To shuttle or not to shuttle, that was the question. Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer, the slings and arrows of a long day of driving, in order to have 2 vehicles at the beginning and ending trailheads, or to take a stand against too much fuss, and by opposing, choose to take a taxi or uber at the end.
Our last point to point in Point Reyes had been marked by some 2.5 hours of driving between two trailheads before we even began our hike, and DD did not want to repeat that again, sure to be longer on this particular trip. So on Friday, DD, Christina and I set out from San Francisco a little after 1:30pm and headed south, and met Jared at the Castle Rock parking lot around 3pm.
Note: There is no cellphone service at Castle Rock, but there is a nice pit toilet that is fairly clean (not stinky).
We were off by 3:15pm. It would be 9-plus miles from Castle Rock to our first camp for the night at Waterman Gap. The 3 miles from Castle Rock to Saratoga Gap was a segment that DD had not covered during his earlier daylong thruhike of SttS with Justin.
Those three additional miles did not disappoint, and had possibly some of the prettiest and most interesting sections of the trail itself.
After the Castle Rock Falls overlook we walked along a ridgeline for a while, took in some views, and marveled at gorgeous pathways of sandstone that occasionally looked like someone’s cultivated drought-friendly garden.
There was a section we had read about that involved cables, but it was not so scary, and even a little fun.
Another notable aspect of this segment of trail are the abandoned car wrecks from the road just above. Unlike other reports that I had read, I found that the road noise did not bother me at all.
We were going at a fairly good clip, so much so that we managed to overtake a group that had started out 20 minutes ahead of us from Castle Rock. As we were setting up camp at Waterman, they arrived around 30 minutes after us.
Waterman Gap has a vault toilet and potable water, with instructions limit use to just cooking and drinking. The best campsite is #1, down a short stretch of trail away from the other campsites. It was already occupied when we arrived, though.
So we made do and selected from the remaining empty areas that looked like they had enough flattish spots for the three of us. Christina’s friend Caiti could not get off from work until later that Friday, and was planning on spending the night at Castle Rock Trail Camp, some 2 miles in from the parking lot. She would join us the next morning by meeting us at our camp.
We rolled into Waterman Gap around 7:15pm, and quickly set up our tents and got around to making dinner. It was Mountain House Beef Stroganoff for me, a cup parceled out from the #10 can I had bought some time ago (for more strenuous hikes, I need to include 1.5 cups), and DD opted for a Packit Gourmet Pasta Puttanesca with meat sauce. The Packit Gourmet meals I had selected turned out to be a little fussy in terms of rehydrating/ cooking steps and time. For the Puttanesca, there were multiple bags and packets inside the main plastic envelope, and steps: first boiling the pasta at the same time as rehydrating the sauce (separately). The pasta requires 9 minutes to cook! Not great for backcountry cooking where you might be trying to save fuel. Packit Gourmet does not seem to publish their directions for their meals – if I had known, I certainly would not have purchased this particular dish! Then it’s a matter of adding the various other packets of stuff included: meat, veggies, olive oil, etc. I would not take this along for a JMT meal. And after all that, DD ended up thinking it did not taste all that special…
Darkness fell, and we soon got into our tents. The group that had arrived last was a little noisy, but they had some sort of gas-powered thing (a lantern? They were hauling a gas-powered lantern around?) that made enough white noise to drown out some of their louder exclamations and laughter.