Wild River Tour, 2014
— Gordon Stewart
The Wild Rivers Tour uses a route that was developed by Doug Simon (with an assist from Bill Oetinger) over 10 years ago and has been followed several times on SRCC tours. This year's edition of the tour, held in early June, was led by Gordon Stewart and Chris Jones. It starts about 40 miles northeast of Arcata (just north of Eureka) and then completes a six-day, 340-mile counter-clockwise loop, entering Oregon briefly and then heading down the coast back to Arcata.
The same tour had been scheduled to be run in August of 2013 but had to be cancelled at the last moment due to an outbreak of fires which resulted in road closures and air quality issues. This year we had better luck: the roads were open, the weather was perfect, and there were no fires. 24 of the participants this year had been on the cancelled 2013 roster.
There were 40 participants on the tour, supported by two rental trucks and two 12-passenger vans that served as buses on the way up and back and as SAG vehicles during the ride days. Four members of the group served as half-time SAG drivers, providing SAG support for three days and riding the other three days. We were also very fortunate to have Matt and Jenny Parks managing all the food and driving the trucks. They were a major part in the success of the tour.
The group left Santa Rosa on Sunday, June 1 with the four vehicles and several private cars and successfully completed the trip to the first night’s camp site at Tish Tang Camp on the Trinity River on the Hoopa Reservation.
The highlight of the first stage is the 1200’ climb up Ishi Pishi Road, providing spectacular views and treacherous drop-offs to the Klamath River below. We then climbed up the spectacular gorge of the Salmon River to our camp at Nordheimer, a USFS camp with a nice swimming hole.
Stage 2 was the queen stage of this tour, featuring the 30-mile, 5800’ climb up and over Etna Summit. Michael Barnes and Christian Wagner led the charge, with the rest of the crew arriving over the next few hours in varying degrees of distress. When Liz Sinna made it to the top, her whoop rang down the valley and was echoed by the rest of the group. The climb to the top was rewarded by a swooping descent to the town of Etna but to the distress of all, the much anticipated soda bar with its huge ice-cream cones had closed since our last visit. The new smoothie bar was adequate but not the same.
Next morning we got off to an intentionally late start, which seemed appropriate after the rigors of Mt Etna the day before. By this time we were getting used to the early morning support from the coffee wallahs – Chris Jones and Andy Deseran, who started the French Press working shortly after the birds woke up. This is a lovely stage, mostly downhill next to the pristine Scott River and then the larger Klamath, through several small communities and ending near the town of Happy Camp with its 15’ statue of Sasquatch. We got into camp as our shower wallah Dennis French was setting up the portable shower. Some used the warm shower and the rest of us migrated to sandy beach of the Klamath River for a long soak. After dinner, Frank Pedrick broke out several bottles of Champagne that Matt had been keeping on ice for him. This was to celebrate his fiancée Trudy Nye’s retirement from over 30 years of teaching. Those were some lucky students!
Stage 4 was dominated by the 3800’ climb up Indian Creek Road. After Etna, Charlene Warne said that one was easy. At the top of the hill we crossed into Oregon and descended to the town of O’Brien, where we joined Hwy 199 and the real world. The shoulders were good but traffic is traffic and it made the remote country roads we had come accustomed to look pretty good. The opportunity to leave Hwy 199 for the old Oregon Mountain Road was selected by about half the group. This old road has since been replaced by a tunnel under the top of the mountain and is the new route of Hwy 199. Even though the old road gets little use, there was a crew on it doing some maintenance work. Once over Hazel View Summit, we took a long, fast descent to our camp at Panther Flat on the Smith River.
Stage 5 took us farther down gorge of the Smith River before we hit the coast and headed south. This area is more heavily populated and occasionally we were able to leave Hwy 101 and ride through some costal communities, including Crescent City. The proscribed route took us through the magnificent Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. This took us up the little used Alder Camp Road. Part way up a mature healthy bear had left his calling card in the middle of the road. Although we did not see this bear, Bill Severi and Scott Wing did see a bear cross the road in front of them. Bill was able to persuade Scott there was no danger but later gave in to temptation and yelled “Look out Scott, the bear’s right behind you”. Scott took off like greased lightning. thinking only that all he had to do was to out-ride Bill. Bill collapsed in laughter.
A portion of Coastal Drive has been abandoned because it is slipping down the cliff into the Pacific. On our tour here two years ago, this road, though closed, was quite passable on bikes. Now portions of it have been reduced to a narrow single track which is guarded with a healthy crop of stinging nettles. However, there is a section where the slippage is more severe and longitudinal cracks have developed in the roadway. These were evident two years ago, but now have been overgrown by grass. Jim Albrecht dropped his front wheel in one of these hidden cracks and went over his bars. He suffered a bruised thigh but was able to ride on. We’re removing this road from the recommended route for future versions of this tour.
This stage was concluded with a lovely ride through the towering trees of Redwood National Park and our arrival at Elk Prairie Campground. This was our final campground and everyone was in a celebratory mood. This was probably not grounds for Paul Musson, Chris Jones and Gordon Stewart to sing a tuneless version of Ilkley Moor bar t'at but they were not to be denied.
On Saturday, we rode the final Stage 6, which is a 45-mile, fairly level stage through Trinidad and McKinleyville to Arcada. We got into Arcata about 12:30 and were on the road for Santa Rosa an hour later.
The tour was a great success and was made that way be the combination of great roads and a wonderful degree of support and cooperation from all the participants.
Thanks to all of you – Ben Lev, Brian Purcell, Charlene Warne, Chris Jones, Christian Wagner, David Johnson, Debbie Wymer, Dennis French, Don Billings, Donna Norrell, Firouzeh Attwood, Andy Deseran, Frank Pedrick, Harry Williamson, Hiroko Lambert, James Albrecht, James Gloystein, James Mcelroy, Joe Fassler, John Hervey, Jose Mundo, Karen Steele, Kendra Markle, Leslie Blankenship, Liz Sinna, Mark Gire, Mark Grismer, Michael Barnes, Nathan Moore, Nikola Farats, Paul Jamond, Paul Musson, Peter Verbiscar-Brown, Richard Lambert, Scott Wing, Ted Herman, Trudy Nye, William Severi, Gordon Stewart.