I have a truly horrible sense of direction, but I hear that getting lost helps you find yourself. One sunshiny day last week, I woke up feeling hungry for adventure.
About twenty minutes of internet research had me set on hiking the Castle Crags Dome Trail. I remember reading about Castle Crags in Cheryl Strayed’s book, Wild, and the view of the crags from I-5 is pretty stunning. I was stoked.
One really funky thing about this hike was that the crags, are within the boundaries of the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, you need to pass through the miniature Castle Crags State Park and pay the $8 California State Park registration fee in order to get to them. coughBULLSHITcough
In NY/NJ, trails are marked with unique blazes to help people stay on track and avoid getting lost. I’m learning that other states haven’t gotten the memo about that one, yet. West coast is way too laid back for that, man.
So of course I got lost. The first time, though, was not my fault. Only a few days before I hiked the Castle Crags, Mt. Shasta got more than twice the amount of snow it’s had all winter. As I ascended a couple thousand feet, the trail was covered by snow, meaning I had to rely on the footprints of someone who went ahead of me to find my way.
I followed these prints until they pulled a U-ie right in front of a huge rock formation I initially tried to climb, but the wet rocks were slippery. On top of that, the words “one false step and you’ll fall to your death” that I had read in a review of the hike that morning kept running through my head.
Eventually, I found the footprints again, this time heading toward the Dome, but my brain kept muttering the words, “one false step.. one false step..” and then…
I decided to sing a medly of Lady Gaga songs instead.
As I hiked along, the trail became progressively slushier, and since I don’t wear boots, my feet were soaked and numb by the time I reached the dome. Turns out, I didn’t have the balls to scramble to the top, but I think that was a wise decision considering how wet and slippery the granite was, and how I was losing sensation in my footsies.
It was a freaking gorgeous hike, though. I lost the footprints again on the way back, this time spending a lot more time wandering around the wrong side of the mountain before I got back on track again. At first, I thought to myself, “oh, no big deal, I’ll just keep heading down and away from the Dome.” This seemed like a good strategy, but then I realized that trail networks are specifically designed to move people down a mountain in the areas where it’s safest to do so.
It only took one quick slip n’ slide and a frantic clutch at the earth, which resulted in a handful of some evil turds, for me to give up exploring and double back to the last point that I felt sure I was on the trail.
The whole time, I kept thinking to myself, “this is your idea of a good time; no wonder you’re such a loner” Oh, well. I still think it’s less dangerous than watching reality TV.
Title quote by Henry David Thoreau- that dude totally gets me.