by Dave Bartle
Rufus the Border Collie has the jets today. He is zooming back and forth, up and down the trail as we pick our way up along rock-strewn Dog Trail, a spur leading up to the PCT in the Castle Crags Wilderness. This first section is the steepest part of the whole hike and is a great way to warm up on a cold and mostly cloudy day. But this is the second day of our trip. My wife, Tina, and I actually started the day before in Dunsmuir, a small mountain town found along the Sacramento River less than an hours drive from Redding, California. It is best know for its Union Pacific Railroad roots and world famous fly-fishing along the upper Sacramento River. The town boasts of having the “Best Water in the World”
With the California drought present on everyone’s minds, we stopped into Ted Fay’s Fly-Fishing to see what owner Bob Grace’s thoughts were on how the drought would effect the trout season. “The upper Sac should still be fine,” he insisted, “but you might want to get your fishing in earlier this season just in case.” When pressed about low water levels, Bob explained that 50% of all the water flowing in above Dunsmuir is spring-fed from rain that fell ten years ago, so water levels should hold fairly well through the summer. Ironically, it has been pouring rain since we got her
Our next stop was to the Brown Trout Gallery where another Dunsmuir secret is waiting to be discovered. The historic buildings of Dunsmuir were built upon approximately 21 underground streams. An opening in the Gallery floor has plexi-glass installed over it so you can see the creek rushing by all year long. Look long enough and you might see a small trout swim by! Try getting that past a building department inspector today
Then it was off to the Dunsmuir Brewery for a quick pint and then to the Dogwood Diner for an awesome dinner. We finally called it a night and headed to the Dunsmuir Lodge for the evening. By the next morning it had stopped raining and we packed up for the big 12 mile PCT hike. A delicious breakfast was enjoyed in front of a very warm and toasty vintage wood stove at the Whistle Stop Café
By now Rufus (remember Rufus?) is raring to go. A quick drive from Dunsmuir brings us to Castle Crags State Park. To get to the Crags Wilderness trailhead, follow the road past the park entrance for about three miles. Look to the right for a big opening. There is a small PCT sign on the side of the road. Rufus is finally happy and so are we. Once you get past the Dog Trail Spur and onto the PCT, the trail is pretty mellow. There are 4-5 creek crossings that can be a little tricky after a hard spring rain. Plan to wear waterproof hiking boots on this trail
Hikers can glimpse the granite crags along the way, but you don’t get full views until you have hiked in about three miles or so. Keep your eyes open for Burstarse Falls. It’s a seasonal waterfall, but after a rain it really is quite spectacular. We continued our hike for two and half hours, and gained 1,600 feet where we reached our stopping point. A small rock promontory gave us eyeball-to-eyeball gawking views of the crags. It was like our own private Yosemite! After a quick snack, we headed back down, admiring the granite cliffs and peaks all the way to the Jeep and our short ride back to Redding.What a great weekend trip!