Years and years ago, at the dawn of the age of the Mooseknuckler, my mother told me that she hoped I found whatever it was that I was looking for. My rebellious little shit self responded in my head that I wasn’t looking for anything. I was fine. The reality was that I had no idea what it was that I was looking for only that it was something I had experienced and I wanted more of it. It was this thing that I couldn’t quite describe. A concept that was beyond what my words were capable of illustrating. In fact, I’ve probably spent more time trying to describe this something than I have spent actually looking for it. I found it. And it’s easy to find again. It’s addicting. Once you feel it, you crave it. It’s there in the back of your head, waiting for you to go find it again. Calling you out from the structured world that kills it.
Unfortunately, the English language doesn’t quite contain the words I need to outline it for you. The closest word I’ve found would be Freedom. And maybe that is the correct word for it, but the fact that we are sold a freedom that is manufactured in this modern world makes it feel cheap and not quite encompassing of what it is. One thing is for sure, if it is Freedom, it isn’t something that you can create, it isn’t something that can be given, it’s something you can only experience.
As any Mooseknuckler plan goes, it was a simple one. Meet at the shop at 8 AM. Ride our bikes until we make it to Oak Grove. Camp. Ride home the next day. What the plan didn’t detail was that there was 30+ miles between the shop and Oak Grove and 6000 feet of climbing. In fact, the Turkey Farm Road may exist in your memory as a flat meandering road. It may exist in that state for you if you’ve never pedaled the damn thing. While it’s not steep, for the most part, it does maintain a constant grade upward for nearly 15 miles.
As most places around SG go, the Turkey Farm Road is one that you can get lost in the contours of the land. From town, the big picture of the place, it looks like a flattish surface that flows up to the abrupt cliffs of Pine Valley Mountain. The more accurate, up-close-and-personal view, is that there are places a man could hide for years and no one would have a clue that he was there. Simply step off the road a few feet, drop into one of the canyons, find a stream and build a cabin. Slow it down even more aboard a bicycle and the possibilities of that much space will run wild in your brain the entire time.
You’ll have plenty of time for all those scenarios to play out, as pedaling up that road will take a few minutes.
Maybe it’s the hobo in me or the boredom of being in the saddle for six hours, but I can’t help but constantly be on the lookout for places to camp. Anywhere that there is a stream, a nice fire ring or a culvert that doesn’t look like it’s about to get flooded, I find myself dreaming of throwing out the pad and unrolling the sleeping bag for a night’s rest. And why not? Why shouldn’t I exist in that place? I can’t fully experience it by just passing through. The slower the journey, the longer the stay, the more in depth you feel a place. The more that place becomes part of what you are.
Or maybe you just remember it more because you spend time there.
Most of our route was known to the entire group. We’ve pedaled the Turkey Farm Loop several times and while I always feel like I am forgetting some hill that is going to kick my ass, the road doesn’t change. However, we were adding Forest Road 032 to the TFL. Said road would constitute the last six miles of our journey terminating at the Oak Grove Campground. There’s also about 2000 feet of vertical in those six miles.
Saturday was warm. Not too hot, but on the uncomfortable side of warm. Cool enough that it didn’t keep us at home sitting in front of a computer with the AC blasting and small droplets of water pooling around our cup of ice cold water, but hot enough that we thought about it before leaving. For the most part, the weather was about perfect except when we turned and slowly ground our way up the steep ones.
FR 032 was one of those places. It didn’t take very long before both Kenny and I had stripped that small foam bucket that is supposed to keep our heads safe. I mean, really, how bad am I going to hurt my head when I’m going 3.2 miles per hour? And for some reason those buckets feel super hot when there is no wind, it’s about 90 degrees and you are climbing 2000 feet in six miles.
Luckily, there’s a stream that parallels the road for most of the climb and is accessible at multiple locations. While my brain boiled for a good portion of those six miles, stopping every so often to soak my shirt in the stream and cool off made it bearable and we did in fact make it to camp.
Day two started the way you would expect, lethargically emerging from our sleeping bags to start a fire and boil water for coffee. We sat around a mostly smoking fire and began the process of making breakfast and breaking camp. There was no sense of urgency. The weather was nice and there was a cloud cover that we hoped would last all day keeping the temperatures lower, but mostly, we knew that today was going to be a lot easier.
Our route home would take us back down that 2000 foot road known as FR 032, but instead of following the TFL back around, we would continue dropping all the way to Silver Reef. From there, we would take a couple double track roads to get us into the Red Cliffs Recreation Area where we could take some singletrack to Prospector. Once on the singletrack it was only 10-15 miles to where we would opt out of the sandy route to take pavement back into town.
Singletrack is always fun, but it’s even more so when you are loaded and finishing out an overnighter with good friends. Especially when you start passing people who aren’t loaded and didn’t camp the night before.
Of course, it’s not a ride without a beer. We stopped at the Steps on Prospector for said drink and Doritos crumbs. It was warm, bordering on getting hot. We were sweating and didn’t care. The beer was slightly warm and definitely shook up. None of that mattered. The place was chosen only moments earlier when someone asked when we were going to have our ride beers. We stopped on a ledge in the middle of the desert, in the heat and drank a beer because that’s what we do.
I fucking love bikepacking.
P. L and R.