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Sandstone Castle of Richland
March 20, 2005

Well, it took me over a year but I finally got around to making the trip to see the “sandstone castle” in the Richland Creek Wilderness. I’ve wanted to visit the place since Tim Ernst went to the trouble of finding it and published directions in his Cloudland Journal a year ago (Thanks Tim!).
The 2.4-mile hike in was on a nice clear pioneer road headed south down Big Middle Ridge. A couple of times it seemed to vanish into the woods. I lost the trail at the edge of a stand of pine trees, but that worked out for the best ‘cause I stumbled upon an old rock fence in the woods. It’s always a treat to find one of these fences out in the middle of nowhere; I’m amazed that there was a time when people lived there. Thanks to my GPS receiver I quickly got back on track and picked up the pioneer road again. I came upon a bright yellow oasis of Forsythia at an old home place. Through the years the shrub has spread and completely taken over an area at least 50 feet square. It was quite a sight.
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Even though I was up on a mountaintop, my GPS receiver was having problems locking on to satellites, so for a while I had no idea how far away my destination was. I just kept following the pioneer road. Suddenly the GPS started working, and it reported that I had circled around the tall peak at the southern end of Big Middle Ridge and was directly downhill from the sandstone castle heading north. Perhaps this road goes to the old mill site? There was a nice view down the valley of Big Devils Fork and the Richland Creek Wilderness beyond.
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I had worn a ton of clothes since the morning started off with temperatures near freezing. But the long hike and the sun bearing down had me shedding a jacket and a sweatshirt to leave on the pioneer road before making the ascent. It was a steep but short scramble up to the castle, an area of sandstone outcrops two t0 three hundred yards long running south to north, and facing east. The hillside fell steeply away below; I could see how someone would call this a sandstone castle in the sky. There were four shallow cave-like shelters. The southern-most shelter is pictured below.
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I had to climb up 10 feet to get to the back of the second little shelter, which was guarded by a rock column around 25 feet tall.
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The third shelter was the largest. There were large openings on the south and north sides, and a third opening between two stone columns on the east side. I had this wondrous, peaceful place to myself all morning and early into the afternoon.
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The fourth shelter was among a separate section of sandstone outcrops north of the main castle. This shelter was the deepest, going back perhaps 3o to 40 feet. After checking out the shelter I walked north along the base of the outcrop, until it receded into the hillside. I could have hung a left there and gone up above the castle. And from there I could have continued uphill to the top of the ridge and found the pioneer road for the hike back, except I’d left the jacket and a sweatshirt down on the road below the castle.
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