Field Guide Bike Tour-Day 15/Harris Beach to Elk Prairie (Orick, CA)

June 24th, 2010 by

Don’t worry Oregon, we will!

At least we keep getting offers to Karaoke, even across state lines.

As we rode through quiet country roads around some of the busier parts of 101 — Oh, by the way, if you are using the ubiquitous cycling the west coast book, ignore the author’s advice to take Ocean View Drive, but not Lake Earl Drive. She seems to think out of the way hilly terrain is preferable to a wide shouldered highway for some reason. Has she even ridden a fully loaded bike before? Where was I? Oh yes, as we made our way through quiet and flat farm land, there was but one thing on our mind: two major climbs we had to tackle today. The first, around 1200 feet, was just south of Crescent City, the other, a 900 footer, was right before our camp site at Elk Prairie.

We took a break on the bay in Crescent City before the first climb. The impending sense of gloom in the air was immediately overshadowed by a rag-tag group of ailing animals eyeing our snacks, eagerly awaiting a hand out. A one-legged squirrel, mutilated pigeons and mangy seagulls surrounded us while an ominous crow cackled at us from the beach as if chanting “You’ll die! You’ll die!”

Cresent City, CA

With the homely send off fresh on our minds, we rejoined 101 and began our ascent.

The climb is a long, steady one. Not particularly steep, but made difficult by the fact that the shoulder frequently disappears completely, leaving you to fend for yourself in the right lane, which also sometimes disappears as the road becomes only two (total) lanes. For the most part, cars and trucks give you plenty of room and in some cases even give you a thumbs up or a congratulatory honk in support. Then, the fog starts.

Pretty soon, you can see about, oh, a few car lengths ahead and behind you. Supported only by your puny bike lights, you keep spinning and holding a straight, predictable line, hoping everyone sees your little two wheeled pack mule chugging up the mountain.

Once you think you’ve gotten used to the fog, the next quest’s challenge rears its ugly head. Suddenly you start hearing popping sounds and look down. Thousands of little centipede-like bugs are crawling across the highway and you now, on top of keeping a steady pace and watching out for speeding cars in the heavily fogged redwoods, have to swerve around a mine field of little crawly bugs because you’ve been a vegetarian (alright, a pescetarian when on a coastal trip) for 8 years and the last thing you want to do is have the guilt of 3 million little bugs added to the memory of climbing this hectic beast.

How any of these little guys makes it across the highway at all perplexes me...

Finally, you reach the top though:

…and the prize you are rewarded with? Almost 5 miles of straight downhill bombing:

The end of the descent is a spectacular change of scenery. As you burst out of the fog shrouded red woods, immediately you are jolted with the sight of a beautiful gray and craggy beach. The scenery changes quickly here on the coast:

We stopped at a small wash room at the south end of this beach and were approached by several drivers who marveled at our bikes and gear. One man, asked if were were traveling south or north. “South,” I said as he, wide eyed, made the sign of the cross. “You made it out alive! That’s the worst part of this highway!” Why the hell are people so morose? You know what, I’ll prove you wrong Mister Cynic: I will have a MUCH worse day than this, so there!

With only a few hours left in the day though (maybe we stayed with the decrepit animal farm in crescent city too long), we were left ascending the 900 foot climb up and down into Elk Prairie Camp Ground in near darkness. Even though there was light traffic, and the descent in dark was very thrilling, I don’t recommend this.

Another wet camp, this time with tons of elk lying low in the field in plain sight (pretty cool: I thought they were statues at first). Tomorrow we are off to Eureka and another screening!

Spotted waving at us from the TREES OF MYSTERY. We didn't stick around to discover the secret...