Monday, November 30, 2009

Castle Crags

November 14, 2009
Crags Trail
Castle Crags
Distance: 6 miles
Elevation Gain:2,250
Hiking Time: 3 hours
Becca and Julie

I wanted to do the Castle Crags hike when I was up in Redding, because I haven't done this hike in years and because it has a 2,250 foot elevation gain, which is perfect training for Kilimanjaro. I asked my niece Becca if she would join me and she was thrilled.

Years ago I had done this same hike with Becca's sister Amy and she had it enjoyed it so much, I thought Becca would as well. Becca didn't tell me that this was her first hike, in which case I might have chosen something a little easier - but she was a complete sport about it and had no problem finishing the hike.

This was the fourth time I could remember doing this hike. Castle Crags is a landmark on the drive to Mt. Shasta and is part of the Pacific Crest Trail. There are the Crags and then the Thumb, as it is called.

The first time I did this hike was with my sister-in-law Cathy, before she married Mike. We were both dying on the climb which is steadily uphill for 2 and half miles. When we finally reached the top, my brother Mike and his German friend Gunter were sitting having lunch on a point below the thumb. Cathy and I peeked around the rock to where they were sitting and it was the first time I experience vertigo.

It is a sheer dropoff from the rock down thousands of feet. I remember my knees shaking and I was unable to move for awhile. The view of Shasta is fantastic, but Cathy and I went and found lunch at a safer spot without the dropoff.

The first part of the trail is all forest and you can't see the crags for the trees. The crags are quite impressive, when you get that first glimpse of them.

We were the first to arrive at the parking lot, but when we started on the hike another car pulled up. This was a group of students from Simpson College. There were probably 12 of them in different groups that all passed us.

We just climbed steadily up the hill. The college kids were doing some pretty risky rock climbing, so Becca and I just watched from a safe distance.

Here is a cute shot of Becca with our first view of Mt. Shasta in the distance. Hard to believe I have climbed to the top of that mountain. I'm amazed with myself every time I see it.

We kept climbing and were just coming to the last section which is all rock, so we decided to take a break. There was a nice rocky point that had a good view so we decided to climb out there.

First you had to climb over a tree and then out onto the point. Becca went first. The area she was climbing over was covered in pine needles.

Becca was just wearing tennis shoes which don't have much traction and she slipped on the pine needles. I watched in horror as she started sliding toward an edge with a huge drop off of hundreds of feet and nothing to break her fall or for her to grab onto.

My heart went into my mouth, because it all happened so fast, I really didn't have time to move. I thought she was really going to go over the edge. Somehow, she stopped herself. Her elbow was banged up and bleeding, but that was the least of it.

My heart wouldn't stop pounding. I could barely climb out to where Becca was sitting. Here I had almost lost my neice on her first hike. That wouldn't have been a good track record. Accidents can happen so quickly and can occur any time. This was a really scary reminder.

We continued up the trail and I asked a British woman to take this shot of us. She had done a lot of climbing in the Andes and has been to Machu Picu which is on my life list. We had a nice chat about altitude sickness and the affect of coca tea on it. I may try to get some for Kilimanjaro.

When we got towards the top, the trail disappeared and we chose one of several paths and scrambled up through the manzanita bushes. We were right below the Thumb and I knew this was the very spot I had experienced vertigo all those years ago.

Becca is very comfortable with heights and scramble right out onto the ledge, even after her near death recent fall! I called out anxiously to make sure she was all right, but she was fine.

I was able to join her on the rock ledge with a bit of queasiness, but no vertigo. We were surrounded by gorgeous rock faces. The ledge is quite wide and gentle, it is just the fact that it drops off to thousands of feet that can be a problem.

We ate our lunch of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and enjoyed the spectacular views. It was fairly windy out on the rock.

This shot shows the view of Mt. Shasta we wer enjoying. You can't tell that right below my red shoes is the dropoff.

Here is a great shot of the two of us.

This is on the hike down.

We stopped at Indian Springs as a small side trip on the way back down.

Lessons Learned: Don't procrastinate! I should have posted this blog four months ago and now I don't remember any of the details. Oh well. Better late than never.

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