Keep calm and carry on...
Where's the Water?
After the first epic day of hot-as-hell riding we were a bit shell-shocked but ready to rock it when we awoke to the chirping birds bright and early the next morning. We made our breakfast, which for me usually consists of 1.5 packets of grits with some powdered butter and egg whites, truffled almonds (special treat), and coffee. We had a meeting about the day's plan and made it on the road by 8:30 am, which, for five people trying to get all their 75 pieces of belongings together and out the door by then is making pretty good time. I will be honest, that I wasn't sure how my legs were going to hold up. Because of all the cramping on day one, I was going to try to avoid anything that I thought had made me cramp. I began the morning by downing a full bottle of water, and then another with electrolytes, I stretched, and then tried to take it as easy as possible in the beginning.
Due to the potential lack of water available on the trail for the entire day, we decided to skip some of the single track and take the road up to Crooked Creek Trailhead via a short detour to Mud Creek CG to fill up on some water. Because all of us were pretty paranoid about the water situation, still recovering from the heat the day before, we filled up extra, so we were pretty loaded with weight as we began our climb. This steady climb eventually dropped in at Crooked Creek trail where we ran into trouble. The trail was awesome, it was fun, it was bumpy, we went through a few dried creek beds, skirted around the lush trees and bushes, and then suddenly Deann's rear seat post bag-cradle snapped clean off her bike. Her husband, Bill and her attempted to remedy the situation by jerry rigging the cradle with zipties and tape, but it wouldn't hold. So, Deann ended up distributing most of her things to Bill and rearranging to rest to her front roll. It was not the most ideal situation, but at least it got us back on the trail.
We continued rolling and found a great lunch spot by a sparkling spring. (Turns out we didn't need to be carrying so much water, but I suppose it never hurts). One of my favorite things is a lunch time near a creek. It means you get to have all the water you want to cook with lunch (if you need that), and you can probably even have an afternoon "iced" coffee! It also means you can take a bath which is such a treat! So, of course we did all those things and started rolling again. That so-fresh-and-so-clean feeling did not last long, as we immediately ran into ALL the cows, which were walking the same trail. This also meant that ALL the cow dung was flinging everywhere; on our bags, on our clothes, on our helmets. It was pretty gross but fortunately we after some glorious descending, we ended up toward the end of the creek near the trail head and got to take bath #2.
During our descent we ran into two hikers out on the trail who worked for the Forest Service. They also had an adorable golden doodle named Sadie. We chatted with them about the OTT alliance and all of the great work they have done. They mentioned being excited that people are using these trails, and I'm hoping that they will continue to see more people out there as the OTT becomes a more well-seasoned route. As we were leaving, Heather casually mentioned our water worries to the forest, to which they said thank you to the feed back and mentioned a few other places that might have water. We said goodbye and finished descending, took our bath and began the next chapter in the heat of the day. (Aliza likes taking her baths by just falling over in the river).
We had a few miles on pavement before turning off onto a dirt road up a horribly long, exposed climb. When I got to this climb, I knew I had to motor at my own pace and keep things steady. (This is usually the key to success for all things Bike-packing - and maybe even life in general). The minute I would start to go into the "red zone" as far as exertion goes, that's when I start cramping. So, I just started riding, and riding, and riding. Just keep pedaling, just keep pedaling. I tried to pull over at the one or two very tiny shady spots on the road but really just had to keep going. I kept thinking, "Maybe there's shade around the next bend." But no....just more sun. And gravel. And uphill.
At this point, Aliza was starting to have a really difficult time in the heat and we were all just sort of trying our best to stay put together enough to make it up the hill. Then as we looked up the road at what seemed to be a mirage, a white Subaru with two guys were pulled off to the side. As we got nearer, we realized that the hikers we had encountered earlier on the trail had driven up to see if there was water at the top in the creek (which there wasn't) and had driven back and waited for us with bottles of ice water. TRAIL ANGELS! OTT TRAIL MAGIC! Whatever you want to call it - it was just another example of people just being awesome people when you are out on the trail.
The descent down to Mill Flat was pretty great, though short lived. We eventually had to bushwhack a bit to find the Mill-Flat lake (pond), but we found it, and were immediately greeted by some folks who were fly-fishing and had a camp set up. They offered us a beer and whatever else we needed, which some people took them up on, and we found a place to set up camp for the night a bit aways from them as they warned us that they might get rowdy. We were able to bathe and wash clothes in the run off from the small lake and bask in an rose sunset before making our way to bed at the end of the a much better day from the day before.