Yesterday I left my camp at Montague and headed for McCloud, about forty miles away. I wasn’t too worried about finding a campsite until I realized that all the national forests are closed.
This is like saying, “We’re closing the ocean.” Stupid, impractical, untrue. Untrue because the forests were and have been wide open for business, the real business of the U.S. Forest Service, which is selling trees. And boy howdy, is the tree biz booming. You can’t park a bike and camp for the night but you can clearcut the whole fucking forest as the logging industry keeps making America great.
I pedaled to McCloud, then stopped and had some Tillamook peach yogurt, following the pint of Humboldt Creamery organic chocolate ice cream I’d had in Mt. Shasta. At the ranger station in McCloud I watered up, figuring that I’d be bivouacking again.
There is a beautiful loop off of Highway 89 that was barricaded, so I rode around it and into the forest, which has been closed since September 7. It’s amazing how a few short days of no cars and crap haulers cleans a place up. Deer foraged along the road, which was already mostly covered with pine needles. Squirrels, chipmunks, and birds were in an abundance you never see when the forest is “open.”
I found a dirt track and followed it through deep sand for a hundred yards or so. I knew I’d found my site when I saw a bright yellow “NO CAMPING” sign nailed to a tree. All the non-campers obviously camped here. There was a permanent lava rock fire pit and a pleasant nook where the non-tents were non-pitched for the non-camping. I followed suit and made dinner with the fresh garden tomatoes from my cousin Hilary, and Michele from Montague, along with some of her delicious organic sausage. Everything seemed mostly perfect. Silence. Clear air. Full tummy …
The last batch of non-campers had left a soft, small red blanket with questionable stains that served as a perfect mat so that I no longer had to cook and eat in the dirt. It also made a primo doormat for the vestibule of the tent. About midnight the imperfection showed up in the form of cold. It probably wasn’t less than the high 40s but it crawled into my sleeping bag, snuggled up, and refused to leave. I had to zip the entire sleeping bag, don wool socks, hat, and hand-knitted wool cowl from Hilary, but the cold remained.
It was butt colder in the morning; making coffee was misery as my fingers stuck to anything metal. “Fuck, and it’s not even cold yet,” was all I could think. A few cold mornings I’ve made coffee and oatmeal outside the tent under the vestibule so that I can cook and still have the sleeping bag over my legs. It’s an extra step prep before going to bed, but from now on it will be standard. I’ve heard that the Sierras are even colder in late fall and winter, but don’t believe that for a minute.
The ride to Burney Falls was my shortest so far, just under forty miles. The state park there is closed to all camping, another silly and pointless exercise, but the salient fact is that THEY OPENED THE HIKER-BIKER SITES FOR THE TIRED AND BEDRAGGLED GRAMPA BIKER.
I pitched camp with my new tarp, fiddled with the mostly non-existent cell coverage, and had a glorious six-minute shower followed by fresh kale, tomatoes, onions, garlic, and the last of the sausage.
Today I’m shooting for Manzanita Lake at Lassen National Park. At 7,000 feet it should be my balmiest morning yet. Not enough cell bars to upload photos, maybe tomorrow.
Haven’t subscribed yet? Maybe it’s time! Your $2.99/month keeps the pedals turning, the shutter snapping, and the pedals cranking. Please Go ahead and hit this “subscribe” link. Thank you!