A winter view of the north side of the Castle Crags, lands newly accessible to the public.
Last month I wrote an article detailing the significant land acquisitions in the Scott Mountains and the Trinity Divide. Click this link to read that account. After I wrote it I remembered two other articles I had written in the very early days in the blog that reported new lands in the Mount Shasta area that were acquired by the Forest Service. Some of the lands, located on Mount Eddy, were included in the report on the Scott Mountains due to their proximity. The other area, in the Castle Crags, got a little less fanfare, though it could also have a significant positive impact for hikers in the region. Since these articles were written 6 years ago, I thought I would be worthwhile to dredge them up and raise a little awareness of the potential that remains for more spectacular trails and exploration.
The first article focused on lands on Mount Eddy. At the time, a pair of sections (a section is typically 1 square mile equaling 640 acres) were acquired and another pair, including one over-sized section were in negotiations. Adding land on Mount Eddy would have created a contiguous block of land where there had been a checkerboard pattern. In my imagination (and I confess to being a bit of a visionary…with poor execution skills to make my imagination become reality) I thought this would be be a fantastic opportunity to create a Mount Eddy Wilderness. Though this particular designation is unlikely to occur, the area is likely to be managed as such anyway. This means that recreation, particularly trail-based recreation will be the primary use, which is obviously a good thing for hikers.
Though the wilderness area is unlikely, the reality surpassed my expectations in terms of lands acquired. In the initial deal that I reported on, 2 other critical sections were acquired on the east side of Mount Eddy. These are located in the gorgeous Eddy Bowl. Not only could these lands provide access to the frustratingly legally isolated Eddy Crater, Dobkins and Durney Lakes, but also to the Eddy Bowl itself. This large basin constitutes the headwaters of Wagon Creek, the first major tributary of the Sacramento River (this article offers good examples of Wagon Creek’s seldom seen beauty). A future trail exploring this incredible area is an exciting prospect!
The second article I wrote recounts and even more obscure land transaction that has not received a lot of fanfare. This acquisition is located down in the Castle Crags and brought to sections on the Crags’ north side under Forest Service administration. The transfer was only recently made official. These sections, formerly belonging to a timber company, include both the northern granite cliffs of the Castle Crags as well as nearly 2 miles of Little Castle Creek.
The yellow section are the new lands. The red area is the Castle Crags Wilderness. The blue areas are Castle Crags State Park.
While these new sections are adjacent to the Castle Crags Wilderness, there inclusion in the protected area are unlikely, at least for the foreseeable future. Such designation requires and act of Congress, a process that takes a long time and effort. Perhaps that will happen in the future but in the meantime, the potential for recreation is terrific. A primary use of the land will be by rock climbers, who are naturally drawn to the towering granite cliffs of the Castle Crags. While there are already climbing routes to be found in that area, legal access and improved trails will undoubtedly bring more climbers to the Little Castle Creek side of the Crags.
As far as trails, the most likely and desired addition will be a trail that ascends alongside Little Castle Creek. Discussions with members of the Forest Service indicate that a trail running parallel to the creek all the way up to the saddle at the west end of the Castle Crags is envisioned. This saddle, which lies at the headwaters of Little Castle Creek is traversed by the Pacific Crest Trail. A new trail leading down the creek would create new backpacking options and a the potential for a loop around the Castle Crags. The lands for such a loop already exist in the public domain and it would be relatively easy to connect a trail along Little Castle Creek to the Root Creek Falls Trail, thereby completely encircling the Castle Crags with trail. Whether looking for an easy creekside stroll or a demanding backpacking trip, it is hard not to be excited about the potential of the new lands here.
These two new areas bring a lot of potential for hikers. The fact remains that, despite the wealth of trails we have in the Mount Shasta area, there is still a tremendous amount of untapped potential. Even more amazing, if much of that potential is developed with trails, there would still be a great deal of gorgeous mountain terrain for those who prefer to explore lands where no trails go. As someone who loves both of these endeavors, I am excited about what the future holds for this region!