Yesterday was a meaty menu item; 75 miles from Quincy to the state park south of Truckee with buckets of climbing. This proved the busiest stretch of road since leaving Astoria a long ass time ago.
As long as I hugged the fog line people didn’t mind, but anything looking like “take the lane” earned impressive rations of rage, from rednecks as well as entitled wankers from the Bay Area taking their bikes out for a drive on the back of the Audi.
Fifteen miles or so before my destination I quit, as the closed forest service sites along the Truckee River beckoned a lot stronger than the remaining climbs between me and Donner State Park. I stopped at one to get water from a spigot saying “Not Potable! Do Not Drink Without Boiling!”
That seemed weird because it was a USFS campsite. As I dithered out from his RV hopped the campsite host, Vern.
“Just stopping for water?”
“Yep,” I lied. “Is this really not potable?”
“Naw, the permit on the well expired and it cost too much to get it re-certified, so they hung this tag on it.”
“You don’t know the half of it. Instead of recertifying the well they are gonna drill another one.”
“Yep. Cheaper to drill a new well, move the well head and pump from the old to the one, and get it inspected and certified than it is to get a well out of certication recertified.”
We chatted a bit more; he was friendly and liked that I was cycling. “Have a good ride!” he said.
Half a mile later I pulled over into the second half of the closed camp, went around the barricade, and tromped down a long secluded trail by the river so that no snoopy snooper would be likely to find me, at least not before I cut out at daybreak.
Little did I know …
After setting the tarp and pitching the tent I started over to the river for water. At first it sounded like a furious insect, but it got louder and louder and was coming from high up. I looked through the canopy and saw the drone hovering over my head as it recorded my stupid expression along with my bivouac. Then it flew back upriver to its home at Vern’s RV.
I sighed. There is no solitude anymore even for the leader of the nefarious S’Mores Gang, the wildland bikepacker who storms into campsites and steals people’s desserts, generators, and spare truck axles. I waited for the ranger a bit.
Then I figured that maybe I wouldn’t be ratted out. Maybe I was going to get a one-day pass because Vern was sympathetic to a lone tired biker stuck on a mountainside.
My attention quickly turned to a series of marks on the trees to which I’d tethered the tarp. They were the marks of giant bear claws and the pines were the local sharpening post. I checked the ground and realized I’d camped in the middle of a bear trail, replete with huge padmarks ringed with huge claws. Then I recalled that next to the non-potable water sign Vern had posted another one saying “YOU ARE IN BEAR COUNTRY.”
I shrugged, fixed dinner, and went to bed. I slept.
But I slept.