July 22, 2013
This morning we went to breakfast in Alpine at the Bear Wallow Café, a place we only discovered (finally) on this trip. It’s a favorite of many riders we know, but we’d never tried it. Here’s how cool it is: there are signs everywhere that say “No cell phones in the café! No foolin’!” I am glad someone has the courage (and sense) to put up that sign!
This morning the place was packed, but most of the crowd came in after us. We chose a booth that looked out on the back, which had a view of nice scenery, and of a bird feeder near the window. The bird feeder was made out of a mesh bag filled with birdseed, and the little birds hooked their feet in the holes as they hung out (literally) and ate. The bird visitors were hungry, much like the humans sitting on the other side of the window. There were always at least three or four of them there during the whole time we were eating.
I was also listening to a bunch of men talking in the next room. They must be truckers, and they were telling stories. I heard one guy say, “Yeah, he said, ‘mister, you don’t need to park your truck so far away, you can bring it closer.’ Then I said, well it’s got 9,000 pounds of dynamite in it so I think I’d best leave it there. You coulda scraped that kid up off the floor when I said that!” There were other stories, too, from that same guy, and I so wanted to go over and say, “I need to have coffee with you and record your stories as you talk so I can write a book!” That group of truckers sat there for a long time trading stories, even though the place filled up around them.
After breakfast Hal and I packed up our stuff and moved “up the hill” to our favorite place, booked until today. By the time we got there, though, the sky was already full of heavy clouds, and just as we started to gear up for dirt bike riding, the rain started. It was a hard rain from the beginning, and I got soaked just trying to get my rain jacket out of the car in time! We ran to the porch, where we stayed and drank coffee for a good part of the early afternoon. Even though it was nice and relaxing, I was mad because I thought we were going to miss out on another riding day.
It wasn’t just rain, it was a torrent:
But, at 2 o’clock, the rain started slowing down, and by 2:30 it was just sprinkling. We geared up, this time we put on the rain gear, too, knowing we were probably going to get wet at some point. It actually turned out to be a very nice afternoon, though. It was kind of cold (by our standards, that is) because it was damp, and it was still mostly cloudy. We took FR576 west to FR24. Does this sound familiar? We rode this route in reverse for our very last ride last time we were here, in June.
The forest roads were wet, but not too bad. The water runs down them as it’s raining, but after the rain stops, it seems to soak in fast, or at least run off. I thought FR24 was in better shape this time than last time, not so dusty and covered in slippery gravel. And, once again, when we got to the intersection of FR24 and FR25, we saw part of the same herd of elk that we saw last time. Best of all, I got photos this time!
Looking over Hal’s shoulder at the elk disappearing into the trees (above the little yellow road marker on the right side of the road):
Once we got on FR25, I was amazed to find that all the big gravel that I hated last time had either been pushed to the side of the road, or pushed into the road by traffic! It was a great road again, just as we experienced July, 2012. I guess I should have realized that there was a method to their madness when they put that big gravel down. The rains must change the road, and the gravel gets worked into it by the vehicles that pass over it.
We had a wonderful time flying down that road, it was like Velcro after the rain. We were able to travel around 35 mph and more, and since the weather seemed to be improving, we chose to ride down to the Black River. We wanted to see how much faster the water was running than the anemic flow we witnessed a month ago. It was only 14 miles anyway, and the road was super fun. When we got there, we weren’t disappointed, it was quite a strong current.
Black River, running faster than the last time we’d seen it:
By this time the sun was showing through the clouds, although weakly; it was very warm at the “bottom,” at the Black River. We took photos, and I got rid of a layer. I was going to take more layers off, but Hal reminded me that it would be cooler again once we got going. We were going to go back up the same way we came, then go and find another little road that we liked last time.
The trip back to Hwy. 191 was even faster than when we went out. After we had climbed up to 191 again, though, I was reminded that when we gain elevation, it gets cooler. I thought briefly that I should put that layer back on, but decided I would man up and deal with it. We took the fun road down to Aker Lake, another place we’d visited last time. The light was perfect in the late afternoon, and I took a few photos. By this time, it was time to start heading in for the day, and we wanted to get back to the lodge. In the dampness, it feels much colder, and we covered our bikes when we returned to keep the water off them overnight. I don’t want to sit on a wet seat tomorrow!
So, even though the day seemed unsalvageable when the rain lasted for hours this afternoon, there was enough time left in the day once it stopped for it to turn out to be a great riding day after all!