Pat and Sari's Honeymoon Bike Ride
Friday, June 13, 2008
Well, Pat wasn't feeling all that great this morning but, being the trooper that he is, he decided we should push on. We had a long day planned but it looked like not too much climb. It was a beautiful sunny day - no fog this morning - and fairly warm. We set out at 8:10 after breakfast at the motel's cafe. Today's route was pretty easy, too - mostly 101 with a 10-mile scenic stretch on the old highway, now called the Newton P. Drury Parkway, near the beginning of the day. There was supposed to be another diversion near the end of the day, but we decided to bag it - it looked like more trouble than it was worth. We went through 3 cities and climbed 2 hills today: Klamath, which was after the first hill, Crescent City, after the second, much bigger hill, and Smith River, where we stopped for the night.
We went for about 5 miles on 101 before turning off for the Parkway, and there, right at our turn, were 2 big elk grazing in a patch of grass. We stopped the bike and I took a picture real quick in case they took off, but it didn't turn out well. I walked slowly toward them to get a better shot and was amazed that they showed no sign of concern at my approach. One actually looked like he stopped to pose for the picture before continuing with his feeding. The other one just kept eating. A little while later, on the parkway itself, we noticed a sign that said that the elk were wild and shouldn't be approached on foot - oops. We saw a few more elk in the fields there, but they were smaller and farther away, so we didn't get another picture. I was very pleased to actually have seen some elk; when I saw the Elk Crossing signs, I figured our chances of seeing any were miniscule.
The Newton P. Drury Parkway was a lovely road through the redwoods, much like the Avenue of the Giants. The Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park was on either side of the road and there were several trails leading off into the woods. The Gold Bluffs Beach State Park also stretches along the west edge of the park along the coast, but we didn't see it from the road. We started climbing the first hill along this road, but the slope was so gentle we hardly noticed. There was about a mile of steeper rise near the end and then we started descending near where we joined 101 again. We had a nice easy descent into Klamath. There is an Indian Reservation belonging to the Yurok Tribe in Klamath. I read that the reservation consists of a one mile on either side of the Klamath River for its entire 43-mile length - an awfully strange property designation, I thought. One of the prominent symbols of this tribe seemed to be a gold-painted bear. There were 4 of them posted on the 4 corners of the 101 bridge over the Klamath River, and some at other spots near town. Like a lot of tribes, this one ran a casino - the smallest we've seen. It consisted of a building about the size and shape of a large barn, covered with plastic like a tent. They also had a big community center, with signs written in their language lining the road near it. I didn't see any translations of the messages.
We stopped at a cafe in Klamath for lunch and saw 3 emus in the field next to the cafe. Apparently, someone kept them as an attraction for his RV park. Then we set off again to face our second hill. We zoomed along for another 5 miles, continuing our slow descent and finally came in sight of the ocean again. We stopped to take a few pictures there and got a good look at the hill that awaited us - it looked pretty steep. We were now in Del Norte County and the road took us through Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park - also very scenic. 101 started out here as a divided 4-lane highway, which was surprising, but soon dwindled down to a narrow 2-lane road with very little shoulder in most places. There were some stretches where we were treated to 2 lanes heading north - a passing lane being added because of the climb. The hill was nearly as long as the brutal Leggett Hill, about 7 miles, but not nearly as steep. Still it was 5% grade most of the way up, with a few easier parts and a few steeper ones. We were pretty glad to get over the top of it. At one of the places we stopped on the way up, we were taking pictures when we noticed a sign for a "coastal trail" and a No Bicycles sign under it. We thought this was hilarious - the trail was barely wide enough to walk on, and it went around the large redwood where it started and then immediately downhill at something like a 60% grade! I guess there could be some kids on mountain bikes who might feel tempted to try it.
We came down a steep grade into Crescent City, braking for a lot of it. Crescent City itself was not too exciting. We stopped in a restaurant to have a bite to eat and rest up from our hill. We asked the waitress about our route and came to the conclusion that we'd keep it simple and stick to 101. We were feeling too tired to enjoy much more scenery anyway. We were surprised at how cold it felt by the ocean - it had been much warmer on the hills, and we had been sheltered from the wind by all the trees. Here it was blowing pretty stiffly. We moved on toward Smith River, glad that it was pretty flat or downhill the rest of the way to our stop. We passed over the Smith River on a bridge with the same bicycle detection device we saw yesterday. This time we got pictures! Smith River seemed to be a farming and fishing community. There were fields on either side of the road. The town welcome sign stated that it was the lily bulb capital of the world and also famous for their salmon and steelhead hatcheries. Our motel turned out to be a lot farther north of town than we expected so we ended up going about 4 miles more than we planned. But we made it, and we're now only about a mile or so from the Oregon border! We ended the day at 59 miles in 6-1/4 hours of bike time, a better average than we expected. Hopefully, Pat will be feeling better again tomorrow.