Day 8 - Black Butte Lake to Letts Lake

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April 22, 2002 ( ~ 65 miles)

When we woke up at Black Butte Lake we were sunburned and looked like big dorks. Our pale city skin could not stand up to the powerful Central Valley sun. Luckily, we saw only a couple dozen people the whole day, car drivers included. And less in the following days.

We felt pretty nice heading out. I believe we had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for breakfast. PB&Js turned out to be our most outstanding trip food, we are very sad that we didn't think of them until Day 8.

The riding from Black Butte Lake to Stonyford was some of the nicest of the whole trip. There was no wind and the gently rolling roads were empty. The weather was perfect. I think we were also finally starting to feel more fit than we had at the start of the trip.

We ate cheese sandwiches and It's Its at the only retail establishment in Elk Creek, a little grocery store. We kind of expected to have some waffles or something when we got to Stonyford, but there was only a general store there.

The biggest deal in Stonyford is a large ranger station that serves Mendocino National Forest. There we learned that the campground that we had intended to go to had burned down. We decided to go instead to Letts Lake, which was 9 miles further on then our original campsite. We were feeling ok with that though. It was still only about 2:00pm. We filled up our waterbottles.

We were still feeling good as we pedaled up the road to the forest. We saw some domesticated ostriches that were very big.

The entrance to the forest was a little sinister as the whole area was burned out. It was hot there, because there was no shade. We passed through this blighted area that was full of trails for off-road-vehicles and a big California Youth Authority complex. Then we began a horribly steep climb. At this point in the forest, the rangers had cruelly posted mile markers so we could see just how little progress we were making.

This hill went on and on and I began to be concerned. Then there was a rapid descent and our spirits were temporarily lifted. Then the pavement stopped and the now dirt road began to climb steeply again. And it never freaking stopped going up for the whole rest of the day. My knees hurt, Ryan's butt hurt, I was beginning to get very grumpy. One of the reasons we were going to Letts Lake was because our bakery comrade Sue Lopez had told Ryan it was "beautiful." I started to have all kinds of evil thoughts about Sue Lopez. Like that she was a car driver who didn't know anything.

After several hours we came to the turnoff for Letts Lake. It was 6:00pm. I was totally beat and grumpy. When we had the choice between the staying at the Mill Creek campground or going uphill another mile and a half to Letts Lake, I was like, "I want to stay here." But Ryan said, "We're so close, let's just keep going." That pissed me off and I used my tiny amount of remaining strength to sprint up around the next bend. Ryan tired himself out trying to catch me and we had to stop for a snack. I then let him go first, but I had to yell at him to stop when my foot hit my fender and the zip tie that held it on snapped. Luckily, Ryan brought a shoelace that I used to repair it. He is still congratulating himself for that, but honestly we could have used a lace from any of our four collective shoes [yeah, but who didn't return my shoelace after the trip?].

So that was definitely the most pathetic final stretch of any of our riding days.

But there was no relief at Letts Lake, where the water at the campground had not yet been turned on. OK, Ryan and I are not champion campers, and we really didn't know what to do. We were totally out of water and most of the food we brought was like pasta and couscous that has to be boiled.

I said in a confident voice, "I guess we will have to boil lake water." But I was not at all sure this was the sanitary thing to do. The lake just looked really…refreshing. Ryan was like, "No."

Luckily two fishermen had pulled up about the same time as us, and I went over to ask them if they thought it was OK to drink boiled lake water. They expressed doubt.

I went to get some water, walking a good distance around the little lake to give Ryan the impression that I was getting water from clearer waters then the algae-ridden part near our campsite. But lake water is lake water and I could see lots of fish in there, and ducks floated around, probably pooping, and the water I collected was not clear.

In the meantime Ryan had ridden his bike somewhere looking for water. He was unsuccessful and I will not soon forget the worried, dehydrated look on his little face when he came back. He still refused to drink the water, hoping that the campground that I had wanted to go to had water. I made some so-so couscous and drank lots of the nasty-tasting lake water. I think Ryan had a PB&J.

After dinner we read the plaque by our campsite about the lake. It was named after the Letts brothers, homesteaders who were murdered near the spot in a fight with squatters in the 1800's. Great.

We got ready for bed and I was thinking, "Sue Lopez, Letts Lake is NOT beautiful, it is creepy and remote and I wish we weren't here." Both Ryan and I were trying to be nonchalant about this undesirable situation, but as the sky darkened and we tried to fall asleep, someone began hysterically screaming in the forest nearby. This was extremely disquieting. I was very bothered by this.

The second batches of screams were very methodical, like a deranged bird call, so we were able to rationalize away the possibility that the Letts brothers' spirits were haunting the lake. Still, when I had to pee at about 12:30am there was no way I was going to get out ofthe tent to do so, and it was an uncomfortable night.