view of Crags from the Little Castle Creek drainage
I hadn't been around the north side of the Crags in awhile so I took a walk up the road past the Railroad Park resort. A warm, sunny day and those great views of the rocks that you get from this area. The only down side is that you have to road walk for almost an hour before you get down to the creek and can enter the woods.
The swimming hole looked as inviting as always but notice how much lower the water is below the stump in the first photo, compared to the spring runoff height in the lower photo:
swimming hole on Little Castle Creek (October 2014)
same swimming hole on Little Castle Creek (April 2012)
On the walk back I was noticing that the soil around here is pretty lacking in organic materials and how trees and shrubs must cling to whatever passes for a good growing spot when I stopped next to the tree shown below that seemed to be co-dependant on the boulder below it:
tree and boulder
Indian Summer is my favorite time of year for hiking so I got an early start and drove up to Castle Lake for a hike up to the ridge above Heart Lake and a look over at the Crags. It seemed weird to be the only car in the parking lot as the last time I was up there the place was like a zoo, with cars backed up on both sides of the road quite a ways before even getting to the restroom.
Castle Lake at sunrise
The lake was about as smooth as I'd ever seen, and I wanted to sit on the shore and watch it for hours, but the sun was already up and I reluctantly left and started up the steep but short trail up to the saddle below Heart Lake. After a brief period of searching here and there I picked up the trail that turns away at the "meadow" and starts up the ridge behind the lake.
Castle Crags from ridge above Heart Lake
A mile and a half and 45 minutes of hiking brought me to the top of the ridge and the view of the west end of the Crags above. I wandered down the other side for a little ways in anticipation of a future trip down to the PCT and around to the State Park, and it certainly looked easier than doing it in the reverse direction.
obligatory shot of Mt. Shasta from Heart Lake
On the way back I stopped at Heart Lake and found the water level several feet lower than the last time I was here, but just as smooth and un-ruffled as Castle Lake was earlier that morning. I succumbed to the urge to get the photo above of Mt. Shasta from the lake shore, then walked over to the outlet and took the picture below. My early start paid off as no sooner than I had finished with my picture taking a couple of dogs and their owners arrived and the first thing the dogs did was plunge into the lake and disrupt the glass-smooth surface.
looking down on Castle Lake, Black Butte, and Mt. Shasta from the outlet of Heart Lake
In the space of no more than 5 minutes, as I was packing up my gear for the hike down, a total of 10 more hikers arrived at the lake, bringing the total to 12 humans and 2 wet dogs. I made haste to leave and met another hiker on the way down and 2 more at the bottom of the trail! I've never been a fan of getting a late start on a hike — it's sort of like going to a movie theater and arriving a half hour after the movie has already begun. Those 15 other hikers, and possibly even the 2 dogs, missed the best part of the movie...
Hedge Creek Falls
A delicious all-night rain sparked a desire to see if any of the local creeks were actually flowing again after such a dry summer, so I braved a light soaking and walked down to the grotto behind the falls and listened once again to the sound of falling water...
After a few more days of wind and rain I seized upon a clear, calm morning and took a hike along the south side of the Crags. Starting on the Indian Creek Nature Trail, I went to the upper bridge and began to follow the creek.
The rain left the ground soft like walking on a thick shag carpet, and I imagined that I could easily sneak up on Daniel Boone himself if it became necessary. It didn't take long to be reminded that creek crossings after several days of rain require considerably more planning [and luck] than similar crossings at the end of a dry summer.
Indian Creek below the Pacific Crest Trail
The rain really jump started the local mushroom crop, and in places you couldn't walk anywhere without stepping on them. I counted at least four different kinds before I came upon the blue ones pictured below:
mushrooms along Indian Creek
I meandered back and forth a bit before coming up to the Pacific Crest Trail, which I followed back to the Bob's Hat Trail, then down to the service road, and then headed downhill to meet the Nature Trail and follow it back to the parking lot across from the Headquarters building. Along the way there were more and more signs that fall is on the way...