Everyone, please say hello to our newest guest blogger Rob DiPerna!
Rob hails from Arcata, Ca in Humboldt County. He is a California forest and wildlife advocate. He is a major contributor to the Environmental Protection Information Center website, he’s a tremendous blogger/photographer and he is also known as “Rob of the Redwoods”. Welcome, Rob DiPerna!! https://www.facebook.com/redwoodnaturalist/ http://www.wildcalifornia.org
“Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.”–William Shakespeare
The long, cold, wet, winter of our discontent is now at long last giving way to the promise of a most glorious spring and summer. Although this forest of giant pillars of the gods striding adjacent to the mighty Pacific coastline will be more home for hereafter, there in me yearns a deep burning for the mountains and river and lakes, the granite, the glaciers, and waterfalls of the high-country and the warmth of long summer days.
It felt so perfectly satiating to simply get on Highway 299 and start heading east for the first time since the early fall. Once beyond Willow Creek, and winding along the raging rapids of the South Fork Trinity River, the warmth I have been so seeking for, within, and without, greeted, and caressed me bringing comfort, and the deep knowledge that the seasons, and the wheel, have once again turned toward spring and summer.
The highway stoppage at Big French, sandwiched between long stoppages at Burnt Ranch and Junction City, served as a perfect opportunity to get out of the car and witness the power of the river and the summer that follows close behind. A brief stop in Redding had me itching to get out of the city and up into the mountains and the high-country, and so I didn’t dally long before heading north on I5 towards Castella and Castle Crags State Park.
Upon my arrival at Castle Crags, the mid-day sun was high, fully exposed, and warm and dry beyond the likes I’d experienced in months. After setting up camp, my soul yearned to explore, but my brain was wary of a long hike with a steep climb in shortening daylight but very high hot sun. I struck what seemed a reasonable compromise and did a short day-hiking excursion out of the campground, which is nestled in the part directly adjacent to a perpetually roaring I5. As seems to be my usual, the “jump out of car and onto a trail,” schematic had me winded, slow, and sluggish as I began to gentle ascend through a forested trail out of the campground and up towards the overlook vista point location.
It wasn’t long before I got my legs underneath me, and the breathe cycling in my chest though, and I was making good time and feeling good after a couple miles of climbing to the overlook vista point. From here, the crags, Mount Shasta, and some lesser snow-covered cascade mountaintops could be seen with a thinly veiled blue sky ever-challenged by the bright and seemingly oppressive glean of the sunlight.
The next item on the itinerary was to get familiar with this relatively knew-to-me Western-Southern Cascade forest type as I explored the River Trail, and the Campground-Visitor’s Center Trail. The mixed-conifer forests here betrayed some familiar friends, like Red Fir, with the cedar and pine less immediately identifiable. Oaks, and large, old ones, were the dominant hardwood in these stands, California Black Oak, I was later told. These trees stood as impressively tall, stout, and clad with as thick as bark as the conifers themselves.
Upon return to camp, dinner, and yes, miraculously, a campfire, were the order of my evening. I sat watching the campfire and singing songs to the spirits and the winds that would listen over the incessant din of I5 in the background. The light of the fire, and the light of the solar lamp in my tent created a mystical visage that evening that brought me great comfort.
Day 2 at Castle Crags was the day I’d been waiting for: PCT day!! I build a nine-mile hiking route that took up about half the day, around ascending to, and hiking on, then again descending from, the PCT, which runs for nineteen miles through Castle Crags State Park and the Castle Crags Wilderness. I was excited to meet again with this old friend, but in a new, and exciting place to explore. As I climbed out of the campground, and up onto the Kettlebelly trail to connect with the PCT, I found myself irrepressible in my fervor and anticipation, and was basically running on the trail, even on the ascents, from time to time, trying to get up and onto the PCT.
Once on the PCT, I had trouble slowing my excitement and pace, and still found myself all but running, trying to get out of the forested cover and up and out into the higher and more exposed country. As the PCT found its way out of Castle Crags State Park, and into the Shasta-Trinity National Forest Castle Crags Wilderness, the bang for the experience and the view increased exponentially, as colored granite covered with sheen and cascading waterfalls from high-country streams draining off the crags were found around just about every corner, and the views of the crags, the mountains, and the early miles of the mighty Sacramento River below were a welcome change from the cold, dark forested environs.
I enjoyed every second of the four miles of hiking on the PCT, and had to make a concerted effort to force myself to stop, sit, drink, wash, breathe, and wonder. As I came upon the Flume Creek Trail cutoff that was to lead me off the PCT back down to Castle Crags State Park and the campground, the high-mountain sub-tributary known as “Dump Creek,” offered me one last moment of magic in high-country before my descent. A raging waterfall on an 60 degree angle running down colored granite decorated in moss, with an old-growth board laid across the base to allow ease of access, crossing, and, of course, photo documentation.
As always, there was a stop, a moment of pause to do the gut-check and be sure I was sure I was ready to make my descent before I did so. The Flume Creek Trail wound its way down the granite cliff-side and into mixed scrub forest, then into a mystical albeit somewhat burnt oak meadow, then back again into the South-Western Cascade mixed conifer forest to which I’d now become accustomed here. Eventually, my enthusiasm gave way to the realities of hunger and fatigue, and I finally found a log near a stream with a broken-down bridge by which to sit, eat, rest, filter water, and sponge-bathe. Here, I found the most subtle and beautiful swirling of a gently moving cascade and waterfall into a small pool in a small and very confined channel. The transect between documentation and art is blurry at times, and so it was the case here also with the moment in this streams’ life I managed to capture.
Night two at Castle Crags State Park campground was a climb-in-bed-and-pass-out night, as my fatigue, and the knowledge I needed to hit the road early and make my way north to Shasta City had me in my sleeping bag before full darkness set in. The next morning came early, as expected, and my daydream interlude of being the king of the castle, the mountain, and the crags, was now to give way to tabling, talks, workshops, and lots of driving.
John Muir said it best when saying, “and into the forest I must go, to loose my mind and find my soul.” My soul yearns for these times and these places now, and I am forever changed because of it; I am also forever changed by these places, old and new, each time I venture forth to explore and offer my songs on the wind.