Pacific Coast Tour: Day 9
Day 9: Harris Beach State Park, Brookings, OR to Elk Prairie Redwood State Park, Orick, CA
Approximate daily mileage ~ 67 miles
Approximate total mileage ~ 771 miles
Approximate daily elevation gain ~ 2,900 feet
Approximate total elevation gain ~ 27,700 feet
Startled by the sound of an uncomfortably nearby growl, I awoke only a couple hours into my slumber to find a curious raccoon investigating me and my campsite. The creature was apparently doing its nightly rounds for food, and it quickly scurried off after shining in the spotlight of my headlamp. The remainder of my last night in Oregon was spent yet again on the ground in my bivy making the best of my extra clothes being used as strategically placed pads near my hips and shoulders. Upon sunrise I slowly gathered my things during which time all the other cyclists departed ahead of me. One of the definite advantages of packing light and riding a racing bike is the flexibility to spend more time at your destination because you’re able to more easily cover miles while riding.
Prior to departing I was sure to stop and admire the scenic overlook of the ocean at Harris Beach State Park. It provides another stunning example of the beauty of Oregon’s Pacific coast. I couldn’t have been more thankful for the incredible stretch of riding and places to camp in Oregon. It really could not have been better and was the perfect way to begin the ride into California the same day. From that point after riding back through Brookings, Oregon it is only approximately 10 miles to the Oregon-California border. Following the departure from Brookings is a long stretch of very rural and scenic riding. Cycling across the checkpoint of the two bordering states brought a real feeling of excitement as I had only one more state until reaching my goal destination of Mexico. On the other hand, California is a very long state, and by this time my knee had become significantly more inflamed and painful at each pedal stroke.
Constant adjustments were necessary the remainder of the day in attempt to alleviate the knee pain I was experiencing. Even though, this did not seem to take away from the beauty and enjoyment of the ride. It did slow the pace. Luckily, this was planned to be a shorter distance day with plans to do some laundry in the first stop town of Crescent City, California. At the pace I was going, by the time I casually arrived in Crescent City I had ruled out any chance of laundry being done. Who really needs fresh clothes which only last for a day anyway?
Crescent City was a delightful stop for a couple reasons. One was that I hadn’t eaten more than a Clif bar for breakfast and there was a Denny’s restaurant with impeccable service who served a feast of pancakes, fruit, eggs, and coffee. Second, and even more importantly, there was a Big 5 sporting goods store a couple miles into town which had a few lightweight sleeping pads in stock! It was finally time for sleepless and uncomfortable nights to come to an end. Big 5 had the perfect compact ultra lightweight inflatable sleeping pad for an even better price. Splendidly proud I was to make such a purchase on the way to sleeping on cloud nine the remainder of the journey.
New sleeping pad packed, I was on my way out of Crescent City. Other than Crescent City and Brookings, the entirety of the day consisted of rural scenery along Highway 101. Some was near the coast and other times the route coursed inland through Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park. When the route turns more inland it came with an approximate 1,200 foot climb. At that time I came upon another touring cyclist chugging along. We exchanged smiles as I passed him as said hello. He was looking even more pleased than I. As it turned out we would be stopping at the same campground as we shared a meal later than night with a larger group!
After that large hill it was a relief to relax on the descent and enjoy a section of relatively flat ground passing by some of northern California’s celebrated redwood trees and even a large Paul Bunyan statue at an attraction called, Trees of Mystery, which also features a tram. Carefully and slowly riding along, I stopped at one of the few gas stations which happened to contain a great deli section serving outstanding sandwiches. Naturally, I ordered the largest possible to pack in my bag for an evening meal. A few more miles and the turn for the campground appeared – Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway. It begins with one last smaller climb for the day along the 10 mile road. This is where I had my first taste of the ancient coastal redwoods through the heart of the old growth forest. The setting was absolutely spectacular, calm, peaceful, and serene. After reaching the peak of the last small climb the downhill cruise on the smooth surface tarmac was pure bliss all the way to the fantastic campground.
Elk Prairie Redwood State Park contains a wonderful campground which was rather busy on this night. There was a large group of cyclists riding with Bike MS which is a fundraising cycling series of the National MS Society and raises more money than any other cycling event for any other cause. After speaking with two of the ride leaders it seemed to be something in which I could easily participate in the future. They also inspired and sparked other ideas for fundraising efforts of my site, Blue Water Bicycles, supporting its mission.
After meeting the friendly Bike MS guys it was time to make my way to the hiker/biker campsite. Again, it seemed they made special efforts to tuck these sites into natural unaltered spaces within the campground. Upon claiming an unused picnic table I came across a group of six other tour cyclists. This turned out to be an inspiring group of 2 pairs of friends and 2 other solo riders who were on similar routes riding similar miles each day. They had accidentally met up and continued to meet up each night for the past week. I quickly showered, aired out some clothing, set out my bivy, and consumed my previously packed enormous deli sandwich. I then went for a walk in attempt to stretch my knee and muscles. During the walk near the entrance of the campground was a valley of prairie where there were numerous large elk grazing in the not too far distance. After enjoying their tranquility I returned to the group of fellow cyclists.
This was a diverse group consisting of the one German man I had passed earlier in the day, an Irishman, 2 Swiss guys, and 2 American guys. This was one of many favorite nights of my tour. Each of them had interesting backgrounds and experiences on their trips. One of the Swiss guys had done nearly 15 other tours similar to this all around the world. They offered and insisted on giving me a beer, and they made a lot of extra food to share with me again. I didn't want to be rude and both tasted incredible. After many stories and tips were traded it quickly became dark and was time to get some sleep for the night. The first night sleeping on an air mattress had come, and I was nearly giddy with excitement! It easily inflated with a simple built-in manual pump, and it took less than a couple minutes to drift off to sweet dreamland.