We woke up to damp everything. I knew it was going to be cold as my bag started to have cold spots when I moved starting around 5 AM. We had initially planned on an early start due to that past two days not going quite as we had planned. The cold was not a good start to getting a good start.
I let Mama Bear sleep in. I pulled myself together and ventured out of the tent at 6:30, got a fire going and started on some bait to get her out of her sleeping bag. I used her biggest love, coffee. It was slow going, but she eventually emerged from her cave.
The Bear Valley Campground was nestled by the river and like the name would suggest, in a valley. The moisture from the river had left all our gear soaking wet and the valley was keeping the sun from hitting us to help dry it out. We did what we could and once things were somewhat dry, we stuffed everything back in and headed out.
Once we got moving things seemed to be going our way, that is until we hit the sandy washboards that slowed our progress to something almost faster than walking. We ran into a grader and a truck pulling what was essentially a giant rake. They told us that the road had been graded all the way to Landmark, it wasn’t. We thanked them for their work and headed on. The grader had smoothed out the washboards and the rake removed the rocks, but there were still plenty of soft spots and our pace did not increase.
The road started to get better just as we began our first big climb for the day, Deadwood Pass. It wasn’t a particularly long climb, only 3 miles, but it was the steepest grades we had encountered yet. With our rest and snack breaks the climb took us almost an hour. Once on top, we started making good time. The road was in good condition and it was mostly flat or slightly downhill.
We made it to Landmark and then proceeded toward Warm Lake Pass. When we turned off of dirt and onto pavement, I was initially a little disappointed. Up to this point, we had ridden almost entirely dirt roads. My attitude quickly changed as the pass was steep, but after climbing steep, dirt roads the pavement felt easy. We peaked out and knew it was all downhill to Warm Lake.
The drop into Warm Lake was one of the spots that made us thankful for the direction we were headed. The side we climbed was steep, but not like the side we dropped. There were multiple switchbacks and grades that were almost scary to descend. We clipped along at 25-30 miles per hour without any effort on our part and coasted right into the resort.
This was our first restock spot from Stanley. We grabbed some snacks, were disappointed with their selection and headed to the bar. We treated ourselves to a couple beers and veggie burgers and found a spot in the sun to enjoy our meal. We had done our 40 miles for the day and it was only 2:30.
I remembered that we had packed our gear wet and wanted to avoid an uncomfortable nights sleep in a damp down sleeping bag. We decided to yard sale on the patio. The day was warm and the sun was directly hitting our gear. Within minutes everything was toasty dry.
No one was swimming in Warm Lake, but the idea of washing the grime off my body overcame my abhorrence for cold water. I changed into my bathing suit and headed in, to my delight the lake was in fact warm. Not hot, but heated pool temperature. We spent a few minutes playing in the water, and then began the task of packing all of our shit up. It was too early in the day for us to be calling it quits. There was a campground close to the resort and that was our next objective.
The road started as dirt but then turned back to pavement just as we started climbing again. The first camping option was just up the road. We took a look, but felt it was too early to stop. The map showed Mile 16 Hot Springs and a campground just past that. We chose to risk it and pedaled on. The map showed a little climbing, but it was hot and the pavement was reflecting the afternoon sun.
We clicked off the mileage and hit mile marker 16, which was supposed to be right before the hot springs. We slowed our pace and watched the road for the steps down the side, double checked our beta and kept looking. Sure enough, we found a clearing, some wooden steps down the side and we could see the pool from the edge. We hadn’t seen a car in about an hour and there was no one around. We had them to ourselves.
After soaking for an hour and feeling pretty stoked on how the day went, all we had left was to coast to the campground. It ended up not being all downhill, but the little climb up to the campground was nothing and we were soon setting up our tent in a campground void of people. A family showed up with their dog and they played in the creek for a few minutes and then they were gone.
The sun slowly set lighting the trees on fire and warming our backs as it went down. There was a fire ring, but at this point, we didn’t care if we had one or not. The evening was warm and we chose to just hang out and watch the stars come up instead.
P. L. and R.