Joined: 01 Sep 2008
Posts: 331 | TRs | Pics
I've wanted to explore Castle Mountain trail for a long time, but lots of things got in the way-- and of course the Norse Peak Fire really got in the way. So after a lot of planning, my buddy Casey and I decided to give this a shot.
Road to Corral Pass is open and USFS has done some great work up there-- new picnic tables, nice split rail fencing, and really nice new toilet. There were up there today putting the finishing touches on a new horse trough filled with running water from a spring up the hill.
We started out by going downhill on the Greenwater Trail. Trail has had some great maintenance this year and is in good shape. I was surprised that many of the streams that cross the first mile of the trail are still running.
We got to the bottom of the first hill where the Castle Mountain trail took off from the Greenwater trail. The only sign of the trail was a burned off stump of the old sign. Despite this, we forged on, following GPS for where the trail "should have been"-- lots of logs down on the first 0.5 mile of the trail route, but they eased up later on.
The trail route on Avenza maps showed the route going increasingly up the hill-- the challenge is that with the burned over terrain, we couldn't find any tread and the steep slope and slough-ey dirt was becoming increasingly sketchy, so we opted for discretion and shifted left and went cross slope.
Lots of elk trails up and down the slope, but we soon spotted a bench which went cross-slope and was a major elk superhighway. We jumped on the superhighway and soon found it paralleling about 100-200 feet above Engineer Meadows-- our major destination for the day.
Engineer Meadows is one of the special places I've heard a lot about-- a long, narrow meadow with tiny trees and huge rocks dotting it. Norse Peak fire burned all around the Meadow, but the moisture must have spared the main meadow area. There is still water running in the lower Meadow. If you are looking for some solitude, want to see a lot of elk, and don't want to see any other people, this is a place to come.
We worked uphill in the meadow to the upper slope where Castle Mountain trail was supposed to cross-- but again, found no real tread. We thought we found a place that the trail could have crossed but who knows.
It was approaching time to turn, so we headed westward on what we thought was the Castle Mountain trail (again, no visible tread) following GPS and Avenza until we approached the junction with the trail that comes down from Rainier View and magically we found a real trail!
The trail up to Rainier View was pretty steep, but visible, but sadly the trail that would have linked up with the "non-trail" we followed from Greenwater trail was non-existent.
We made good progress up to Rainier View trail and finally broke out on top
Rainier View is also in great shape, so it was an easy stroll back to the pass.
MojaveGeek, hikerbiker, mosey