Sometimes, I just have to be outside. And with summer underway, I want to savour every moment, including the warm summer rain. On this evening, all I wanted was to sleep in the forest away from other humanity and let the gentle percussion of rain drops on the fly of my hammock lull me to sleep. So with little daylight left, and a brief break in the rain, I headed out to a little place I know that’s off the map but not too far from home.
Part of the reason I wanted to go was that I wanted to test out my gear in the rain before heading out on a longer trip, and I knew that the destination I selected would allow me to head home without too much trouble if anything failed.
Getting there wasn’t as simple as I thought. There once was a gravel road leading into the area, but all the gravel has been removed and only the clay road base remains. I suppose this was to aid in the “naturalization” process and keep domesticated animals (specifically humans & dogs) from bothering the local wildlife, and it wouldn’t have been a problem if it hadn’t already turned into a soupy, slippery mess from the day’s rains. As I powered through the mud on my fully loaded bike, the clay just stuck to it, enveloping my brakes, clogging my fenders, plastering the backsides of my panniers.
I ended up having to drag my bike through some of the mud, and had to grab sticks to poke out the mud & rocks that were preventing my wheels from moving. After finally passing the horrible used-to-be-road, it started to rain again, and I realized that I’d passed the point of no return. I managed to set up camp and retreat to my hammock with, literally, seconds to spare before the sky completely opened up. Dry and cozy, I curled up and listened to the rain and thunder and the runoff rushing underneath while gently swaying with the trees. And between showers, I could hear the coyotes howling and slinking through the forest.
While my stay was refreshing, it wasn’t exactly restful, and I was up (for me) freakishly early. Eager for a hot drink and to try out my new toy, I broke out the Trangia to make some tea.
The rain stopped just long enough for me to have some breakfast & break camp, and I was re-energized by the hot drink & fuel. After trying to poke what mud I could out of my wheels, I started the return journey. Unfortunately, the only way in or out of this place with a loaded bike is the non-road that I took on the way in. Because it had been raining all night, it was even more of a mess.
I would ride until my wheels wouldn’t turn (about 10-50 feet) and then poke out as much clay as I could with a stick and try again. I’d get off the bike and drag it, all the time barely keeping my own footing in the greasy mud. By the time I made it through that half mile of hell, I was exhausted and felt like I didn’t save any energy by not going much further afield.
My upper body was sore for days after, but the worst casualty of the day was my bike. A couple of days later, when I took the Globe to EBC to chisel off the caked on mud remains, it took me 5 hours to clean it, and when I swept up the pile of dried mud under the bike stand it weighed more than 3 pounds. Come to think about it, I still haven’t cleaned the mud off of the backs of my front panniers – better get on that before the next trip.