Sunday, August 4, 2013

Day 74 - It Keeps Going and Going and Going...

They warned us that it was going to be a hard ride. The trip blog from last year's team said that the climb today made Independent Pass look like a speed bump. But the townspeople of Cassel assured us that the ride today would be one of the most beautiful we'd have all summer. 

Shortly into the ride, we were all climbing. I started out with Nyx, Emma, Melanie, and Eliza and eventually caught up with Kevin, Rae, Dan, and Laini. The road winded around pine trees and cold water streams rushed by down the mountains. Occasionally, the landscape would open up suddenly as we hit areas where forest fires had occurred years ago. Shrubs covered the ground where tall pines once stood, hiding the burned out stumps that were left. 

We climbed for about 15 miles when, suddenly, we could see the apex of the mountain. We looked at each other in disbelief. This could not be the mountain that we were warned of. Sure enough, it was a fake summit. The sign read "Eskimo Hill Summit: 5933 feet," much lower than our anticipated climb. If was a fake summit! We still had over 2000 feet to climb! 

We stopped for a short break at the top of the fake summit, eating some peach rings and Clif bars that we had stowed in our bags. Suddenly, about 50 motorcyclists came racing up the other side of the slope. They surrounded us like a pack of wolves. I wish I would have gotten pictures but I was so stunned that I didn't reach for my phone. Rae, Kevin, and I stood in their midst as they pulled up next to us. We held onto our bikes as they lined up, waiting anxiously for Dan to come out of the bathroom. He finally did and was shocked at what he found. He managed a "woah!" and the. We mounted up and sped down the incline. It was a steep descent for a mile and a half, a bittersweet downhill because we knew that we would have to make up the elevation we lost. We reached lunch and took a short break before starting the climb again. 

Luckily, the scenery was so beautiful that it was distracting. We stopped to swim at  a lake deceivingly called "Summit Lake." The calm blue color of the lake contrasted with the dark green of the pine trees. The water was cool but refreshing. It helped soothe our aching legs. 

You could see straight to the bottom, the water was so clear. 

We still had 10 miles to climb after Summit Lake, about 2000 more feet to climb. The grade steepened and slowed my pace to an excruciating crawl. I cranked my pedals hard, my legs were spent. The road kept winding around the mountain. Every switchback I passed, I thought the summit would be around the corner but it never was. The guys I was riding with disappeared up the mountain and I was left alone on the road. I concentrated on keeping my breathing even and my cadence steady. Finally, the peak appeared, the road rounding at the apex on the top. A mile more of pushing and I was at the top! I rejoined my group and we celebrated our biggest ascent by climbing a nearby rock mountain and taking pictures at the top. 

Check out the snow!

Da boys

After spending hours climbing on the rocks and hanging out at the top, we decided that it was time to descend. I put my camera on my helmet to capture the guys in front of me navigate the steep grades and sweeping turns. It was one of our last mountain descents so we tried to savor it. There are no mountains where I ride in Indiana! The beautiful descent was a great reward for the tough climb. The descent went fast though. Our total mileage for the day was 77 miles, at least 40 miles were uphill, and we climbed almost 7,000 feet total. That is a lot! My legs were done. 

We were absolutely amazed when we got to our host site. Our home for the night was Battle Creek Meadow Ranch, a gorgeous property that has been in our host's family for hundreds of years. We got a tour of the barn and the farm house and were excited out of our minds to learn that there were beds for us to sleep in tonight and even a hot tub to soothe our aching muscles!!! We were freaking out and the host lady thought we were kind of crazy. I apologized for our group, saying that we were pretty delirious from the ride. As the night grew shorter, we enjoyed watching the sunset from the barn loft, listening to Dan play guitar, eating s'mores by a campfire, and relaxing in the hot tub. None of us wanted to leave this beautiful and relaxing place!

Part of the 2,000 acre property

Hanging out on the porch together 

Watching the sunset

Downhill almost all day tomorrow! Our legs new a break. I hope someone can just give me a push out the driveway and I'll coast all the way to Chico!

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