“Town” might be too strong a word, this time. Castella, California is more like a hamlet: 240 people as of the latest census, and the only store in town is the convenience store at the Chevron. But Castella is only two miles off the trail, the Chevron will hold packages for pickup, and Castle Crags State Park is right across the street — and you can camp there, if you’re a PCT hiker, for only $3. (And they have showers!…just freezing-cold ones, at least on the men’s side.)
So Castella it was today, after another twenty-three miles of hiking. I might simply stop describing our hiking these days until it actually changes; we did the same up-and-down of forested hills that we’ve been doing for days and days now. It’s not unbearably hot like it was, but it’s far too warm, with highs in the lower 80s. (The lower 50s, by comparison, are what I think of as perfect hiking weather.) The trail in this section can be massively overgrown at times, with plants invading it from both sides to the point where you have to force your way through it just to get past. Apparently this is a well-known issue here, as our guidebook mentions it from years past.
One interesting thing while we hike: Mt. Shasta, a 14,100+-foot volcanic peak that’s a centerpiece of Northern California, has been getting closer and closer the last few days. We’ll be hiking along, turn a corner or come over a ridge, and get a dramatic view of one of its faces. Looking at the map, it’s going to start getting farther away again, as we continue past it to the west…but it’s been pretty cool getting to see it from so many different directions. Unlike the High Sierra, Shasta stands pretty much completely alone, far above anything else around, so it looks very dramatic and is instantly identifiable from a long ways away.
At the end of all that hiking, though, today I’m glad to be clean (even if it was a cold, Navy-shower kind of clean) and filled with food that’s a little different, bought from the store at the Chevron instead of our usual camp food. There’s a gang of eight or so PCT hikers at this campsite tonight, which is good company, and we’re letting ourselves sleep in in the morning, which is also good news.
We continue on, and on, and on, through Northern California. There are now less than two hundred miles to Oregon, which makes it slowly start to feel like we might actually make it there in not too much more time. That’s exciting — the next real milestone of this trip.