This was listed as an “alternate” route on the map. It was listed as “gravel.” The other choice was US 97, and I have become a non-fan of these.
After thirteen miles of washboard, the road to the pass turned right. A mere ten miles. The washboard became smooth. “Sweet!” I said.
Then it became soft, sandy dirt. “Not really all that sweet,” I said.
The temperature spiked into the 90s. I sipped water thriftily, maybe turning out 5mph. I was delirious with thirst when I got to the top, so much so that I imagined there were 50 ten-gallon jugs of water on the desolate roadside. I stopped to drink in the mirage, which was replete with a thirsty hiker filling a water bottle.
“Who are these for?” I asked the mirage.
I began to take it seriously when the mirage replied, “PCT hikers. The trail angels put them here.”
“Can I have some?”
“Don’t see why not,” the mirage said.
I drank four water bottles worth of water and continued on. the descent was better than the climb but still horrible. My bags fit on the rack okay unless I’m off-road. Then the bottom latch shakes loose and I have to get off and reattach them. Also, the rack wasn’t made for off-road abuse and the pounding had me continually in fear of a catastrophic failure.
Fortunately every hour or so a truck would pass and cover me in a new layer of dirt. I was descending at about 10-15 mph, and missed the turn that would have put me back on pavement. Instead I continued on gravel, only it was going up again.
I passed a stream where a man was peacefully seated under a shade tree. “How far to pavement?” I whimpered.
“You’re almost there! Five or six miles, tops!”
For motorists distance is so meaningless. Six miles, tops! Yay. I parked my bike and waded into the icy stream, getting out only when my feet had become completely numb. I rode in bits, only looking as far as my front wheel to reign in the depression. In minutes I’d dried out and was again sweltering.
I reached the highway. Only eight more miles to the campground at Diamond Lake. Yay. And it was all uphill. Yay. And would likely be full for the big weekend. Yay.
I got to the campground, three more miles after the eight. Yay. It was full. Yay. But one reserved spot was empty so I took it. “I’ll leave if they come,” I thought.
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