Pacific Coast Tour: Day 11
Day 11: Stafford, CA to Standish-Hickey State Park, Leggett, CA
Approximate daily mileage ~ 65 miles
Approximate total mileage ~ 924 miles
Approximate daily elevation gain ~ 4,100 feet
Approximate total elevation gain ~ 35,300 feet
The sound of a rooster crowing made for a unique alarm clock as the sun came up. I peeked outside my bivy to the pleasant sight of some blue skies and large redwood trees surrounding the campground. I ended up sleeping behind one of the tiny cabins to keep my battery backup plugged in to charge and within reach. It was a better night too as the low temperature did not seem to be as low as many previous nights. The cabins really were tiny. They couldn’t have been more than 8 x 8 feet with a small covered front porch. Just enough shelter to make a cozy home for a night.
Breakfast consisted of a PROBAR meal which is a tasty bar consisting of seeds, nuts, and fruits. After a little food I took some extra time on this morning to further adjust the saddle of my bike. As I was not so subtly reminded, only a few millimeters of change in the saddle position can have significant repercussions on the rest of the body after many miles of cycling. In my case the saddle height had slipped down slightly at some point and also moving it slightly backward in the fore/aft plane was needed. After moving it only a couple millimeters aft and upward I could immediately notice the difference and was embarrassed I hadn’t make the change earlier.
After packing everything up it was time to start pedaling along one of the most anticipated stretches of road among the entire trip. Only about 1.5 miles along Highway 101 passed until reaching the entrance to Avenue of the Giants. This extraordinarily scenic stretch of road is about 31 miles of old Highway 101 prior the construction of the current bypass. It meanders through over 50,000 acres of redwood groves with the oldest more than 950 years old and the tallest about 370 feet tall! It was a truly beautiful day with far less smoke and fog than the previous day. Immediately upon starting down the road there were large fields of sunflowers in the most scenic setting. Shortly thereafter the vast groves of redwoods appeared in all their glory. The views did not disappoint as the well maintained road gently curved through the forest with trees close enough to the road to reach out and touch at times. Breathing in the distinctly fresh forest air and enjoying the wonderful views there was a grin permanently affixed to my face this day.
Before long I came upon what appeared to be a local café. It happened to be right by the “Eternal Tree house” which is a tree house built into the stump of a previously felled tree. The café here turned out to be a perfect choice as they served massive pancakes and delicious breakfast sandwiches. They even accidentally made an extra pancake which I did not let go to waste. Then the gorgeous ride continued with little traffic overall and a peaceful feeling. A few stops were made to gaze upward in awe, snap a few photos, and shed layers as the temperatures increased. Along the road there are numerous places to stop and hike along with some other attractions such as the Shrine Drive Thru Tree. In what seemed like only a few minutes the south entrance of the Avenue of the Giants appeared and the route returned to the main Highway 101 with about 30 something miles to go before my goal destination for the day. The entire day was a gradual uphill climb of about 4,100 feet overall. Luckily, my knee wasn’t any worse and actually felt okay at times.
Along the way I made two stops – one at a gas station for a sports drink and the second in the town of Garberville to pick up one and a half foot long sandwiches at Subway for dinner. It was always a good idea to plan ahead for food just in case there wasn’t anything available near the campground at night. The challenge was fitting one and a half Subway sandwiches in an already crammed full backpack. Fortunately, somehow it always seemed to fit. After continuing onward the remaining stretch of the 101 curved nearly continuously following along the south fork of the Eel River. Oftentimes, there were spectacular views of the river far below the road. With about 10 miles to go before the campground I saw people swimming in the river and waving at me. It looked ever so tempting to stop, climb down, and join them as this day had really warmed up in the summer sun.
Only a few more miles uphill and I had reached the Standish-Hickey State Recreation area and campground. It was a really great campground as I was pleasantly greeted by the park ranger and claimed an open picnic table at the hiker/biker area. This hiker/biker campsite was especially accommodating as there was a covered shelter area, place to hang wet clothes to dry, phone charging station, and nearby showers/bathrooms. There were also plenty of mosquitoes, but as someone who grew up in Iowa with copious mosquitoes in the summer I could avoid too many bites by staying covered and continually moving. This stop was really great as I had a chance to do a little laundry in a sink near the bathrooms and hang up everything to dry in the low humidity air.
At this campsite I also found Neal, a fellow cyclist, whom I met two nights previously. He too was heading south, and his final destination was San Francisco. He had discovered a great swimming area in the park a short walk down from the campground in the river I had been following along the 101 the second part of the day. He happened to be a bike mechanic and graciously took a look at my bike as well as another fellow cyclist’s bike for any mechanical issues. I was pleased to see that he didn’t find anything wrong with my bike of which I wasn’t already aware. We all shared stories and information with each other about upcoming plans and routes.
Later, we eventually made our way out of the campground and across Highway 101 to visit a general store which was a great surprise. This store was fully stocked with all sorts of food, snacks, and a lot of unique souvenirs. I selected an ice cold root beer, chocolate milk, green tea, and Clif bars in preparation for the next day which involved the biggest climb of the entire Pacific Coast route. Sipping on that root beer couldn’t have been more refreshing reflecting on such a truly wonderful day following such a trying day just one day before. This trend seemed to be an ongoing theme for the trip – one difficult aspect or obstacle would always be surpassed by an experience doubly gratifying.