I woke up from beneath the massive trees feeling simply perfect - well rested, and eager for the day ahead. The beautiful Pacific coast awaited and today would be the day I crossed into Oregon. I packed my tent, made some breakfast, and after washing up in the Van Duzen river I started east towards the coast.
20 or so miles before Eureka, highway 36 ends into the famous 101 which runs N to S edging on the cliffs overlooking the seemingly endless Pacific Ocean. A couple I met back in Alabama had told me a little about Eureka, how it is the epicenter of American marijuana growing, and passing through the city one could not avoid the smell of it. I didn't stick around too long hoping to get another good days of miles behind me knowing full well that I will most likely be camping out on the coast somewhere since Portland was too far for me to reach in one day comfortably.
A little before the Oregon boarder is the one place I fell in love with from the first photos I had ever seen of it - The Redwoods National Park. This is truly one of those things on planet Earth, like the Grand Canyon, the Angel Falls, Boka Kotorska, Rio de Janeiro etc. that everyone should experience. I say "experience" because just passing through like a regular tourist in an air-conditioned metal box on wheels does not give these marvelous places the attention they deserve. There is a short scenic road that goes directly through the forest of massive redwoods which tower above like giants. One has a sense of suddenly entering into the Jurassic period, just waiting to hear the shrieks of the Veloceraptors from within the deep brush. There are numerous trails to the side of the slow road, and I regret not being able to park the bike and explore for a few hours. Some of the trees are hollow, and some have fallen, but every tree is exceptionally massive - massive enough to accommodate a small car inside of it. I was completely elated.
Towards the end of this pass I saw a hidden little road that branched out westward; so hidden in fact that I passed right by barely noticing it. I turned around itching with curiosity. It was completely closed off by cement barriers (well, almost completely :) Signs warned of the road's closure and that trespassing would be prosecuted. On the map this "Coastal Dr." is barely visible and requires a keen eye, as if someone tried to purposefully erase it from existence. The barriers themselves were enough to make me eager with curiosity - curiosity which, as it proved to be the case, I could not contain.
Thanks to the slim profile of Pegasus I sneaked past the barriers and slowly crept forward. The road was not in good shape; uneven, cracked pieces of pavement that once used to be whole ended within a few hundred feet, and weeds and leaves covering what was left of the dirt road showed obvious signs of its long abandonment. Its age and the signs of nature's taking over gave me a feeling like I was traveling back in time. I decided to press on, fighting my mind which quietly kept telling me that this was what would commonly be referred to as a "dumb idea"; reminding me that I was alone where no one would consider to look if the occasion arouse; that I knew not what awaited for me ahead and that there must have been a valid reason for the road's closure. But my curiosity got the better of me so I very slowly kept moving through the silent arbor.
A little bit ahead the road started to narrow, and by that point it became clear that no car would be able to pass - to the right was the steep, dense redwood forest rising up the hill, and to my left was the same impenetrable forest, except doing the opposite - steeply falling. Being that this road branched out west from the main scenic road, I knew that I could not possibly be too far from the coast so I eagerly kept looking left to see if I can spot any blue openness through the canopy. And as my eyes focused more on this than on the road, I suddenly descended down a steep portion of the road that had lateral canals dug out from draining rainwater
The canals were so deep, and the road so steep, that the bike having picked up speed just hopped over them, but by doing so, it officially made going back no longer an option - riding back up this cratered hill would be impossible, so the only option became to press on with the hopes of the road being sufficiently navigable ahead.
As a sense of panic attempted to creep into me I finally pulled up to a clearing where the ocean suddenly became visible - I realized than that I was not close to a beach; rather I was hundreds of feet above the water, perched up on a stone wall bench on the edge of a cliff overlooking the vast pacific, almost like a terrace of some long-forgotten castle that I have just discovered in the middle of an ancient redwood forest. It was absolutely mesmerizing - the stone "terrace" had moss growing from between the rocks, the sound of the sea gulls and the waves hitting the sharp rocks bellow barely audible from this height, but the sight of the miles of tall cliffs was absolutely stunning - it alone made this adventure and mental exercise worthwhile.
I just stood there taking in the sight, sounds and smell of the incredible world surrounding me. I was in a sort of a trance, I know not how much time exactly passed by, but in that period I let my mind calm back down to a positive state again, attempting to focus my energy towards envisioning a better road ahead so that I would be able to exit that way and return to the main road without incident. I pressed on. A few hundred feet later I came to a another road that was blocked off by a tall fence with barbed wire and bright orange signs warning against trespassing. To my confusion, the signs read that on the other side of the fence was a prison! " A Prison?" I asked myself. Why would they build a prison here? And is it still in service? How perplexing, to stumble upon a prison there!, in the middle of a pristine national park. Now my goal was to simply get out of there without being caught trespassing.
It wasn't far ahead where the worst-case-scenario became reality - the road was nearly completely washed away, to the left nothing but open cliff and in front of me a cracked piece of what once looked like a road, as if a product of a violent earthquake. I stopped the bike and stood in awe of the damage in front of me, and of my seemingly disastrous predicament. What do I do now!!! How do I ride through this? Going back was not an option, and going straight?! - equally as undesirable!
I shut the bike down, stepped off and with my hands on the hips, helmeted head towards the floor I closed my eyes and released a serious sigh. A few minutes passed as I stood there contemplating the bad situation I put myself in and consequently fighting the panic, when suddenly, in the distance on the other side of the destroyed portion of the road, a hat appeared - a gray fishing-type hat, that like a mirage grew taller and taller with each step, finally turning into a human form. A hundred feet or so in front of me appeared a man - a hiker walking with heavy, tired strides, carrying a backpack and pulling an ordinary travel suitcase. What an odd sight" I though to myself; "not just to encounter another human being on this secluded, seemingly purposefully hidden road, but for him to be pulling wheeled luggage like that as if he just stepped off of a bus?! He did not immediately see me, but when he finally picked up his head, he stopped for a few moments undoubtedly just as confused. I slipped my helmet off and started walking toward the dark silhouette in the shadows of the towering trees.
To be continued...