North Coast Squadron
- December 06 Moonride -
There are a plethora of logging roads in Humboldt county; well traveled conduits for lumberjacks, dope growers, and on this night, a select few riders of the Bikin Fools North Coast Squadron. A couple days shy of the official full moon, a crystal-clear Saturday night sky beckoned the riders to come out and play. A few of the more serious Squadron members had been discussing the possibility of dropping RedGate, others were hesitant perhaps because they had never seen the route in daylight, or perhaps because the RedGate route would eventually convene with the Couch. Those familiar with "dropping the Couch" know it as one of the local favorite downhill trails, a rutted, slick, berry-brambled combination of kickers, stream-crossings, and tight single-track. Although Auriah tried to ensure that the illumination would be sufficient, and offered invitations to only competent riders, the assemblage of moonriders was not large.
Auriah had previously scouted the RedGate route on his dirt-bike, and a couple of the other riders had enjoyed the day-light version, but to date, neither RedGate nor the infamous Couch had been experienced under the light of the moon. Both needed to be done, and RedGate was chosen for the evenings romp.
The Clark brothers materialized, veteran Brian and virgin Jason, armed with a 12-pack of PBR and a plastic flask of the finest $3.99 brandy. Lucy installed a new-used front chain-ring set harvested from the KU-7 Womprat Kinetic assemblage to replace her previous toothless one. Evan, a moon virgin from up the hill, showed up to check out a rumor concerning something about riding bikes at night in the wilderness with no artificial lights.
The ride promised to be a perfect nightcap for the moonriders, many of whom had already enjoyed a full dayAuriah had surfed for hours in the afternoon, Evan had earlier tried out the Sunnybrae trail (another local downhill favorite), and Lucy had gone to work at 4:30 that morning., with another early morning shift scheduled following the ride. As with most moonrides, the energy level was rising, and would continue to peak into the night.
The weather had previously been quite chilly and frosty in the evenings, so the riders prepared with many layers of underclothes, and Auriah brewed a tasty thermos of tea to warm the crew. The carpool discussion ensued determining the optimal logistic maneuver. In order to maximize efficiency, all 5 riders and bikes were to be transported to the starting altitude in Auriahs truck. In order to maximize the power to weight ratio, all 5 bikes were secured to the truck with one very tight bungee strap.
Figure 1: One very tight bungee strap provided one of the most stable Bikin' Fools NCS loads to date
After a brief truck shuffle, the bikers made their way up past Kneeland, where the route was to be dropped, and found themselves in a warmer climate, leftovers from the days sunshine. They made their way to the RedGate trailhead, named because the gate at the entrance is, well, red. In true Bikin Fools fashion, the gate was bypassed without destruction of any property, and the ride began.
The trail immediately burns altitude along smooth-ish roads presenting a series of rather large water-bars. Illumination was ample and the trail rather clear except for the occasional tree limb. Brakes squeaked and fenders rattled as the riders made their way down in the bright incandescence, stopping occasionally to get their bearings at various intersections. The riders familiar with the route conversed occasionally about whether or not the trail was recognized and which turns to take. Overall it was understood that the connection to the familiar Couch territory could be encountered simply by progressing downhill, for the drainage had to eventually dump out in the Jacoby Creek drainage somewhere.
Within 2 minutes of this remark the leaders of the pack found themselves pressing through fallen trees into obviously uncharted territory. Although the back-track to the last turn would not have required a great deal of time; there were instincts flowing which suggested to simply push forward, wandering in the direction "the trail should be". Some boonie-thrashing was in order, mostly uphill but as Tolkein noted, "Not all who wander are lost", and these wanderers were perfectly happy to be the company of friends, lunar illumination, and good trail mix. The hike a bike session to find the trail allowed the riders to warm up to the evenings event which had just begun, layers were shed and bodies steamed in the night. As the 5 pressed up the side of the hill an "off-road" motor could be heard in the near distance...
As "sensed" the correct route was located rather quickly and all 5 bikers remounted their noble steeds and drifted down the well groomed single track. Now in somewhat familiar territory the crew took a break to give thanks, replenish their electrolytes and soak up the moonshine (and brandy). Endorphins flowed as a result of the adrenalin, holy sacrament, and communion with the lady of the night. Coincidentally the stop also provided a keepsake memento which Brian decided to pack out.
Figure 2: Brian proudly displaying his trophy for the evening and preparing to toast the fine company.
As the Fools were enjoying the evening the motor sound began to draw near and Auriah ordered everybody to "disappear" to avoid any interaction which would blow the cover of the wanderers. The sound of the motor conjured visions of a 4x4 which would explain the recent tracks on sections of the trail and suggest a logging employee. However the vehicle turned out to be a young kid on a suped-up Honda 50 out for a night ride (with bright Halogen light....cheater...). He happened to spot Lucy and they had a brief chat, where the kid remarked on his observation that Lucy had no light. The kid continued on without further interaction, most likely wondering how such a lady would find herself in the middle of nowhere, on her mountain bike, in the middle of the night with no-one else around and no lights.
Back on the trail, the route narrowed. Riders were forced to test their limits of balance, finesse, and agility as the route took them continuing down the drainage towards Jacoby Creek which could be heard babbling in the distance. The moon beamed her radiant rays through the thick canopy above and provided partial but sufficient trail illumination. For virgin riders Evan and Jason, the event was a true test, and both appeared not only to be surviving, but enjoying themselves fully; they were naturals.
Eventually the riders dumped out on the convergence with the Couch trail where the route parallels the stream meandering below. A few stops were made in order to more fully appreciate the evening and allow the newly deflowered riders to realize what they had accomplished so far.
Figure 3: Older Clark brother, Jason, maintaining his Body Energy Electrolyte Replenishment schedule, creek-side under the moonlight.
Spanish moss glowed on overhanging branches, and the dew-slick ivy and ferns radiated a sparkly shine. Streams could be heard trickling down to the creek, and an owl called out to the assembled riders to identify themselves. Chocolate and tea was shared, and Brian showed off his hunk of heavy metal he found, which, when recycled, would pay for at least another couple cases of PBR.
Continuing along the lower sections of the Couch trail, the track became tighter and the canopy thicker, and the bikers took turns hollering as they alternated between "riding the rut" and at times dumping off into the brambles, accompanied by cartoon-like sound effects. Some of the riders were able to charge the stream crossings with dry feet, while others slipped and slid and splashed to the hilarity of their companions. At one point the trail drops into a very steep v-section of creek where Auriah found himself making the technical drop to the bottom and then slipping on the climb out, only to fall back into the creek on his back. Fortunately his pack was appropriately stuffed full and supported his weight above a majority of the water so that only his butt got wet; without the pack his upper torso would have fully submerged as he lay back into the stream. Other riders simply emptied their shoes upon exiting the streams.
Figure 4: The lady of the night gently peers through the redwood canopy, thanking the few riders who were willing to come out and play on this fine December evening in the Humboldt Nation.
The lower section of Couch has a few widow-makerslogs across the trail at head-height and gaping sinkholes, but the riders remained unscathed, emerging from the dark-green thicket to the road that would lead them back to the truck. The sound of ten tires humming down the asphalt broke the night (early morning by this time), and the bikers felt the tired satisfaction of yet another bright night ride, blessed by the moon and the fun and foolishness shared by the few and proud.