I was out in the woods today and--being overly paranoid and cautious--I was worried about coming across a mama bear and her cub as I zoomed around each blind bend in the road. So I wore bells on my jersey zipper pull. You're laughing at me, but it worked: I didn't see a single bear! A bunch of squirrels and some birds I've never seen before, but no bears. This rock with a smiley face was pretty funny, although I realized as I was taking the picture that I was directly in the path of the slide!
Today's ride would've been beyond epic in yesterday's weather. It was cool and cloudy at the start (ding a ling forgot her armwarmers) but the sun was out for most of the day, so it was a great 85 miles. Within 0.2 miles of getting on the bike today, the road went uphill. All in all, I think there were 4 2-mile climbs, 2 3-mile climbs, 15 miles of 1-2% uphill (all in one piece), and 5 miles of steadily increasing grade with a headwind. No sign of snow. The road is pretty immaculately maintained by the feds (your tax dollars at work on a road with no traffic), so winter rock slides and fallen trees were all cleaned up. You see more road hazards in Seattle riding down Lake City Way to the bike trail.
I was out in the absolute back of beyond. Between mile 3 and mile 73, I saw TWO cars on the road. Two. One at mile 40 and one at mile 60. Sum total for the entire ride was 19 cars in 85 miles. Not bad, eh? Well, it did kind of put an edge on the first part of the ride. When there's absolutely nobody around, you worry (or at least I do) about what could go wrong, getting attacked by bears, or yahoos in a pickup with a gunrack just having fun. After 30 miles or so, the beauty of the woods sank in and I relaxed and started to enjoy it all. It was SO quiet whenever I stopped to take pictures.
I rode 12 miles out a nicely paved road, then did a 60-mile loop on chipseal forest roads that had no lines and were usually only about one lane wide. Early on in the loop, there was a directional sign to the Smith River Highway, which made me laugh because I didn't remember it being much of a highway. But, just for .n., I took pictures of the "highway" and the river.
The highway messes with your mind. It starts out at about 1%, which is fine and you still zoom along pretty fast. By itsy bitsy bits, the gradient increases. You know there's a climb coming, but after about 12 miles of this, you're feeling worked over and wonder how you'll get up a hill. It's hard to say where the climb begins because the road is probably up to 3-4% at the bottom. And it's a really twisty climb so you can't see more than about 50 meters at a stretch, and you're sure the top is around the next bend. But it's not.
In the excess baggage department today, I carried my cell phone (coverage died 10 miles before I parked the car) and cash and a credit card (I went by no commercial establishments whatsoever). I did not have enough clothes--but I didn't have room for them. The worst scare of the entire ride was coming down the next-to-last descent when both my tires skidded on gravel and I thought for sure I was going to slide down the hill. But I kept the bike up--across the center line, but upright. And the most unusual site on the whole ride is the "Inmate Forest Work Camp"--half my vehicle count came on the way back when a bunch of sheriff's vehicles passed me on their way to that camp.
What a beautiful day! The locals all know the route but I don't think they do it often.