From Beegum Creek to Hell’s Gate
Waking up is crawling out of a deep black hole. “Where am I?” I think groggily. “Oh yeah. Sleeping in my underwear under a bridge.” Where else would I be?
Team Whiskers is well rested and ready to ride today. We’re at the part of highway 36 I’ve been worried about: the passes. Walking passes is hard enough – I’m worried it’s going to be twenty miles of walk-a-bike when I can’t pedal myself uphill.
Downshift, downshift, downshift, go. When it’s low as it goes, put your head down and pedal. Team Whiskers slowly goes up the mountain. As long as you keep going, you will eventually get there.
We make it to Platina and buy breakfast burritos, surprisingly delicious. We pump every customer in there for information on the road coming up. The white-haired woman behind the counter, when asked about herself, refers obliquely to the time she left get husband, hitchhiked across the country with another man, only to get left herself in Iowa. She leaves us hanging there, to wonder about the rest.
We siesta in Wildwood, next to the foundation of the store, burnt down two years ago now, then water up at an RV park. It’s not 100 degrees up here, but it’s still pretty warm.
We ride out late afternoon, and crest the passes. The road here has no shoulder, no guard-rail, and a sheer dropoff. I blast a downhill riding in the middle of the road, but right down the razor edge of excitement and fear.
The fading light convinces us to try and get off the road. We spot a group of cars on a side road and pull off, thinking it’s the campground. The group of tweaked-out backwoods rednecks, after telling us to watch out for cartels, and to stay out of the marijuana grows, gives us directions to a campsite in a couple miles. Righty-O.
Another beautiful, heart-racing downhill. I’m getting more comfortable letting the bike rip down 7% downhills. Hell’s Gate awaits us, turning out to be a lovely campground on the South Fork of the Trinity River. The river is full of crawdads, and Pacman fills up our three-liter pot with the teeny river lobsters. I catch only five because I’m afraid of those terrifying half-inch pincers.
Our campground neighbors are two retired guys on their yearly camping trip here, and they make room at their picnic table for some hiker trash. (In return, we make some room in their cooler…) We have a crawdad boil and cook dinner and laugh at how crazy this is, that we’re here, that we made it through the central valley, that we made it up the passes, that we made it down the passes too, that the PCT can be this too…
We fall asleep under the stars, straining our eyes for a glimpse of the Perseids meteor shower, but see only the full moon instead.