Hiking: 7.3 mi / 1050 ft. climbing
Biking: 12.3 mi / 9.5 mph / 941 ft. climbing
Home: Van Damme State Park hiker/biker campsite
If you arrive to a wet camp, then go to bed in a wet camp, you’re probably going to wake up in a wet camp. And we did, though we didn’t have dripping inside the tent like we have from some other condensation-heavy nights, and it was warm enough (52 degrees) that we didn’t need to eat breakfast in the tent like we have for some mornings.
I went to pay for our second night at Van Damme, and the helpful attendant filled me in about California’s hiker/biker stay limits. They do have some specific rules (something about a max of five days (maybe across multiple parks?) with 48 hours out of the parks), but said that in practice, they keep names in a database, and as long as the rangers can see that we aren’t abusing the system by trying to “live” in hiker/biker sites, we shouldn’t have any issues with staying for a couple nights to explore an area. She said they do definitely have their “locals” though. And she even mentioned a couple that essentially just rides full-time up and down the whole west coast. Hmm, maybe not a bad idea…who needs 50 states; maybe 3 are enough?
Today was an even more extreme version of yesterday, in which we were on our bikes, but not doing what most bike-tourers would recognize as “bike-touring”. Mostly because we went north! Essentially we’d established a home base, and went exploring from there, which is an opportunity we’ve always said would be a benefit of doing this life full-time.
But a major reason that such exploration is unusual for bike tourers is impossible-to-solve problem of securing all of your possessions (which really are all of your possessions!) when they are out of your sight.
And maybe those “standard” bike tourers are the smart ones. Yesterday we had passed a hard, angry man walking on the shoulder of an empty stretch of Highway 1 with a backpack and a roller bag, and he turned and glared at us, nearly forcing us into traffic, and yelled obscenities at “you fucking bikers” as we went by. I’m sure he was an equal-opportunity hater (or just schizophrenic), but it was impossible to not be unnerved.
Then, this morning, just after we turned north out of the campground to go exploring, we saw the very same man, straight out of “Prison Break”, still walking south (this time without his bags). Did he recognize us? Was he still mad at us? As he was clearly a road-warrior like us, was he heading to the hiker/biker site in the campground, at which point he would ransack our unguarded tent and food supply, either out of vengeance, or simply because he was looking for money/food?
I told myself all the logical counterarguments: going into camp a quarter-mile off the highway in the morning wouldn’t make sense for someone looking to make progress on foot. Without his bags, he didn’t have much capacity for hauling any of our stuff away. He probably didn’t recognize/remember us from the day before. Even if he did, we still had all our panniers on our bikes, and he had no way to know they were half-empty, and that the orange-and-white tent and sleeping gear at the hiker/biker site belonged to us.
But the fear still just sits there at the back of your head all day, itching. And much more than if we didn’t have a fresh, living example like that to attribute the itch to.
But away we went, backtracking to pick up things we bypassed yesterday, namely, the cute “New England”-style town of Mendocino, where we stopped at a small farmers market, and at Russian Gulch State Park, where we hiked to a waterfall.
At the trail, we were lucky that we could take our bikes into the closed campground (grr, it was much nicer than the one we’re staying at), past the trailhead, and lock them out-of-view in a campsite. Then all of our genuine valuables come with us always, leaving just the bikes, and all the remaining stuff in the panniers, to make us nervous.
The seven miles of hiking, plus the 12 miles of hilly riding (including a big 10% hill getting out of Russian Gulch), plus Rett’s hip barking at her for the first time in a while, plus the stress of imagining our bikes gone and our tent destroyed, plus it getting dark before we’d be with dinner, led to another discussion about whether we’re still biting off more than we can chew.
So when we made it back down off the hill on our hike and saw our bikes below exactly as we’d left them, and then covered the miles back without more hip-barking, and couldn’t find evidence that even a chipmunk had nosed around our camp, our blood pressure was able to go down a few notches. But this stay-and-explore approach certainly isn’t any more relaxing than the more-standard ride-ride-ride approach; it’s just differently stressful!
At least it was drier in camp when we got back than yesterday, and we had time to make a fancier pasta/spinach/tuna dinner from scratch (which, with Rett’s spices, had way more flavor than any factory-prepared meal, even the Indian stuff from last night). Our high-class evening meals that Rett comes up with are another thing that isn’t a part of “standard” bike touring, but much less a trade-off than an unambiguous improvement!