It was only the morning of the third day of the tour, yet we had found ourselves in a familiar setting of a non-descript breakfast diner. Breakfast consisted of eggs, meat, potatoes, toast and coffee and soon we were off again towards our next destination. Was the repetition of the touring lifestyle setting in, even only on day 3? In any case, the upcoming day was to feature a long climb through the mountains and on quiet forest roads. This would be a welcome change from the tourist destination we biked through yesterday.
The route also featured no services from miles 12 to about 55 and since the group was full of paranoid Californian’s affected by drought conditions, we inquired about water availability at the US Forest Service Ranger Station in the city of Randle. The ladies behind the counter mentioned that they had not heard about any water pumps being turned off, which sounded like a good enough answer to us at the time.
After departing from the ranger station, the road transformed from a main highway to some more local roads. While we had to consistently dodge cars and tourists throughout the previous day, we encountered far fewer vehicles and people in general along our route. The Gifford Pinchot National Forest was incredibly lush and the greenery was a stark contrast to the brown and yellow landscapes in a drought-ridden California. Despite all this beauty in the forest, we also witnessed giant logging trucks and machinery chopping down trees, presumably for that copy paper for your office printers.
The group, minus Topher, settled at a small campground for lunch. While we sat in the shade, we noticed there were signs plastered throughout the campground that mentioned the water spigots had been turned off and there was no running water. We were a little ticked off by the misinformation that had been fed to us at the ranger station but luckily Dave and Bill each had water pumps to help us filter the stream water.
Speaking of Topher, I had grown tired of his playful taunting from the previous day about how he had to wait for the rest of the group. So earlier in the day I gave him a route slip, the name of our final campground, and told him he could ride there and wait for us if he so pleased. Obviously, a route slip and directions are helpful, but a lot can go wrong in a remote area with no cell reception. It had been a few hours since I had seen Topher, so I could only imagine that he was sitting at the campground, eating peanut butter and chocolate.
As it turns out, that could not have been further from the truth. He explains:
On the 3rd day of our tour I set my sights on a solo breakaway mountain top finish, but alas it did not go as planned. I simply got lost.
My objective was to reach camp earlier than we had in the previous days. As soon as the first climb hit, a gap developed and once I had adequately stretched me legs (yawn) there were no other Boyz to be seen. Not one to be bothered by being alone in the woods, I grinded on and on and on. Following the route slip that was provided me, I found myself getting ever so closer to Lake Takhlakh. I followed the directions to a T up until the last turn that said “stay right onto 5601.”
I actually stopped at the fork where the road split but the sign for 5601 had been knocked down. In fact it was no longer a sign, merely a post lying in the brush. So I continued straight, confidently getting my gravel grinding on.
My confidence remained high on mile 1, mile 2, mile 3, mile 4, mile 5, mile 6, until it began to wane around mile 7. That’s when I began to see signs indicating how close I was getting to the cities of Randall and Packwood — cities that we had previously passed through at the beginning of the day. When I hit an unexpected descent, I knew I frakd up.
So I turned around, and threw caution to the wind, didn’t touch the brakes and pedaled down the gravel descent hoping to correct my blunder by catching up to the slowpokes in the back. Unfortunately, I hit a divot in front of me which caused both a rear and front blow out. Whoops. I had also exhausted my tubes and patches from the previous days on the tour. Double whoops.
Just as I pulled to the side of the gravel road to ponder my options, a lumber truck was heading up my way. I waved him down and he told me that there were some cyclists down the road. I asked him how far, and he replied a mile or 2. I hesitantly asked him if he could give me a ride, and he said, “If I can turn my truck around.” I thanked the lumberjack, and he was able to turn his rig around on the dirt road but we just had to figure out where to put my bike. So we tried to put it in between the 2 flat beds. While we were hoisting my fully loaded bike up, a family in their truck towing a horse trailer stopped by and asked what our dilemma was. They so kindly offered to give me a ride down the hill since they were already going that way. I kind of felt bad for making the lumberjack execute his turn but he seemed nice enough and not to be in any hurry, so I thanked him and we yanked my fully loaded bike off the flatbed and threw it into the horse trailer.
This lovely family from Tacoma drove me down to the base of the 56 where we hoped we would run into the rest of my group. Unfortunately, we did not come across them and at this point it worried me greatly. We stopped at Camp Adams which was basically at the intersection of the 56 and the 21. I was hoping the rest of the group might be there or that they had stopped earlier for water. I hopped out of the truck, walked over to the camp host named Harry. He greeted me kindly, and I asked him if he had seen a group of cyclists, to which he replied, “Why yes, I saw some Americans and some Chinamen” to which I replied “yup, that’s my group!”
Our group had also been fooled by the downed post at the 5601 fork that Topher had mentioned, so we had got lost for a couple of miles and had to backtrack. I know nogarminsnorules is the cool thing nowadays but Bill’s hiking Garmin saved our butts. When we reached Camp Adams, the campground host’s wife came out and informed us that a young gentleman had blown out both of his tires and her husband had given him a ride up to Lake Takhlakh.
While Topher got a cushy ride to the Lake Takhlakh campground, us “Americans and Chinamen” had to complete the day with a mixed terrain climb that was reminiscent of Old Rail Road grade near Mt. Tam in the Bay Area. Since Bill was riding his Alex Moulton with 17inch wheels, we all watched nervously as his rear derailleur hovered inches a way from rocks and other potentially hazardous rear derailleur destroying objects.
We eventually made it up to Lake Takhlakh and finally found Topher lounging in a chair by the lake. The view of Mount Adams over Lake Takhlakh was truly a sight to behold and a marvelous end to the day.
After the group had a quick dip in the lake and Carlin was done channeling his inner @hellhommus, we headed back to the campsite.
This was our first day where we had reached the campsite with enough time left in the day to relax and cook dinner (except for Topher who had to patch his remaining tubes). While the other nights we had been too frazzled and exhausted to enjoy cooking dinner, tonight’s meal was truly a cornucopia of food. After cooking up a hearty amount of mashed potatoes, beef stew, ramen, and other assorted items, we sat by the fire and exchanged stories from our everyday lives. The whiskey flasks were taken out and we looked up at the stars before retiring for the night.
Up next, the famed Babyshoe Pass and some amazing dirt roads that we had only heard about on the internets from some kooks.