Day 9 - Letts Lake to Upper Lake

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April 23, 2002 ( ~ 48 miles)

We woke up at dawn at Letts Lake and packed up as quickly as possible and got out of there.

We went to the Mill Creek campground, hoping that there would be water there, because we knew for sure that the forest service info in Stonyford listed it as fully open. We grew to resent the forest service during this portion of our trip, and no, there was no water.

There was a tiny stream by the campground though, and I told Ryan he had to drink it or dry up into a raisin. I suspect that Ryan had been galently waiting to see if I got sick from the lake water, and when I didn't he finally agreed to the stream water. That water also tasted pretty nasty, so as we boiled it we flavored it with herbal tea to make it less gross. Then we had some sandwiches and felt a little better.

We looked at the maps and Ryan's spirits soared. He claimed it was going to be a short and easy day [I was trying to be positive because Amy was freakin' out that we were never going to get out of the forest]. He was thinking that we had a lot of descending coming to us after all the climbing that we had done the previous day, and also the extremely squiggly line on the map didn't look very long. I was deeply skeptical. [Amy fails to mention that this is not the route I had planned. And that this was her route for getting us out of the forest quickly].

So we set out, climbing of course. We were tired and sore, but we had taken a lot of Advil, so we felt OK. We were able to joke about the previous night and we felt our chances of getting out of the forest by nightfall were good. We had originally planned to camp there another night but we really did not want to. I'm sure you understand.

Over the course of the day we decided that the forest service people had different priorities then us when it came to road building in this almost totally deserted forest. They always wanted their roads to climb up and up and up, only to drop all the way down to a river and immediately start climbing to the top of the next mountain. We speculated that they did that for fire fighting reasons. Had we designed the road, we would have followed the river and made the road get the hell out of there as fast and flatly as possible.

The whole reason we went through the Mendocino Mountains was to firstly to move over toward the coast, but also to go to these hot springs (Crab Tree) that were listed in a book that our friend Andria had very nicely lent us. OK but we missed our turnoff. We were in the middle of absolutely nowhere and there was supposed to be another road leading to absolutely nowhere, but we couldn't find it. Oh well. A road that you cannot find when there are no other signs of human activity obscuring your search is perhaps not worth taking.

Instead we took Bear Creek Road. It started out nicely enough, following the creek the way I like roads to. Then we came to a part where the creek had washed the road out. There was an older couple in a truck that was in the process of turning around. They said they always drive to Stonyford via the Bear Creek Road, but that it was just awful this year and they were going home. They asked Ryan to move a big rock from the creek into their truck. They noted that we were really sunburned.

After the creek, the road turned into the most demonic road I have ever ridden on. It was just all incredibly steep switchbacks, dirt, and deeply rutted. It got really hot and flies attacked us because we were unable to swat them away. A forest service worker stopped by in his truck as we ate a snack and totally lied about the nature of the road ahead. At some point my tires were skidding out too much so we had to walk our bikes, which actually was just as slow as riding them. I got angry at Ryan midway through this stretch of evilness. He was trying to make a joke about our situation and I said, "Just shut up Ryan!"

Finally, at around 4:00pm we made it to some kind of paved road. As a last insult to our bodies, it went up for one last mile. Then it abruptly dropped. If I were a better descender, it would have been a great road. There were no cars at all, and it was just all crazy hairpin turns for several miles. Ryan got way ahead of me and had to wait, that's why there are pictures of me riding down the mountain.

We came to a valley and there was a campground that actually had water. We dumped our icky tea water and got nicely chlorinated water. It was a victorious moment.

Then we rode through this flat and easy area towards Upper Lake, where we were really hoping to find a motel because we were totally dirty and exhausted. The dogs of Lake County would not just leave us to limp into town though. On two occasions we were forced to sprint for it when dogs launched attacks. They must have been able to sense our weakness.

We were so, so glad that there was a Super 8 Motel in Upper Lake. We didn't care that it was slightly overpriced. It was the only motel there and we didn't have enough energy to get to the next town.

We then had the worst pizza I have ever had at the only open restaurant in town, bought cookies and ice cream, and peacefully watched cable television until we feel asleep.