The perfect morning at Almanor Lake combined with the much needed exercise put me in a great mood. I filled up the 6.1 gallon tank in a small town named Chester and continued toward Lassen Volcanic National Park westbound on the seasonal highway 89. The road signs warned that the road was closed some 25 miles into the park so I, not being able to contain my curiosity, decided to go and take a look how serious this snow really was.
When I arrived at the end of the cleared portion of the road a little past the welcome center of the park, I was astounded by the height of the snow that towered 20 or so feet above me, yet still melting in the heat of the sun. Lassen seems like a great place to do some hiking and camping so this will definitely be a place of return for me.
I continued west on 36 now, toward Red Bluff, a small city which didn't particularly grab my interest. Anyways, by than, the heat of the day had become serious as I descended in altitude so I was eager to be mowing.
From Red Bluff I continued on 36, aka Beegum Road, which slowly began to twist and wind and rise in altitude again. The curves were exactly what I was needing, so I opened the throttle and let the machine breathe. Thank goodness the road is not too popular because my excessive speed threw me into the opposite lane in corners that I underestimated on a few occasions. The scenery was simply beautiful; yellow hills of dry tall grass following a dry river bed to the right, some hours later turning into a slower mountain road with thick evergreen forest on each side that only now and again cleared enough to provide a great view of the valleys bellow.
This would certainly be a good contender of great roads to experience on two wheels, however there are a few things to keep in mind: namely the occasional presence of police which one does not expect in these remote areas, as well as deer that hop on the road posing a serious danger to motorists. The road can also be a bit bumpy at points, with a significant amount of gravel which after a few short slips makes one not want to push his luck any more - which works out great because by than you are high up where the deer play and where such speeds are a bad idea anyways.
My intent was to reach the coast but soon it became evident that daylight would not allow it, so I started planning for alternatives.
"By late afternoon I was riding through a completely different habitat, through a thick ancient forest that let very little light reach the pavement, with tall redwoods towering above - it was an amazing feeling of riding the pavement which slithered between the mammoth trees as if trying to get out of their way"
I finally found a place to call it a night which ended up being one of my most memorable camping experiences. The Van Duzen Pamplin Grove County Park is nestled where the Van Duzen river horseshoes sharply cutting small caves into the high cliff on the far side. The water was exceptionally clear and comfortable, flowing gently a stone throws away form the camp itself which was that day very popular. The redwoods were so big, some close to 10 or so feet wide, that they allowed me to completely hide my camp and bike from sight. I pitched my tent on the soft, dead leaves collected under two goliath redwoods that practically formed a wall on two sides which helped put me a bit at ease because I'll admit, the though of bears visiting was making me a little unnerved.
As the signs throughout the camp warned, bears have entered there on a few previous occasions, and anyways, another park further down the road called Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park further reinforced the legitimacy of my concerns. But I figured with the smell from the other camper's grills the bear would be wise enough to skip my humble camp and go for where the real booty is.
25 pennies bought me three minutes of running water so after a warm shower I made a meal at the bench by the river. And yet another memorable sunset later, with the music from my favorite Pandora station in the background completing the ambient, I crept into my little hidden yellow tent and very shortly thereafter my eyelashes met my smiling cheeks.
One more incredible night in the tent in the shadows of mammoth ancient trees. This park is highly, highly recommended!