Thursday, July 31, 2008
I hadn't been to the top of Mt Shasta for years, so included a picnic at 8500' in our Thursday agenda. It was an easy 75 mile ride on quiet roads to the mountain, but some of us needed to do a little maintenance in the morning, so the lax schedule was welcome; that's Don Danmeier (president of the BSA club) taking care of his unique blue Venom.
Once again Norlene provided our high-altitude picnic, which really made for a dramatic lunch spot, overlooking the valley below. We were high above any smoke, but the lowlands were fairly well covered, so the usual crystalline visibility from up high was obscured. The final 6,000' of Mt Shasta towered above us as we ate at picnic tables seemingly at the edge of the world.
Our progress to the top, and down again, was spotted from millions of butterflies which had recently hatched. It was bizarre to ride through huge clouds of lovely Painted Ladies - when I first saw them along the road it was cheery, like seeing pretty flowers in bloom, but as I soon began to kill them by the hundreds with my body, helmet, and motorcycle, I felt a combination of horror and humor. It was also terribly distracting as we wound our way to the top, and many riders mentioned the challenge of ignoring the butterflies and keeping their eyes on the route.
Panther Meadows sit at tree-line, with clumps of mountain heather and wildflowers carpeting the terrain while small streams of snowmelt wind through. These meadows are held sacred by the local tribes, and make a perfect spot to listen to the breeze and the butterflies (yes, it's so quiet you can hear them crisply flapping their wings). Lanora Cox (editor of Fishtail West) thinks its a nice place as well.
It's 14 miles all downhill from the top of the mountain, and I love a good engines-off race. Jeff and Lanora were game too - those black specks on the video are suicidal butterflies! We were doing about 50+mph on the straight bits...
The Callahan-Gazelle road proved the be lovely and fast, but on the return high marks were awarded Forest Road 17, which paralleled C-G road, but wound over a dramatic mountain pass with deep canyons. 17 has no lines or guard rails, and is basically one lane, with only moderately bad pavement (nothing like as bad as Alderpoint or Mattole roads). It's my feeling that the narrower the road, the fewer lines, and the less marked the transition from pavement to vegetation, the greater the experience of intimacy with nature.
But at the end of the day, intimacy with a beer was just about perfect, and as mentioned the town of Callahan hides a perfect wild-west bar amongst abandoned hotel and bank buildings. The upper pic shows a few of the expats joining our rally - Dai Gibbison (Velo Tech forum guru, from London), Cheryl and Neville Mickelson (classic sidecar racing champion in New Zealand), and Graeme Glover from Australia.