Stats: From Leggett to Little River 62 miles; 530.5 cumulative miles
We agreed to get an early start to our day today. And by early, I mean: “We get up at 5am, and leave by 5:30.” No breakfast. No coffee. No time. We are not going to get caught in 100+ temperatures on the biggest climb of our trip. No more heat exhaustion for us! And so, for once, we woke up before everyone else at the hiker/biker site! Me, I suffered from a bit of a Gout attack (second time in the last 5 years), but really couldn’t figure out the trigger, so I chalked it up to dehydration from the day before.
The big spike is Leggett; the little "bump" on the right
is "stupid hill." A challenging, large hill all by itself.
After rolling out, we began the slow ascent up the hill right past Leggett. At just over 1800 feet, it was by far our highest elevation gain. And with very steep grade to match. We crested the hill after a couple hours of climbing, and after coasting down a little, we chose to stop and make “camp” at a pullout. We enjoyed a warm cup of coffee and oatmeal as we watched the cyclists we camped with the night before slowly wiz past us one by one. Gwen and Roger (a couple from Canadia that we have camped with for several nights) stopped and told us about Jonathan’s sighting (Portland cyclist I mentioned earlier) of a cougar at the top of the mountain. He was visibly rattled, as were we all, since this road is very remote, and people are actually ON the food chain out here!
After finishing up breakfast, we put on some layers of clothes, and continued down the hill. Then we stopped, and put on more layers of clothes and continued the descent. After one more stop, and yet more layers of clothes, we finally hit the bottom. The descent was crazy steep, very, very long, and a lot of fun. But the chill was compounded by the 20 degree change in temperature; since this mountain is the demarcation line between the interior heat of California (which we experienced yesterday) and the very cool maritime temperatures we had been riding in for most of the trip.
Having found better weather, we continued riding through *yet more* remarkable coastline (yawn) and beautiful lush forests, covered with sword ferns and stinging nettle… oh, yeah, and another huge hill. Which by itself would have been enough of a “big hill” for a day. But we had to climb the steep 600 foot hill right on the heels of Leggett. Stupid hill.
We made plans to stop in Fort Bragg for some lunch and laundry, but between us and Fort Bragg lay over a dozen very steep short descents, and very short steep ascents – each carving into a river mouth with a fast switchback, and a steep climb. Kim and I got into a regular habit of calling out “fun part, fun part…” as we whipped into the sharp switchback, and then calling out “sad part, sad part” as we ratcheted into gears 1:1 to climb back out.
About 20 miles outside of Fort Bragg, I noticed a broken spoke on Eric’s bike, and told him that we didn’t have time to stop yet, and he needed to stop riding it like a tonka truck (Eric looks for “the path less travelled” and often enjoys adding needless exertion to his body and his bike). He did his best to ride gingerly, although that would be impossible in the upcoming moon-cratered bike path just outside of Ft Bragg.
In Fort Bragg, we stopped and had Mexican food, then we split up: Sabrina rode to the library to babysit electronics that needed juicing up; Kim did laundry; and I worked on Eric’s wheel outside the Laundromat. On our way out of town we stopped and got coffee to go from Starbucks and shopped at Safeway. It felt normal. Unlike riding in the sticks for the last several days. We then said “goodbye” to normal, and rode off into the sticks again to camp for the night where we met up with three more Portland cyclists, as well as Jonathan, Gwen, Roger, and Rose.
Gout is feeling better. The burn is feeling better. The knee injury is feeling better, and there were no more logging truckers today. It was a good day, but easily the most exhaustive because there was such a huge cumulative elevation gain.
Showers, tents, great conversation, and sleep.