Thursday, June 7, 2012

Vision Quest: Day six

Miles: 53.3
Climb: 1380

A perfect night in the junipers, the wind a quiet voice, breaks to a clear, bright morning.  I am up by 5:30AM digging the scene.  And the day only gets better.

The rolling descent north out of Lava Beds National Monument is one of the great ones, grand vistas of a tumultuous volcanic wonderland, cones and flows, jumbled rocks, sheer cliffs and long ridges falling down to a verdant basin.  A largely empty road leads us down and the out along the western edge of Tule Lake, zig-zagging north for many easy miles.

We stop for Supreme Photo-op Rock:

Riding along Tule Lake:

After crossing north of the lake, we stop in town to resupply and have lunch.  As I am cleaning up the last of the lunch mess, a local comes up to the picnic table and asks about our trip.  I give him the usual lines.  His response:  "Well, enjoy our shitty little town."  Ah, the glories of civic pride.  However, to give the citizen his due, Tulelake is pretty much a dump.  Over at the grocery store later, we run into another touring cyclist, and I wish I'd taken his photo.  He was a middle-aged fellow, grey hair, lean, a wild look in his eyes and a few gaps in his teeth.  He pedaled a Surley "Pugsley" with those huge 4" wide tires, disc brakes, rear panniers and a heavily loaded BOB.  He been sticking to mostly dirt back roads and had recently come over the famed Fandango Pass--or "pushed" over it, as he said.  Quite a character.

We then ride off into the headwinds to the north, bound for Bonanza and a camp beyond in the National Forest.  There is a decent store in Bonanza, although no produce (get that at Tulelake).  All the usual canned  and dry goods can be found there, along with a selection of beverages.  We tank up our water containers for the coming dry camp and crank up to a moderately high pass--warm but pleasant work in the late afternoon sun.  The roads are virtually empty--ideal.

After dropping down from the summit a short distance, I spot a logging road as we roll by.  I stop, we double back--score.  It turns out to be the only reasonable place to camp in the area, a fact that will be made clear as we ride on the next morning.  We spread out on the soft, pine-needle carpet and call it camp.  A local drives by later to check on us, but we assure her we're not hunting, just spending the night and moving on.  She's fine with that and leaves us to ourselves.  The obnoxious roar of a two-stroke motorbike infects some of the evening, but soon the darkness shuts him up and the forest dark settles in, the breeze swaying branches up high.

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