Jilara (jilara) wrote,

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A lovely solstice

I took my birthday off and, having an urge to sit on a mountaintop (or at least hike one), I went up to Castle Rock park.
I have a standard route that I follow, heading out the trail on the opposite side of the road to Indian Rock, then following the trail up to Summit Rock, detouring to climb Summit Rock, then out to cross the road farther up the Skyline trail and go down the Logary Woods trail. From there, I head through the hike-in campground, cross the stream, and head out the upper trail to Goat Rock. It's a strenuous and rather ambitious through-hike, but one I prefer to take, if I can afford the time.

This time, the wildflowers were incredible. I have never seen so many, and so many so late. I saw flowers I'd never seen up there before. I don't think many people have taken the trail between Indian Rock and the Summit Loop Trail, as I had to duck under low bushes and climb over some fallen trees. And when I came to the slope down to the Summit Loop Trail, there wasn't a lot of trail left, just a lot of jutting rocks. The slope was studded with red larkspur, too. Neat. When I got to Summit Rock, I kept getting partway up the rock and then deciding to check out another route. I always dither at Summit Rock, as there are so many neat possible routes. I was partway up, about to head for the top, when I heard something that I found a whit alarming. It was the crash and bounce of an aluminum can, dropping, dropping, bouncing, then far below a "Hey!" and imprecations. The back side of Summit Rock drops hundreds of feet pretty much sheer (great view of the South Bay from there), and someone had tossed a can from the top, which might have impacted a climber below. I decided I didn't want to meet the tossee or be mistaken for the tossee. I climbed down and headed out.

Heading down the Logary Woods trail, I realized I was one of the few to pass it, this season. I dropped down through long overgrowth and knee-high grass, where only the barest marks of hikers passed through. I climbed over fallen trees. It was completely deserted and remote, and I loved it. I was scolded by jays, and across the big stream (still running cold and deep) I caught a glimpse of what looked like a martin, chasing something. (They are streamside predators, so he was probably hunting.) Even the dry and exposed rock bench you cross on the way to the campground had wildflowers, and was quite pleasant, when normally you swelter. Some sort of pea-flowered bush was blooming in massive magenta mounds, there. The abandonned ranger house had been vandalized, and you could see in through holes in the walls. There was orange tape up, with Keep Out signs. Rather sad commentary on our society.

As I headed up the final leg of trail, the light was slanting in golden rays across the trail. It was probably well after 5 pm now, so I needed to be aware of the time. I stopped for a while and just let my mind blank, up by the "bird observation area" -- which also has a great view. A patchwork tapestry of green vegetation stretched away and down into the depths of Big Basin, and you could see all the way down to the mountains of Big Sur, far away across Monterey Bay to the south. Very far off, you could hear the faint rush of the waterfall. The falls drops 60 feet off the mountain, and was obviously still quite full of water. I headed on to Goat Rock, where I scaled it and headed out to drop down into the cave. If you didn't know it was there, you'd have no idea Goat Rock was hollow. It's something you have to discover. I never remember the route to get through one of the alternative openings, so I always end up lowering myself in by upper body strength, it seems. I did some chanting in there, listening to the echos, in honor of my friend Skip, who passed away recently. It was something I'd been meaning to do. As a Native shaman, he would have appreciated it. I climbed out one of the alternative holes, and hauled myself up onto the farthest edge of the spine of rock, where Goat Rock falls maybe a hundred feet or so down to a ledge. (It's a popular climbing route.) There was no one there, so late on a Tuesday. I got to my feet and walked the narrow spine back, observing to the air "This is definitely not a place for acrophobics." When I climbed back to the uphill side, I saw a backpack. Hmm, that hadn't been there before. Following the trail down and around, I stopped at the base and looked up. Someone was free-climbing the west face, and was almost to the top. Aha, that explained the backpack. Following the trail down to King Creek, I decided to detour a bit and go see the waterfall. I just couldn't see being up here without going to the falls, though it was a slight backtrack. As suspected, there was still a respectable amount of water plunging over the edge. Someone with a large pack came and stood on the deck by the falls for a few minutes, and we nodded and said hello. Must be going to the hike-in camp. On the final haul up from the waterfall, I passed several more people heading in. Must be some sort of group camping event. They'd better hurry, if they want to hit the campground before dark! It was twilight-dusky going up the long canyon to the trailhead. When I got back to my car, it was 7:30. Still an hour until sunset. Maybe the hikers would make it after all.

Chris took me to sushi at Ariaki for dinner, when I got back. Good replenishing food after a satisfying day of hiking. I can live like this.

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