Monday, June 4, 2012

Vision Quest: Day four

Miles: 20.4
Climb: 190

Easy day, except....

I slept well in my nylon cave, safe from the bugs.  At 5:30AM, it is cool enough to hold the beasts down, but at 7:00AM,  someone throws a switch, and the Satan Spawn boil up from the forest floor and set upon us with hungry stingers.  We conclude our packing in a rush, Kevin at one point doing a crazed Three Stooges loopy run while dressing in order to stay one step ahead of the insectile fan club.  At last, locked and loaded, we push for the road and the sure escape of movement.  By 10 mph, the little biotches can't keep up.

A sharp morning sun knifes through the piney canopy, light and shadow banding the road.   We zip and holler, wolf down the miles like starving men. The air clearer now, Mt. Shasta floats like an ice cream dream to the west, its long glaciers and gullies heavy with snow.  At the end of Lookout-Hackmore Rd., we pause to strip down just in time for the fiendish press of bugs, a blood sport, this.  We dance, jog and skip again and jump onto the bikes to escape.  Back on 139 we find a narrow but serviceable shoulder and generally light traffic, gently rolling, downward trending--fast.  By 9AM we turn off 139, now only a couple of miles from camp.  Hero shots and quick run to camp, the Eagle's Nest RV Park and the road angels, Craig and Barbara.  Showers, laundry for $5 (folded!), supplies for a couple of days, and, the greatest blessing of all, virtually no mosquitoes.  Sweet refuge indeed.

After getting cleaned up, we walk over to the "store," which is more of a saloon, although at one time in the early days it was a bordello serving the ranchers and loggers that once made this quiet place very busy.    Denise, the barmaid, owner, and happily disgruntled escapee from southern California, greets us from behind the bar.  Low-beamed ceiling, the room in general is festooned with old-timey junk, sun-bleached antlers, a couple of dusty, ratty animal hides, stuffed heads of deer, antelope and bear staring with glassy dead eyes, dollar bills stapled above.  A couple of beer posters of hot young things in compromising positions are wedged in between beams.  Filling in all the gaps are many dozens of photos of proud hunters and fishermen with their catches.  If not classy, the aesthetic is at least cluttered.  As Denise would tell us, the most active season is in the fall when the hunters arrive to chase down the various hooved animals with antlers.  With her grey hair tied back, bi-focals, Denise has the gentle rasp of the life-long smoker and does her best to maintain that tone by lighting up again.  She talks about her life, her sons--one doing well working on a ranch in Washington, the other tending bar after a stint in the military--"Good thing they teach 'em valuable job skills in the army!" she snorts.  She seems to enjoy her roll as host, although she says the saloon makes little money.  Certainly she's not selling much besides liquid refreshment (which I'll return for later).   The dusty shelves are virtually empty but for a few fishing lures and some ancient packets of dehydrated soup mix.  Nope, definitely no supplies here.  Eventually we wander back to camp to read in the shade and enjoy the quiet afternoon in this temporarily forgotten backwater.

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