Birds chirped and fish leapt from the creek to sing us fanfares of glory the next morning. The trees bent to provide us shade or sun, depending on our temperature that was radioed to them from the soft ground. With a single flick of a match the fire roared into a breakfast-frying machine and the water poured into our bottles fresh and clean. Nothing could kill our spirits.
We did some stretches and discussed what the hill Courtney had warned us about would be like. We didn’t doubt it would be tough, especially with all of our gear, but we figured we could handle it. We hopped on our bikes and began the day. Lindsay probably sang a song or a hundred, I probably said something like, “Dude, that tree looks awesome.” And surely it was, but little did we know what the whole forest was masking.
We took a slight turn and boogied over a little hill. It was very slight and we kept saying to each other, “Oh, I hope this is what Courtney warned us about. This isn’t so bad at all.” There were several CLAIM signs along the way by the creek. We couldn’t figure out what people would possibly want to mine out here. All of the gold mines must have been discoverd and it really didn’t look like there was opportunty for gravel or the likes of that. The road got significantly narrower and significantly steeper. Our heart dropped at the scene that lay before us. A blood-red sky perforated with black clouds hung above us. The pretty Christmas Ornaments that dangled from green trees the day before now swung like halved criminals in the gallows from charred trunks. Smoke rose from the smoldering bed where the creek had gurgled. The world was doomed and us with it.
The picture really doesn’t do the climb justice. As I rode it I thought it was the hardest thing I have ever done on a bike, and I’ve done a lit of biking. I even moved by bike over 5 miles for crying out loud! I was in my lowest gears for over 6 miles and even that wasn’t low enough. I was forced to stand, and when my legs got tired I was forced to sit and wish I had a lower gear. It was hard. But I had to keep repeating to myself, Its Training. Its training! Everything that I do right now is for the trip and will only make me stronger and make my trip better. Never mind that it is my trip and that I should have trained months ago, its training now! When we got to the top I snapped some photos, ate lots of food and took a 20-minute power nap. We had done 12 miles. Actually, probably 10.
Oh yeah, that wasn’t even the top. We still had about a mile or so to go where we passed a car that had broken down because it had overheated. I forgot to say that while we climbed up and up three cars passed us and either offered us a ride or reminded us that what we were doing was extremely difficult. There’s nothing like someone straining their feet to get up a climb reminding your burning muscles that what you are doing is difficult. I didn’t even have the energy to reply.
But the way down…oh, the way down! Switchbacking turns, steep drops, speeds in the forties, giant fallen boulders creating potholes of doom that had to be navigated with a hawk’s descending finesse. My eyes watered as I caromed down brake-free. And it kept going! Nine miles, ten miles…twelve miles of pure descent. Incredible! You know its good when the paragraph describing it contains three exclamation points (4)! There are probably more ways to describe it but polo starts soon. Once I got down to the bottom of the hill I paused and waited for Lindsay to catch up. When you’re pulling a trailer tight turns get a little tougher at high speeds. Five minutes went by and I didn’t see her. Then ten minutes. I got horrible images of her slamming her bike or trailer into one of the fallen boulders in the road and wrecking herself and flinging off the edge into Sharp’s creek with needles and branches sticking out her body and eye sockets. I wondered whether I should ride ahead to a store and ask for a ride to comb the climb, or waste energy and do it by bike. I don’t believe in using cars and Lindsay’s life was slightly less valuable than my energy so I sat and snacked on a expired-for-over-a-year Clif Z-Bar for Kids. Fortunately at about the 12-minute mark she rolled on completely unscathed. We high-fived and continued on our way.
We crossed Scaredman Recreation Site where I saw a man hunched over a creek with a pan. Apparently there is gold-panning in the area. Quick now, ya panhandlers. Saddle up and gitcher claims. Its gold season and the river is twinklin’. It’s just the ol’ 49er days. Speaking of 49er, why hasn’t a bike company come up with a 29er design so rad that it is called the 49er (sorry for the geekitude, folks)?
Well, after the climb it was a mild day on Steamboat Springs Road. We came across another killer swimming spot. My camera work is still a little shoddy but it was clear and cool. We had lunch there and spent at least two hours there. I couldn’t get Lindsay out of the waterfall pool. I told her I wished we had the whole day and could just walk down the creek until we couldn’t anymore.
She said we could. And she was right. Neither of us had anything to do that day. The only thing was to make it to the Toketee Hot Springs which would be there the next day as well.
Much to Lindsay’s dismay we continued on and met up with 138 which runs along the Umpqua River. There were a lot of people out there rafting the rapids. Whitewater rafting is one of those sports that I’ve only done with 10-year olds and would like to have a lot more opportunity to do. We stopped at a gas station to get some food for dinner and eat ice cream. The clerk talked to us for about 15 minutes on how to get to the hot springs. We thought it would be pretty straightforward but the dude gave us like a dozen options. He told us it was mostly flat and that the small climb we had done to get to his shop was the longest and steepest we would see. That day I should’ve learned to stop asking non-bikers if there is a hill. They just don’t understand. The whole way, outside of a small flat part and even smaller dipping part, was completely uphill. It wasn’t super steep, but it was enough to wear us out and make us wish we were done riding.
Finally, just around dark we got to the hot springs and found yet another free camping site. It was spacious and right along a creek and nowhere near the noise of the paid sites near the actual hot springs. It was too dark to find firewood so we decided to use our stoves. I had never used mine before so I was excited to practice. I followed the directions closely, lit the stove and waited for the flames to die down before I adjusted them to the desired level. The directions warned they would be large. But then they got larger and larger and sustained. We could have left it at the level and roasted a meal of sausages and smores on the flames. I didn’t want to lower the level because I thought I wasn’t supposed to and the flames were licking the gas canister. Lindsay stepped away into the darkness so far that I could only see her from the fire dancing on the reflective markings of her shirt. “You’re going to blow us up! Turn it down!” I tentatively stuck my hand closer and further away, hoping that I wasn’t going to die. And then it slowed and lessened until it was a manageable level. I toned it down and cooked yet another meal of couscous and black beans. Scary.
At night we put on our headlamps, stashed our gear and rode on the gravel road up to the hot springs. We spent an hour up there sampling all of the eight different springs. I liked the hottest one the best, but Lindsay preferred the one with the rad covering where we got to talk to a non-member of the Rainbow Family of Living Light. These people are special folks. The dude told us about how at last year’s 4:20 Rainbow Gathering and 30 people smoked 120 joints while he was tripping on multiple hits of acid. Coooool Duuuuuude. I had always heard of these people during my co-op days and my friends’ descriptions (and connotations) were accurate.
After we were satisfied and sulphur-soaked we headed back down the forest path to our bicycles and rode down the gravel road to our tents. Nothing like nighttime mountain riding downhill after a hard day of climbing. Little did we know this was only the first of four days of hard climbing.
Totals of the Day:
Total miles: 50.9 miles
Total number of climbs: Sisyphean
Bottles of beer found: 1
More pictures: Here