|Journal for 12-May-2004 : (Almost) Medicine Lake|
Cold morning. Ice on the car windows in the car park.
Lots of trucks on the sh89, mostly log and wood chip haulers. More trucks in an hour than we'd see on the busiest day on the Nullarbor. Lots of getting off the road required too, as this is not exactly a wide highway. Quite a bit of climbing required as well, with the last bit disrupted by roadworks and a lolly pop man.
American roadworks with lengthy lolly-pop man partial closures have a pace car to keep the traffic in check as the negotiate the works. This closure went on for several Ks, employed nearly a hundred workers, but only seemed to be applying small strips of patches. It was not clear how they decided which bits needed patching and which didn't!
Turned off onto Forestry Route 15 then 49, which should have lead us to the Lava Beds National Monument. After a few ks of climbing in to the pine forests, the logging traffic dropped off and we were free to enjoy spectacular views of Mt Shasta, a 5000m high dormant volcano.
The road got narrower, rougher and completely free of other traffic. It got steadily higher too. Eventually we crossed a lava field, and a found a few collapsed lava tubes. Pine trees seem remarkably capable to growing in this inhospitable country. At one point there is an ice cave. Actually an ordinary rock cave with icicles dropping like teeth from the ceiling.
We climbed yet further without seeing a soul. Bits of snow started appearing by the road.
We climbed yet further. The trees were getting shorter and thinner, and the snow more common.
We climbed yet further. The road became really rough past the last of the
forestry workings. So bad, it was almost as rough as Headland Dr. We let the tyres down as if this was a dirt road.
We climbed yet further. We saw the first snow drift across the road. There was a set of tyre tracks through them. We'd chatted to a log truck driver at the base of this hill who told us it was “probably” possible to get up there, but there might still be a bit of snow. The evidence seemed to bear this out.
We climbed yet further. Strangely, the squirrels seemed to get smaller too, along with the trees. More occasional snow drifts now.
We climbed yet further. We carried the bikes across two fallen trees that were blocking the road. No had been here for a while, but the summit was so close.
We climbed yet further. More snow drifts to push the bikes through. Slow going, but the summit was so close.
We climbed yet further. The ratio of snow drift to bitumen became 50:50, so we pushed on, because the summit was so close.
We climbed yet further. Now we were pushing the bikes through snow, several metres deep in places. No more bitumen, but the summit was so close!
We climbed yet further. In the past hour and a half we'd covered almost 3km and the sun was setting, but the summit was so close!
We climbed yet further. With the summit looming around every bend, we kept going, against our better judgement. Finally, we rounded a bend that showed us more straight road (actually just a lot of snow where the road should be) and we belatedly found a snow free spot that was sort of flat (ie evenly sloped) and set up camp.
As soon as the sun went it got very cold very quickly. So it was with good fortune (and the use of incendiaries - bike chain lube) we managed to get a fire going and dry out our pale, lifeless, feelingless feet. I have no idea how high we really were, but at a minimum it would have been 6600ft (2200m), but probably quite a bit more.
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