When I got my tent site last night in Wenatchee State Park, the ranger asked a funny question. “Are you sure you don’t mind the sprinklers?”
I set up camp, had dinner, and went to bed. There were clouds in the sky. “Hmmm,” I thought. “Wonder if it’s gonna rain?” I deliberated for a while then decided to stow everything.
However, since the night was warm, I left the side flaps on the fly open so that I could catch the breeze as it filtered through my tent. Then I dozed off until I didn’t.
The didn’t doze part happened at 1:30, when a fire hose emptied into the open fly. To say I leaped up isn’t quite right because the confines were too tiny to leap. What I did was watch a vast quantity of water pour onto me, into the tent, onto the sleeping bag, and onto everything else.
Then the water stopped, which is what happens when the sprinkler rotates 360 degrees. Using a bit of logic, it occurred to me that eventually Noah’s flood was going to return. I tried to stay calm. “No problem. All I have to do is unhook the plastic latch holding the fly open, it will flap closed, and all will be good except for Lake Titicaca here that my Sea-to-Summit pad is now floating on, almost like it was on the sea.”
I reached out in the dark.
I have hooked and unhooked that latch a thousand times. I can, you know, do it in the dark. With my eyes closed and stuff. Only in my haste I did something I’ve never done before. I tied it into an actual knot. All the while I could hear the tick-tick-tick of the sprinkler head as it spun, ready to unleash another round.
I turned on my light (thanks, Darell and Drew), saw the knot, and feverishly with soaking hands tried to undo it. I came unhooked. The flap zipped. The water fusillade slammed against the tent in the nick of time, that is, a second too late.
The rest of the night I slept rather well in the the lukewarm bath, and I fancy I smelled a bit better than I had when I’d turned in.
Thursday’s destination was Ellenburg and a wildly overprice, shot-with-a-shit pistol KOA campsite on the bank of the Yakima River. The river was gorgeous, at least. Leaving the town of Sunnyslope I met two cyclists, John and Scott, and they took me on a very nice back road for a good chunk of the way. They were both doctors, and in keeping with the Washington tradition of people being nice as hell, they sent me on their way with some dried mangoes and a fresh bottle of orange juice.
After riding up US 97 for a few miles I came to a drive-through espresso shack. There were two cars in front, and it took a while. A really long while. The truck in front of me finally got to the window. More time was taken. After paying, the driver got out and walked over to me.
“Hey!” he said.
“Man, you been standing back there forever. I paid for your coffee.”
“Shoot, that is awfully nice of you.”
“Felt sorry for you having to wait on us like that.”
“What’s in the back of the truck?”
He had a bunch of buckets and pans. “I’m headed up to one of my mining claims. I prospect.”
“You’re kidding, right?”
“No, sir. I got several claims up here. It’s a hobby, that’s all. Don’t quit your day job.”
Then he opened the cab, pulled out a plastic bottle, and squirted a bunch metal into a pan with water in it. All of it was gold. “Wow!” I said. “That’s amazing.”
“Here,” he said, picking out a tiny nugget shaped like a heart. “This is for you.”
He pressed it in my hand, and drove off.
The road continued as a steady uphill slog for six or seven more miles miles and then turned off onto the squiggly line of Old Blewett Pass, which I’d sworn to foreswear. It turned out to be one of the gems of the trip. The first two miles followed a lovely creek, and then the remaining four miles or so featured beautiful pine forest without so much as a single car.
Giant boulders had fallen into the roadside, and best of all, five hundred meters from the top some cyclist had spraypainted “500 M” on the road. Talk about feeling like you are on friendly turf.
The descent wasn’t great, as the road was pretty torn up, but it was nothing compared to my new standard for shitty roads, Mattole Road leading to the Lost Coast. I rejoined US 97 and was chagrined to see that I still had 30 miles to get to Ellenburg.
The chagrin melted as the road was mostly downhill, then the chagrin vanished altogether, transmogrified into pure joy as I went up a short 1-mile climb and then hit a downhill, 30-mph tailwind for the remaining 16 miles.
Tomorrow I’m riding to Selah, Naches, and then am going to camp somewhere in the national forest. Hoping it doesn’t, er, rain.
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