Snake, Rattle, and Roll


I’m back. This was my very first ever attempt at bike-camping, and It was a good bit more work than I expected. This probably could have been mitigated somewhat, had I remained amongst civilized people, but I chose to climb the mountains… On rocky roads… With a heavy bike… With an out-of-shape cyclist turning the pedals.

It was work, but it was fun.

I started at my mom’s house, and had about 5 miles of pavement to cover before I entered the state forest. One of the benefits of growing up in the middle of nowhere is that you have thousands of acres of forest in your back yard 🙂

My Bike

Along the White Deer Pike

It was only a gradual climb until I crossed interstate 80. Then things got a bit hairy. From here on in, there were no stores, no people, no anything. I brought water purification tablets along, because there was no way I could carry enough water for this trip. I planned to refill my bottles from pristine mountain streams along the way.

Crossing Interstate 80

Crossing Interstate 80

The road got pretty rocky in short order. There were many miles where I ended up pushing the bike up the mountain instead of riding it. Yarrison and Walter’s roads are not really roads anymore. I’d say more like moderate doubletrack. Oh, and those pristine mountain streams I was talking about… They turned out to be fewer and farther between than I expected. I got seriously dehydrated. To the point of brown urine and everything. Yikes!

Adding insult to injury, there were these huge stagnant pools of muddy water covering the road. Water, water everywhere.

Mud Puddle

Nor Any Drop to Drink

The road finally smoothed out a bit, and I was able to get up to speed for a few minutes. I was cruising along the ridgetop of Walter’s mountain, where due to a recent forest fire, I was able to take in some scenic vistas (forgot to take any pics, sorry). I decided to stop to check my map. I squeezed the brakes and stopped the bike. Then I heard a most unsettling noise.

About 4 feet from my front tire sat a big rattlesnake, shaking his rattle.

A Rattlesnake in my way

You Shall not Pass!

I wasn’t sure what to do. I backed off a couple of yards, took his picture (sorry about the image quality), and thought about what to do next. I wasn’t about to turn back. I was so close to the summit at this point, that I wasn’t going to give up any of my hard-earned altitude. On the other hand, I was far out of reach of medical assistance, in case this fucker bit me.

I figured that stategically, my advantages were intelligence, and opposable thumbs, whereas he could afford to wait me out, and he could inject me with hemotoxin if I got too close.

I did what men have done from the beginning of time when confronted with scary beasts:

I threw stones at him.

I was hoping he would slide off the trail and seek shelter in the bushes. This did not have the desired effect. Instead, he coiled up into a very aggresive posture, and started rattling for all he was worth.

I decided that he wasn’t going to move no matter what, and I wasn’t going to turn around, no matter what, so I picked up my 100 pound bike, and carried it into the bushes, giving a very wide berth to Mr. Rattlesnake. Then I got back on the road maybe 10 yards past him. He was still rattling at me as I picked the sticks out of my deraileurs and pedaled away.

After a short while, I came to an intersection. I could deviate from my planned route, giving up about half of my elevation gain, and get water. I knew of a cabin about halfway down the mountain that had a water supply. On the other hand, I could ride around the ridge as I had planned and hope to find water on top of the mountain. Given the color my urine, I decided to descend.

When I got to the cabin, there were two gentlemen sitting on the porch watching chipmonks run around. They let me have some water, and offered to let me make camp near their cabin. It seemed like a good idea to me. I pitched my tent, made my freeze-dried spaghetti, and went to bed.

My Bed for the night

Bed Time

I slept like a corpse. I woke up, and tore down my campsite.

My Tent

Big Trees, Small Tent

I was still at pretty good elevation, so it was almost entirely downhill to get back to my mom’s house.

It was a fun trip. I should have gotten myself into better shape beforehand, and I probably carried a bit more weight than I needed to.

Next time, I’ll be more prepared