On August 28, 2009 I headed south from Medford down to the Castle Crags area. I wanted to get in a nice hike and then head to the Clear Creek trailhead for Mt Shasta. I was going to meet a couple guys and then early the next morning head up Mt Shasta. We managed to dayhike the Clear Creek route the next day, so today’s hike was supposed to be a good warm up. It was.
Bubba Seuss did a great job in the information for Harry Watkins and I followed his detailed info to get to the summit which is the highpoint of the Castle Crags Wilderness. I used his information http://www.summitpost.org/route/427152/gray-rock-lakes-trail.html> Gray Rock Lakes Trail to guide me to the summit.
The last ¼ mile of the access is kind of rough and steep. Don’t even try the kast ¼ mile unless you have 4WD or if it is wet. The trailhead is marked by the forest service as the Gray Rock Trailhead, so that was encouraging and I shouldered my pack and headed southeast on a good trail that gently gained elevation. The lower Gray Rock Lake hasn’t moved and is a scenic lake with several camping areas around the north and east ends of the lake.
As the trail starts climbing up to the Upper Gray Rock Lake, the trail deteriorates and becomes a little overgrown with brush. At this point, I met the only person I saw all day. He was just out exploring with his dog. I continued on and took a trail to the right that seemed to go in the right direction to the upper lake. I soon discovered there is braided trail system near the upper lake, but tried to stay on the most used path. I found the lake, crossed the north end and down the west side of the lake before totally losing the last of the trail. From here on it was all cross country.
Fortunately, there isn’t much brush and there are a few animal trails to follow. My goal was to climb to the saddle between point 6936 and 7200 (which is the summit of Harry Watkins) and then follow the northwest ridgeline to the summit. As I started climbing up the slabby rocky areas, I tended to keep moving to my left and when I finally got to the ridge I was well above the saddle and avoided some of the brush. The ridgeline had some brushy areas that I had to find my way through or around, but soon I had climbed the last 300 ft to the rocky summit.
The views from the summit were good and I could see my goal for the next day, Mt Shasta. I picked out Mt Eddy, the Trinity Alps, and Castle Crags. You can only see the upper ridge of Castle Crags from the west, so it isn’t as photogenic as it is from the east. I had a snack and enjoyed the summit experience. I couldn’t linger too long, so I headed back down. Instead of going down the ridgeline, I decided to head straight down the north face of Harry Watkins. This is kind of steep and I wouldn’t recommend it for climbing up. I was glad I had my hiking poles going down. The hike back to my truck was uneventful and soon I was back at the trailhead. The total hike was 4.0 miles, gained about 1,500 ft, and took just under 3 hours.
"After the first glass, you see things as you wish they were. After the second, you see things as they are not. Finally, you see things as they really are, which is the most horrible thing in the world."
--Oscar Wilde on Absinthe