(September 13 – written by Nancy)
The soft chirps of the chooks in the pen next to our tent lulled us to sleep last night. They weren’t actually full size chickens but something similar to a Cornish game hen that Fred and Ai raise for meat and they did chirp rather than squawk like normal chickens. I think I was out before I got even one page read on my Kindle – I could get used to sleeping on a big air mattress in a tent so big I could stand up in it. I did mention to Dave how nice that was to have all that room in the tent, but he wasn’t convinced to swap our little tent out for something similar. He kept saying something about the weight of it…
The alarm clock this morning was the howling from the local pack of coyotes – kinda fun, as the calls sounded far enough away to be safe. We ate breakfast sitting in the sun overlooking the valley – I am not sure there are many more picturesque places to have your coffee in the morning sun.
After goodbyes to Fred and Ai we had the steep 1.1 miles downhill back to Dunlap Road, our first road of the day to make our way up to the park. We measured 560 feet in 1.1 miles – and yes it was dang hard yesterday! (Junior editor comment – any bright sparks out there care to calculate the average gradient?) From there we basically had to climb all day. It was a short day, mileage-wise, with only 22 miles but we climbed another 4100 feet so I wouldn’t characterise it as easy!
We had very little traffic on Dunlap Road – the road hugs the hillside and thankfully we had lots of shade in the morning. We wound our way around and around, finally reaching the bustling metropolis of Miramonte, where we found a fully operation US post office and the Miramonte Social Club building, which looked a little worse for wear. I don’t think they have big gatherings there, as the building is only about 8 feet wide and maybe twice as long.
From Miramonte we continued our climb up the hill. There were actually quite a few houses and cabins dotting the area and the higher we climbed the nicer they were. Though there certainly is no shortage of ‘Private Property – Keep Out’ signs in the area. We reached the little burg of Pinehurst, where we were hopeful there might be a convenience store of some sort but alas, the Pinehurst Lodge and General Store was locked up tight. Someone yelled out of a truck going by that it didn’t open until 1 so that wasn’t going to be of much use to us.
Not long after Pinehurst we started to experience flymaggedon. Well, it was mostly me, but Dave was bothered by the flies as well. These were small flies – small in stature but many in numbers! They started slowly, circling around, buzzing our faces. Given we were going so slowly up the hill, they had no problem keeping up with us and it was very still out so we did not have the breeze to help move them along.
Dave finally stopped to break off a couple of branches of a eucalypt bush for us to use as a fan to wave them away. That worked okay for a bit but those flies really loved me, for some reason (okay, it could have been all of the sweat dripping off of me). Anyway, I found it difficult to ride so slowly while also trying to swat away the flies every 2 seconds. We stopped once to put on DEET insect repellent, which unfortunately didn’t have much effect. I finally said forget it, I am going to put my fly net over my helmet. Dave was happy to continue swatting, but I stopped to dig out my fly net – of course it wasn’t in the bag that I thought it was in so it was a bit of a test of willpower to try to dig through the bags to find it, sweating and swatting all at the same time.
Success finally, and with my fly net on, off we went. There was great satisfaction seeing and hearing all of those flies buzzing around outside the net, unable to reach my face. It was a bit hot under it, but well worth the peace from not having to swat every two seconds. Dave was calling me ‘Pig Pen’, from Peanuts, as there was a cloud following me. He wouldn’t ride too close to me, as he said he was getting all of the flies coming off of me! Fortunately, the flies disappeared around 5,200 feet and I was able to take off my head net.
Finally we made the turn onto Hwy 180, which is the primary road into the park. Thankfully traffic was still very light so we had smooth sailing up to the park entrance. From there it was 3 miles to the Grant Grove Village, where we stopped at the Visitor’s Center to get the scoop on camping. We rode just a short way to the Azalea campground and after the usual dithering we picked a spot, paid and put our receipt on the post and headed back to the village to get something to eat. We were both starving and could not contemplate trying to get the tent set up until we had something to eat.
After a very big hamburger we went and had showers at the John Muir Lodge (hmm, that might have been a nice place to stay, Dave…). The showers felt great – between the sweat and the DEET insect repellent I am not sure I could even feel my skin anymore! After a final stop at the village grocery store for dinner supplies we made our way back to our site, set up our tent and make a delicious dinner of salad, mashed potatoes and hotdogs.
We met some nice folks from Steamboat Springs who were also looking for the showers at the same time we were and chatted with them a bit. They are cyclists as well (though are in a caravan on this trip) and invited us to come have a glass of wine so after dinner we went to have chat with them and their friends from Steamboat who also cycle.
We are taking a day off here tomorrow and will do very little other than walk (not far) to see some big trees and walk (not far) up to the village to eat more food. It’s time for a day to relax after the last few days of going uphill!