A day of remarkable contrasts. Miserable first half — elated second.
Straight out of Cedarville my route turns west and climbs toward Cedar Pass in the Warners (elevation 6,500 ft, vertical gain of 1,900 ft). I have to turn west here and cross the mountains if I’m to make Crater Lake National Park in Oregon and get as much as possible of Highway 101 along the Pacific Coast. Both are major destinations on this trip.
Rainy morning. Snow in the forecast at higher elevations. My concern about frozen feet returns. I still haven’t asked my sister in New York to mail me my waterproof pants and I have yet to buy waterproof shoes. Have been delaying obtaining these items to save weight. Other things waiting at my sister’s are my gas stove, cook set and a few other survival items that I may need up north.
My plan is to get this stuff in Seattle before the extremes of Canada and Alaska. Back in Texas it was ok to ride in the rain because we were at sea level and it was warm. Here in the mountains I risk frostbite if it rains or snows, but so far I’ve kept my fingers crossed and for the most part have avoided trouble. (St. Johns, Arizona was the one notable exception; but that snowstorm was unusual for Arizona this time of year).
But now my luck seems to have run out. It’s raining and I have to pedal straight into the mountains. I linger halfheartedly but realize that waiting out the weather is useless, so I head out. The rain turns to snow at 6,000 feet; soon a full-blown storm begins plastering me with wet snow and I hurriedly stop to put on my jacket and gloves. Luckily just as I crest the pass and begin my descent the storm abates and soon stops altogether. My feet and pants are wet, but not soaked through. So I continue pedaling, leaving it to the wind to dry me out. Though wet and uncomfortable, I’ve avoided unnecessary stoppage.
The couple of hours of riding after lunch in Alturas are miserable, too. In addition to the wet socks, the wind is in my face, the farmland is extremely boring, the shoulder is narrow and beat-up, and the road carries heavy traffic of stinky pig transporters and pickups with ultra-wide side mirrors. I arrive in Canby with only 41 miles behind me and it’s already 4:30 pm. The next town, Tulelake, is 52 miles away. I will take Ca-139 here and ride north through Modoc National Forest. I haven’t camped alone in a wild forest yet on this trip and it gives me creeps, but I don’t have good alternatives — the town is too far.
But suddenly things look up. The lady at the Canby gas station where I’m picking up provisions for the night hears my story and gives me my drink for free, plus adds a few energy bars on top. I turn off onto Highway 139 and all traffic disappears. The wind changes direction and now blows from the south. A tall pine forest replaces the farms. The warm evening sun tears apart the oppressive clouds and shows me my first glimpse of the Cascades through the trees (alas, it later turns out to be only Mount Hoffman, not the mighty Cascades). To my surprise I make the 52 miles in under three hours and reach Tulelake at the edge of night.
Though at first I have trouble finding a place to stay, I end up camping on the back porch of the museum at the county fair grounds — a comfortable, dry, peaceful night.
Oregon lies just four miles away.