Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Best day in a long time

I went for a bike ride today with my cousin Hal Cranston. We’re visiting him at his cabin in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and he took me today for one of his favorite rides. We drove to Sierraville, a tiny town almost a mile above sea level. We left our car there and rode up over Yuba Pass under a clear blue sky. The shadows of huge pine trees sheltered us during the first part of the ride, and as we got higher we began to pass fragrant meadows filled with Indian corn lily and other plants I could have identified when I got Nature merit badge at Boy Scout camp.

Though I cannot name the rest of the meadow plants, I can say that they looked as good as they smelled. We passed huge fields of little white flowers, commented on little thickets of bright purple, and admired the ever-changing backdrop of the Sierra Buttes, high alpine valleys, and mountain streams.

After cresting Yuba Pass we descended into a little settlement called Bassetts, where we stopped at a combined general store and restaurant and bought a few fig Newtons to propel us up the next climb. At the top of this one we found a forested mesa with numerous small lakes sparkling behind the trees. By the time we stopped at Gold Lake I could hardly believe what I’d seen and experienced. I’d forgotten the beauty of the Sierra Nevada, its aromas and vistas. Staring across the pristine surface of Gold Lake, completely alone but for my close friend and relative, I could only whisper a prayer of thanks for the opportunity to be there.

We returned by the same route, stopping again at Bassetts to refill our water bottles. Since I’d only drunk two bottles to that time, I decided to go light and fill only one bottle for the last leg of our journey. Unfortunately, I drank much faster under the afternoon sun, and my bottle ran dry a couple of miles before we crested Yuba Pass. Thinking to reach the pass before I got absolutely parched, I rode a little harder and pulled out ahead of Harold. Presently a couple of people in a yellow pickup truck slowed down beside me and rolled down the window to talk. They said that they’d seen Harold go off the road behind me and fall in the dirt at the side of the road. They added that they’d go back and check on him themselves had they not seen me.

I doubled back and learned that Harold hadn’t taken a serious fall, but had just bogged down in soft dirt when he drifted off the pavement. As we rode together again, the couple in the yellow truck returned to assure themselves that we were OK. They said they were prepared to load his bike into the back of the truck if he needed help, and we replied with gratitude and sent them on their way.

Then I begged Harold for a drink of his water. As soon as I returned his bottle, the yellow truck was back, and the passenger asked me if I’d like an extra bottle of water. Yes! With plenty of water, we powered over the pass in fine style and coasted downhill at a wonderfully high speed to our starting point.

I’d forgotten how much I enjoy alpine scenery and situations. Now I want to get out my backpacking gear again and see more of it.

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