Hike along Girard Ridge – Saturday, June 20th
The Mount Shasta Trail Association invites the public on a gentle 5 mile roundtrip hike along Girard Ridge Saturday June 20th. The hike will include the Girard Ridge Lookout constructed in 1931 and used by the Forest Service on a regular basis until 1981. The structure is reportedly the oldest lookout of this design remaining in California. Located at a height of 4,809 feet, the views are eyepopping. To the north spectacular views of Mount Shasta are seen, to the west the gray spires of the Castle Crags frame almost the entire view, and to the southeast there is a distant silhouette of Lassen Peak.
The outstanding views of Mount Shasta and Castle Crags are interrelated from a geologic perspective. The Girard Ridge portion of the Klamath Mountains was one of 5 “terranes” that travelled across the Pacific Ocean as ancient seabed, but instead of subducting at the Cascadia Subduction Zone, it collided with the North American Plate, became attached, and then uplifted over time to form rugged mountains. Other portions of sea floor did subduct and continue to do so, resulting in the formation of the Cascade Range including Mount Shasta. Girard Ridge provides a great vantage point to see both.
Girard Ridge is part of the Eastern Klamath Mountains, and is composed of a mix of sedimentary and metamorphic rock (meta-volcanics in this case). There are extensive limestone outcrops, most notably Tombstone Mountain. Limestone endemic species include the Shasta salamander and a plant called Shasta Eupatory. The McCloud limestone also contains numerous fossils dating back 250 million years, and various caves, some with bones from now-extinct Pleistocene mammals such as saber-tooth cats and cave bears. Samwell Cave is the cave most notable for the discovery of such bones (and a verified legend of a Wintu Indian maiden falling into a pit in the cave–her bones were discovered there), and Shasta Caverns is a commercial cave offering cave tours.
Girard Ridge connects with some very interesting historic trails. The Tom Neal Trail goes from Girard Ridge down Tom Neal Creek to Squaw Valley Creek. It was built by the Neal brothers who worked at the lookout and took hunting clients from Castella up the Castle Crags Trail to Girard Ridge Lookout then down Tom Neal Creek to a cabin they built near its mouth (no longer standing). The Castle Crags Trail was abandoned when the more gentle PCT was constructed, but Tom Neal Trail still exists and is worthy of re-opening as a future Mount Shasta Trail Association project. It goes through some of the best remaining old-growth forest in the region–trees so big and a setting so lush you’d think you were in a coast redwood forest. This old growth is part of and extensive Late Seral Stage Reserve (LSR) designated for protection by the US Forest Service to protect the Northern Spotted Owl, Northern Goshawks, Pacific Fisher, and other old-growth dependent species.
South along Girard Ridge is Tombstone Mountain, and this side of it is the historic Sims Trail. Mr. Sims would pick up clients at the railroad station on the Upper Sacramento River at what is now Sims Campground, then take them by pack animals up Hazel Creek and down Tom Dow Trail to Squaw Valley Creek, then onward to the McCloud River Club and beyond to Big Bend on the Pit River. The Tom Dow Trail still exists and is also worthy of re-opening. And, as with the Tom Neal Trail, it also passes through the LSR.
The PCT eastward from Girard Ridge crosses Squaw Valley Creek near the Squaw Valley Creek Trailhead, and continues onward up Trough Creek, down to the McCloud River, up Grizzly Peak, and onward to Lassen Park. It’s entire length from Girard Ridge to Grizzly Peak passes through the LSR. The Trough Creek portion includes another exceptional stand of old-growth forest.
Participants meet at 9 am at 111 Morgan Way in front of the Best Western Tree House and from there carpool. Bring lunch and water. Expect to be back by 3 pm. For more information call Joan Roemer 926-0647.