Sunday, June 30, 2019

Castle Rock / Round Mound

DATE: Sunday, June 30, 2019

DISTANCE: 2.7 miles
TIME TAKEN: 1 hour

SUMMIT (FAILED): 7870 feet

DISTANCE: 1 mile 
TIME TAKEN: 1 hour
SUMMIT: 6717



A plan to have a linear, clockwise, summer van trip through some of the most spectacular and scenic areas in California was thrown for a convoluted loop, when Amber declared she wished to begin the trip in Lake Tahoe, instead of cruising North on Highway 101 to the Redwood Coast as originally planned. The reason? Some of her girlfriends were renting a cabin in Tahoe that day and she wanted to go hang out with them. Reasonable! I figured this would be a trip where everyone could be happy and get what they wanted out of it, so I happily agreed, even though it would turn our Northern loop into a zigzag.

We left The Bay well after midnight, and were crashed out in the van in the parking lot of the Lake Tahoe Flea Market before sunrise. I can't remember exactly why we did it this way, maybe just the excitement of getting on the road and away from home as soon as possible. But driving all night and crashing out in the van threw off the schedule, and probably eliminated my chances of getting up early to climb any notable mountain. After we got up, perused the flea market, got brunch at Red Hut, and bought supplies at the local grocery store, the day was already well under way. I was by now dying to drop Amber off to party with her girlfriends at the beach cabin at Zephyr Cove, Nevada, so I could go CLIMB something. By the time this was achieved, it was getting rather late in the day to start a big adventure, and I had to narrow my scope. My original first choice was to go up Mount Tallac, always ambitious you see, but I figured it was WAY too late in the day to begin that now. My second choice was Maggie's Peaks, a much more reasonable goal, but even that secondary dream was fading away, because I really wasn't feeling driving back to the Southwest side of the lake from Zephyr Cove. It was a splendid Sunday at the height of the season, and traffic was thick. I downsized my ambitions, and settled on a nearby craggy outcropping called Castle Rock. It looked cool, and it was nearby. I said goodbye to the girls, who were inflating a giant raft to take out on the lake, and already pouring their second or third round of cocktails. I got in the van and was OFF, heading down the highway and then up Kingsbury Grade road in pursuit of my goal.

The Castle Rock trail was achieved by taking Kingsbury Grade road up to Dagget Pass, and turning left into a series of residential streets which led me to Genoa Peak Road and an entrance to the Tahoe Rim Trail. It was already 2PM when began my first hike of the day. I can't remember whether it was intentional or a mistake; I set off on the Tahoe Rim Trail, instead of the Castle Rock Trail, which both lead out of the same parking lot. I"m gonna pretend it was intentional, and it made a nice loop through the dusty dry pine forests. I always prefer to make a loop instead of an out and back anyway. I was at a pretty decent elevation and could see out to the South.  I met a befuddled couple who were looking for Castle Rock also, and a mountain biker who was doing a circuit of some part of the rim. In good order I made my navigation around the loop to where the Castle Rock trail branched off, and plodded on towards the crag. There were several groups of young people hanging out on the increasingly prominent rock outcroppings, and I utterly ignored them as I made my way towards Castle Rock, now looming right in front of me. Light scrambling amongst the ancient stone.  My pent up climbing energy fit to burst out by this point, I got the base of the rock and saw a sign which read: FALCONS NESTING - DO NOT PROCEED TO TOP OF ROCK

My ambition, crushed
AGGHHHH. Foiled! I walked around the base of the thing, It was a pretty impressive heap of stone, and there was a good view even from the bottom. But oh how l longed to jam my hands into those cracks! Though I would never disobey a polite request to respect the nests of an elegant bird species, I turned back with feelings of dejection. Oh, you damn beautiful, rapid, nesting birds! I did a little scrambling on a nearby boulder, just for the hell of it, but I think that rock was maybe ALSO a nesting site too, because my maneuvering almost IMMEDIATELY summoned a dive bombing peregrine falcon to swoop over my head (too fast to catch on camera)! It was was my first sighting of one of the elegant raptors in the wild, which was a bonus, but little consolation for the heavy heart of the vanquished climber in retreat. Back in the van, and with plenty of daylight left, I began to look for something, ANYTHING else to summit. I drove around, burning fuel, like a junkie cruising dark alleys in search of a dealer. I thought maybe a could get up Monument Peak by going through Heavenly Ski Resort (I COULD have, If I'd have known what I was doing), but I was looking for a continuation of the Tahoe Rim trail, and I couldn't find it. I almost pulled over by the side of the road to scurry up a rocky outcropping behind the Fox and Hound Smokehouse Grill, but thought better of it. Tail squarely between my legs, I went back down the hill to drown my sorrows in the tepid waters of Zephyr Cove and the slightly less tepid concoction of a Bulleit Rye and ginger ale, perhaps.

My saviour, Round Mound
I was almost back, fielding "where are you?" texts by this point, when I passed by an interesting hill looming over Highway 50 to my left. Across the street from the Safeway, a sumptuous, rounded mass. There was a sign for Round Hill Resort! An access point! That must be Round Hill! I did a U-turn and parked by the side of the highway next to the entrance to the vacation village. I walked into the private resort, and saw some sort of scraggly youth standing there, a ticket taker or fee collector of some kind. I asked him if there was a trail to the top of that hill (gesturing up). "Uh, I don't know." I walked 20 more feet down the road and saw a trail curving south.

Round Mound (as it turned out to be called) was an easy summit (about 200 feet up?). Dry, dusty summer pines and brush abounded, along with some nice boulders which I frolicked across, relishing in my late period victory to not leave Lake Tahoe "empty handed." The views were fine in all directions. I had a good look back at my tormentor, Castle Rock. The lake sparkled like a turquoise mirror. Round Mound was no Mount Tallac, it wasn't a mountain at all, it was a mound, it was a perch above one of the finest mountain lakes in all the world. A "peak" in my clutches, I was finally able to return to the dionysian delights of Zephyr Cove, sharing a a bevy of alcoholic drinks and fried foods with three (now) very intoxicated women. 


Castle Rock: OK, come on, yeah it's a rock and it looks somewhat like a castle, but there are already at least 50 Castle Rocks in the world, 46 of them are in the United States, not to mention Castle Crags, Castle Peaks and Castle Mountains. How about we call this one something else? My suggestion: Falcon Rock. That one's not taken.  (Information Source:
Round Mound: I approve. The name is very appropriate, and there are only two others in the United States, both outside of Nevada. 


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