SODA MOUNTAIN (6,091') AND CASTLE CRAGS TRAIL May 25-26, 2004
Waiting all month for a good opportunity to climb some new peaks, I saved my money and car for this short effort to explore in this beautiful State. I was unable to find any good information or photos on the fairly new Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in the southern part of Oregon. This recently designated park is not even listed on the official National Park Service website!
Curious and seeking some inexpensive adventure, I determined that the Pacific Crest Trail ran through it, and along the western side of Soda Mountain. So, then, I assumed good access and scenery.
After another sleepless night, I took off by about 3:30 a.m. to motor quickly north on Interstate 5. I wasn't sure if I had very reliable data from the online topo map service, and the BLM reps could not give much information on the hiking distances, or even tell me how much snow there was! So, not knowing exactly how long this climb would take, I started from Greensprings Summit on OR 66 by about 10 a.m. I followed the PCT south, through private land, then saw the distance would be far longer than they said. At a minor dip in the trail's elevation, I turned back, also prompted by dark clouds forming overhead. Not wishing to incur heavy rain in my casual hiking wear, I came back to the trailhead parking for maybe an hour's total hike.
There is a nearby, good road that is signed, "Soda Mountain," so I resolved to investigate that. I motored slowly up this excellent gravel road, with little dust. It also passes through private land. After 4.2 miles, I came to a side road to the right, signed, "Soda Mountain." Parking next to a log fenced meadow, I started hiking, at about 11:30 a.m., up this rough road, and, looking at my map, saw the distance here was not too great.
I sometimes have a problem of counting "drive-up" peaks as a climb, but the non-trivial distance and rough road, and this being the highest point in the National Monument, induced me to count this in my records. There was lots of mud, and some small snow banks, but trucks have been driving up recently. It took me a bit over a half-hour to summit. The usual communication facilities are situated on top, with a lookout to provide elevated vistas.
Busying myself giving a good test to my newest memory cards, I also tried various settings on my camera to determine how to get better shots. Snowy Mt. McLoughlin (9,495') showed itself far to the north. Mt. Shasta was in clouds, as it was for the duration of my trip. The scene was nice, but I wonder how this makes very good "wilderness," if anyone considers it all of that.
I enjoyed being up there for about a half hour, then came back to my car after 33 minutes. I motored back to Ashland, OR, and strolled about the main business district of this nice town. It is noted for it's Shakespeare Festival and an Oregon University. I used my new memory card even more, hopefully not disturbing people, very much, why there was a guy snapping, presumably, their pictures (I try to record cityscapes without identifiable persons, but with my time, and the traffic, I can't always wait).
Headed south again on the Interstate, I came to Yreka, CA, and chose a reasonable-priced motel to catch up on some good sleep. After watching the TV news, I drove east to the nearby town of Montague. I obtained some views of cloudy Mt. Shasta, but did not get any good sunset photos. After a meal, a good decaf coffee soothed my aches, and made my evening treat.
Wednesday morning, I headed south, passing Weed and Mt. Shasta City, CA. I arrived at the trailhead parking for the Castle Crags Trail in the State Park. The day use fee here is now $4.
My plan was to hike up this scenic trail and see how I would do on climbing Castle Dome (4,966') for my 2X. I made fair time hiking up the 2,000' gain, then as I approached the top, saw two climbers headed up the Dome. I raced after them, interested in meeting other people who do this.
Not having done any high class 3 for awhile, I had some hesitation in doing this. I knew the route, having photos from my previous ascent, but they don't always show the steepness, as one may perceive, on seeing them for real! The climbers, a man and a kid, had disappeared, presumably summiting. I took an incorrect gully which served as slight practice in regaining my rock skills. Then finding the easy way, I soon came to the bottom of the last 100 feet to the top. Darn! I had problems here last time, but then with a partner to belay me with a rope. I hadn't needed the rope downclimbing, but my fears overtook me, now, not wishing even the slightest chance of injury after a slip and slide. I can always come back, and any hurt to my feet or legs could put me out of climbing and hiking for a long, long time!
The two others soon climbed down, showing how easy it was. Apparently this is old hat for the older one. Seizing the chance, I headed down after them. My great worry is to suffer immobilization, with no one to help. And climbing solo, what I initially believed to be class 4, isn't really very smart!
I relaxed, down from the Dome, to concentrate on photography of the views. I fiddled around with camera settings and modes, and shot several photos to stitch together for a panorama. A chipmunk was scampering about on a near vertical wall across from me. Seems that everything up here, except me today, is adapted to exposure!
I spoke with another hiker, then saw another three climbers headed up the Dome. I left the area by 2 p.m., then sighted a couple, rock climbing a more difficult way. I don't know whether they were just off-route, or doing some unroped, class 5, climbing practice. One of them made the top, and I watched to see that he made it back down to the easy part.
It took me about an hour and a half to get back to my car. I chatted with the hiker, then drove off to head for home.
Beforehand, though, I motored about Redding, CA, and then stopped in the historic part of Red Bluff. I enjoy urban exploring, with old buildings, cute business logos, and window fronts, to photograph. With still lots of daylight, I also drove the 6 miles east off the Interstate to see Tehama County River Park along the Sacramento River. The sun behind clouds made for a beautiful sight, and several anglers in boats were fishing in the river. After food and drink back in Corning, CA, I shortly noted a sunset not really worth stopping for, and finished the trip uneventfully.
Roughly, I had hiked 10 miles with 2,500' gain. I shot about 600 digital images, and finished a roll of Kodachrome left over from my former trip to Oregon. My total expenditures were just over $100. I drove almost 700 miles, round trip. No ticks, and only a few mosquitoes bothered me at Castle Crags. For the most part, a T-shirt and jeans were fine. Wildflowers were blooming everywhere.
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