Crater Lake To Stanley, Day 4 : Discomfort

It is afternoon, and I have been on the bike for about six hours. I have turned from a very dangerous, busy stretch of highway onto a long causeway across a dry swamp, which has become a winding ribbon of road through a National Park, packed with frustratingly short hills. Each hill is at least long enough to take away all my momentum, and many of them are long enough to make me dismount the bike and lay in the road, exhausted.

“At least I’m in a national park,” I think. “Nice empty forest all around.”

I decide to go poop in the woods. I tromp down the embankment and get ten feet into the trees, and pick the base of a large tree as a good pooping spot. While I’m there I look around and discover that someone has pounded half a dozen nails into the tree, for no apparent purpose, and then discarded a couple of beer cans, and an empty fire extinguisher. (A fire extinguisher? What happened here?) The items have been scoured by at least one turn of the seasons. Then I look around again, and realize that all along the road, possibly for the entire length of the National Park, the forest is a garbage dump.

It is evening, near sunset. I have just descended five miles of steep, switchback-filled highway. I am low on water and somewhere near the 80-mile mark. My GPS crapped out at 50 miles and I had to reset it. Somewhere ahead of me is the decrepit town of Silver Lake. I want to go at a slower pace, but every time I stop for a rest, I collide with the cloud of mosquitoes that has collected in the vortex behind my moving bicycle. They quickly motivate me to start pedaling again.

I reach the top of a hill, and there in the distance I spot Table Mountain. It’s really more of a mesa than a mountain. There are some rough campsites at the top, about a thousand feet up from the valley floor. I stare at the steep sides for a while and then laugh, because I know there is no way I am going to pedal to the top of that thing tonight.

I take a picture of it over my handlebars instead.

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