When the dirt path ends at the train tracks in the middle of the forest, are you on the wrong side or the right side?
We were planning on hammering out 60+ miles today, straight from Chester to the North Eagle Lake Campground. Maybe that would have been possible if we'd stayed on the packed dirt of the Bizz Johnson trail but instead, after we veered left at Westwood (a thousand miles from LA and we've come full circle), we kept going passed the turn off because we thought we might find the way paved before us.
We finally gave up on the road turning east instead of north and made our way onto this other dirt trail that was supposed to connect with the Bizz Johnson (named after a U.S. Congressman you haven't heard of) and it's all soft pine needles and I am sure we're the first ones on this since before the snow. Maybe a couple four-wheelers went through.
It goes like this for a few miles, and our thin tires are sinking right into the trail and we're pedaling maybe 6 miles an hour. Maybe. We averaged faster speeds climbing the Sierras. And then, emerging from the green foliage like a shitty mirage, train tracks appear, extending straight in either direction as far as there are trees. And the trees go on forever.
Google still thinks we're on a trail, but on the other side of the tracks there is nothing. Nothing. No trail. Nothing. Some big lava rocks. Unidentified shrubs in bloom.
We climb over said shrubs and move into the forest a little ways and after a quarter mile we can actually make out another trail. This one definitely hasn't been traveled since last fall. So we haul our bags over the tracks and to the trail, and then pick up our bikes and carry those too and try to ride. But before long, we decide it's not worth following this trail, which is being reclaimed by the natural order of things anyway, so we turn off and head straight into the forest, relying on the Garmin GPS and moderate cell signal we have to guide us to the Bizz. Pushing our 90-lb bikes over Christmas-ham-sized rocks and choosing "landmarks" in the distance which are really just trees and all the trees look the same. I need to work on my Wilderness 101..
Made it we did. Until the Bizz turned east to Susanville, and a different road kept going straight north, and we figured just a little longer til we hit pavement. It was pretty. The dirt was this deep red and the pastures were empty. When we finally reached Highway 36, still with 26 something miles to go to the campground, we gave into logic and turned our wheels toward Susanville.
Despite the chaos the day felt, looking back, it was pretty remarkable we ended up in some largely untouched forest. Most of our trip is spent on major thoroughfares, in cities, towns, in campgrounds. Little time is spent really in the wilderness.
The one upstanding feature of Susanville was its brewery. Unfortunately, today is Sunday. No drinking in town on God's day. (Well, the dive bar down the street was open). However, we spotted another E. Clampus plaque!
We went to an Italian restaurant instead and made friends with the waitress and actually a pint of beer was too much. We found out from an old, dressed-up couple that the Eagle Lake campgrounds were closed. Well, we would've figured something out but maybe it was for the best.
The fire station had long since closed (we rang the doorbell, no one answered), so we stayed in a little cheap motel run by this tiny lady who raised her kids in San Jose. Small world.