All systems not quite ready

August 30, 2022 Comments Off on All systems not quite ready

Everything went great until it didn’t. We started late, which was okay as we were only riding about 25 miles. It was already hot when we left, and in Kernville we stopped for groceries.

Riding out of the parking lot I spied a wallet in the middle of the road, picked it up and found it loaded with cash and credit cards. We rifled through it, found a business card, and I called the guy up. “Hey, Scott!” I said.

“Who’s this?”

“It’s Seth and I’ve got your wallet.”

“What?” he said. He obviously hadn’t missed it yet and was checking his pocket.

“It was lying in the road by the supermarket.”

“Oh crap!” he said. “I’ll be right there, thank you!”

You might think there would be some good bike karma after that but it was not to be. The heat, my loaded bike and loaded pack, my general weakness and old age quickly ground me down. Seven miles up the river we stopped for a snack of cold watermelon that Kristie had packed.

That revived me for another seven miles, after which we swung into McNally’s for fries, cheeseburgers, and milk shakes. My body went into toxic lard shock as we remounted to finish the last seven miles, the final two up a brutal climb to our wild camp by the waterfall.

I lay down, destroyed.

“It takes you five days to acclimate,” Kristie reminded me.

“What day are we on again?”

“This would be Day One.”

We stretched out our sleeping bags in the dirt and I fell deeply asleep. Kristie fell deeply awake but at least she had company as Orion’s Belt crossed the heavens until she nodded off around three.

Day Two arrived as crisply and fresh as my legs, which was great because we started having done only two of the steep twelve miles up to Parker Pass. “How are your legs?” she asked.

“Great! Yours?”


A mile later she asked again. “How are your legs?”

“Utter shit. Yours?”

“Great!” she said.

I don’t know how to say this gently, but it took me three hours to go ten miles. My day’s plan had been to ride as far as Ponderosa, but that would have only worked in conjunction with an airlift.

We stopped for the day at Holy Meadow and camped beneath a young sequoia that was only about six or seven hundred years old. It had already been there a couple of centuries by the time Columbus showed up. Who really belongs here, they or we?

The rest of Day Two involved me sitting and lying around a deserted campground. I like that.

On Day Three I knew what was in store: the day began with a 13-mile climb up to Ponderosa at 7,000 feet, followed by a long descent into Camp Nelson. My legs finally felt like legs and it took a mere 1:40 to go thirteen miles. The store at Ponderosa was closed so I sat on the stoop with an amiable dog and ate raisins.

The drop into Camp Nelson is a straight 10-mile descent, beautiful and isolated, the road occasionally cut by clear mountain streams. There is a general store in Camp Nelson so I bought tuna fish, an orange, and a red onion, and rode up past the campground to a trail that leads through an ancient grove of giant sequoias. I camped next to the pristine waters of the South Fork Middle Fork (not a typo) of the Tule River and slept beneath hoary, towering alders.

Day Four started with the most amazing surprise imaginable.



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