The highlight of the Castle Dome trail is the fantastic views it allows you along the way of Mount Shasta.
I realized what mindfulness is. It’s a little bit of mindlessness, combined with a severe focus on the task at hand. So obviously when I tried to understand what that meant by reading up about it, I was confused as hell. But it dawned on me as I slowly walked up Castle Crags’ most difficult trail – the Castle Dome. The two hour long climb up 4800 feet, with the sun belting down at 38 degree Celsius, my heart pounding not just from the physical exertion of it, but from often loosing my breath at the breath-taking views I stumbled upon at every turn and a general exhilaration I experience every time I surround myself in nature.
We start the 3.6 mile hike to the top of Castle Dome, from the vista point of the Castle Crags State Park. The crags are an odd-looking outcrop of granite rocks that have formed themselves into spires that look like castle domes, due to water and weather erosion over a period of time. Amidst the sea of dark green pines that make up the Shasta-Trinity national forest area, this sudden intrusion of rock is a stunner.
As we ascend the trail, Mt. Shasta surprises at every other turn. It stands majestically white against the blue sky, while demure Shastina stands, faithfully alongside.
Along the way, water gurgles, and its as loud as the crickets that are loud with summer complaint. We let it lead us to the source, and a spring, as small as a kitchen faucet peeks at us from beneath a cliff.
We continue upwards, the crags calling, Shasta cheering on and our legs fighting gravity.
And somewhere in between, it happened almost instinctively – like I’ve always known it. It felt like old knowledge, and so it was a relief to ‘remember’ it again. Like it’s been there, lurking just below the surface of consciousness, waiting to be recalled, waiting to be recognized. As my legs carried my body forward, my eyes set on the trail, ensuring I spot loose stones before my feet found them, my mind took on the rhythm of everything around me. The rhythm of the wind, the odd sounding cricket and other responding critters. My mind went blank. That was it – a perfect state of mindfulness.