
I was beat. The views were indeed amazing and I was happy to have made it though. A bit cloudy, which wasn’t helping for pictures, but nonetheless a wonderful spot to have dinner before plopping into my tent.