Friday afternoon the weather outlook for Humboldt Bay was showing some warmer than usual temperatures. From this I could only surmise that it was going to be hot in Siskiyou County, and in particular Scott Valley. I was not wrong. RCMBA riders were gathered at Forks of Salmon Post Office in the cool morning shadows as we took down names, briefed the riders on the route, and made sure everybody had their will filled out.
It was probably in the sixties as we rolled away from the post office and followed the North Fork Salmon River toward Sawyers Bar, and then up to Etna Summit. This was also the last time any of us but the support vehicle driver saw Errin Odell, and Shaun Lyle. They rocketed out ahead and the last time the support crew saw them was at Etna Summit. They stayed together, and gave the support driver the okay to not bother coming back to check on them. They wound up finishing almost five hours ahead of the more leisurely crowd.
Almost all of the first twenty five miles of amazingly well maintained pavement are in the shade of a beautiful forest canopy, and the steep walls of the deep valley help keep the sun from turning it into a furnace, at least until later in the day. Fortunately, by the time the trees thin out, the road has reached near the summit, and the oxygen deprived elevations offer a little respite from the heat. Of course, by that time, the road has reached a pitch sometimes exceeding twelve percent, and it doesn’t relent for the last seven miles to the summit. The temperatures escalated quickly after we crested the summit, but it wasn’t really that noticeable at speeds exceeding forty miles per hour as we rapidly descended to the tiny burg of Etna, and their quaint little brewery.
The stop at the brewery took longer than expected. Seems Etna was holding its First Annual City Wide Garage/Yard Sale Extravaganza. The brewery was packed, and it didn’t appear they were ready for the crowd. Eventually we got some lunch and a tasty beer (or two) and were ready to move along to the next challenge of the day.
Refueled, and ready to ride, I jumped back on my bike and experienced the toughest hill of the day; the short hill from the brewery back up to the main road was fifty yards of pure adrenaline, and beer pumping through my veins. My head was spinning from the effort as I turned onto Highway 3 and headed toward Callahan. It was in Callahan that I assumed the duties of SAG driver. I was disappointed that I wasn’t going to get to do the whole ride, but my disappointment was tempered by the 100 degree heat on the twelve mile, six percent climb to the next summit. We had similar conditions last year, and at least two, maybe three riders opted to catch a ride to the summit. This year everybody rode the entire twelve miles, but not without guzzling almost all of what was left of our drinking water, and at least a couple riders stopped to soak their shirt in a creek. The smiles on the riders’ faces were priceless as they crested the summit. As well, many of the smiles were accompanied by whoops of joy; they knew the hardest parts of the ride were over. The temperatures were significantly milder at the summit, and the riders took the opportunity to rehydrate and refuel for the final leg of the journey.
The ride down from the last big summit is mostly downhill for the first twenty five miles as we followed South Fork Salmon River, and surprisingly, even as the afternoon shadows deepened, the temperatures climbed steadily as we dropped in elevation. By the time we were all back at Forks of Salmon Post Office, the sun was barely above the distant hills, but the temperatures were still in the high eighties. Some of our intrepid riders took the short hike down to enjoy a brief dip in the frigid waters of the North Fork Salmon River. We stayed in the parking lot for a short spell discussing the events of the day, and refueling and rehydrating our depleted bodies. The recovery drink of choice was obvious, and there was even some bartering for ice cold beer.
Many thanks for Errin Odell and his family for helping facilitate our accommodations. Special thanks to Dave and Glenna Atwood for their warm hospitality and opening their private campsite up for us to enjoy.
It was a marvelous weekend adventure, and we’re already planning the event for next year. Tentatively we will be riding this with shorter options on the weekend of June 4, 2016. Mark your calendars now. Don’t miss another year.