Although recent weather forecasts are being cagey about snow, they did offer up a sunny day (or most of one) in Northern California. Going to our ever growing file of hikes to be done before we become compost, I pulled out a hike on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) along the southern edge of the Castle Crags Wilderness to an outcrop the Ashland Hiking Group has informally named “Sabin’s Point.” I sweetened the deal with a night in Mount Shasta, California and The LovedOne was all in for it. Previously, we’d hiked up the Castle Dome Trail and even climbed the Dome itself, but this would be our first foray to the Crags’ southwest side.
The hike starts at the Dog Trailhead, which is 3.2 miles west of Interstate-5 on Castle Creek Road [Forest Road (FR) 25]. The trailhead is actually an old borrow pit and is not maintained or signed (other than for a couple of small “PCT” signs). We parked on the west side of the open area; having been warned that the east side was an informal shooting range. The Dog Trail (USFS 4W19), which is an old jeep trail built to service the long defunct Munko Mine (first claimed in 1939), begins off to the northwest,
and climbs 500 vertical feet in 0.7 miles to intersect the PCT.
Just before we reached the PCT, we passed a pile of old timbers on the slope above the trail. Later we would learn that these are likely remains of some structure associated with the Munko Mine (which hoped to strike it rich with chromium, but didn’t)
Once we turned north on the PCT, we were pleased to find that recent maintenance had removed an awkward barrier from the trail.
We ambled along this almost level stretch of the PCT,
past Popcorn Spring (actually more of a creek at this time of year),
and continued on ambling through a forest of golden chinquapins and pines,
to a crossing of Burstarse Creek (we’d visit its falls on our way back),
Past Burstarse, the PCT started to climb more forcefully, which gave us our first clear views of the Crags.
There are two waterfalls along Burstarse Creek, close to the PCT, that obviously see frequent visitors. But as we climbed higher, it became clear that the creek held more than a few waterfalls, some probably 200-300 feet in height, tucked (possibly inaccessibly) deep in steep granite canyons.
But we kept climbing on the PCT,
as the views of the Crags got bigger and wider,
as we crossed Ugly Creek (we think this name is totally unfair, as it is quite a charming little rivlet) twice,
to more views of the Crags.
We then turned a corner, which gave us a view up canyon toward “Harry Watkins Peak”, at the head of the canyon, which we climbed last year.
We continued around the corner for some views of the more northerly of the Crags,
before descending a little past some amazingly tall and straight Ponderosa pines,
to cross an unnamed tributary of the North Fork of Castle Creek.
After that, it was more climbing on long switchbacks,
during which we noticed that the weather was becoming more truculent by the minute. Monday’s promised storm was starting to send out its feelers a little earlier than expected.
But we pushed on, reaching “Sabin’s Point” just as a chill wind picked-up and the sunlight got a little dimmer.
Still it was a great spot for a snack with rounded boulders for seats and an expansive view (or another view since we’d been having those all morning). As is often the case when hiking with irony, as soon as we started down the wind quit, the clouds shifted, and the sun came out. This was nice in that it threw some depth into our down-trail views.
We were even able to pick-out a keyhole high on the main ridge,
and get a side view of one of the deep canyons between the domes.
As promised, when we got back to Burstarse Creek, we scrambled up along side it, avoiding the very slippery rocks,
to the base of the lower 40-foot falls.
We were tempted to continue on up-slope to the upper, taller falls but the weather had reversed course again and withdrawn its offer of sunlight. Gloom was starting. Food and libations back in Mount Shasta thus seemed like the cheerier option, so we went down to the PCT and took it and the Dog Trail back to the trailhead. A wonderful moderate (10 miles roundtrip; 2,800 feet of gain) hike on a great trail with amazing views, waterfalls, interesting creeks, and an old mine. “Sabin’s Point” is a natural turn-around/lunch/snack spot for a 10-mile excursion up this surprisingly interesting piece of the PCT.