Corrina still wanted to ride with me which was remarkable considering our last ride was a bit of a hellish two day effort. This time, we chose a Thursday night for the “Top of the World” Sea to Summit challenge, happy to tick one off on a weeknight (“Sea to Summit Part 1: Bald Mountain”, April 22). I loved that one of the designated highs on Humboldt’s challenge list was this viewpoint right off Fickle Hill Road, as it meant anyone interested in the series could at least do it. a. It was Corrina’s brilliant idea to go mountain biking on Fickle Hill Road and then hit the trails for the trip home.
We met at 4pm, ambitiously late even on a long August day. We parked at the Lighthouse Plaza Mini Golf in Samoa, only to realize that the doors would be closed and locked before our return. We shuffled the cars around the corner, unloaded the bikes again, ran into a colleague of mine (because apparently I can’t do a sea to the top without meeting someone I know) and finally we left to touch the waves closer to 5 p.m.
We rode the sandy path for as long as we could and then rode our bikes through the dunes and their cordgrass, beach peas and yellow verbena. The sun was shining and the waves were a deep navy blue. It was my first time starting a Sea to Summit challenge in the sun and the afternoon seemed to go on forever. Having a full day at work and then a little adventure in the evening made the time feel longer.
We cycled from Samoa to Manila and passed the island of Tuluwat, formerly known as the Indian island, which was violently taken from the Wiyots in 1860. One hundred and forty years later, the Wiyot tribe bought 1.5 hectare of the island and in 2004 the town of Eureka returned 40 acres to its rightful owners. Finally, on October 21, 2019, the 200-acre island, where important ceremonies take place, was legally returned to the Wiyot tribe, for whom they are the center of the universe (“The Island’s Return”, October 24 2019).
Around the mud flats in northern Humboldt Bay we rode, then it was up, up, and up Fickle Hill. The notoriously steep sidewalk reminded us of all the flaws our bodies can have. We slowly pushed the pedals to propel ourselves and our carbon fiber machines upward, conversation flowing between the heavy breathing sections. We talked about the Redwood Coast Mountain Bike Association and a trail builder they hired to work on the Hatchery Ridge trail system in Blue Lake. These trails are part of a partnership between RCMBA and Green Diamond that has grown over the years, and the trail builder, an old friend of mine named Shaggy Kidd, travels the United States and the world building trails. trails every summer. I kept an eye out for the shadows crossing the road because that day he and his mate Caroline were on their way to my house. They would live with us for six weeks while he moved and she worked remotely. We couldn’t find their own place for them during COVID-19, so we would be roommates.
Corrina and I gratefully made it to the top. The rock outcrop is the perfect place to admire the 50 shades of fir and blue-green of the Mad River watershed. The winding river path leaves tightly bent, evergreen-covered slopes from Ruth Lake Road to the Pacific. Shadows had invaded the rock where we were standing and crawled north, reminding us not to hang around. Did we bring lights? No of course not.
Despite the beautifully sunny start, Humboldt is Humboldt and as we descended onto the road both of our hands went completely numb and white in color. From the entrance to the Community Forest on Fickle Hill, there are several trails to choose from to bring you back into town, should you decide to take that route. We descended on roots through the redwoods with lots of screaming and screaming as we hugged the forest on a Thursday night as the fog set in. Twisting through the trees, the handlebars barely lacked the bark, the tires gripped the potting soil and it almost looked like the terrain was designed for mountain bikes. We hit the sidewalk and sprinted towards Samoa in the last dregs of a bright gray sunset.
Shivering, hungry, content and smiling, we said goodbye to each other quickly and planned to be back together soon. I must have rushed home because Shaggy and Caroline were due to arrive in a moment, and I wasn’t proving to be a great hostess yet. I cleaned up with my usual binge (how else do people mop, really?) And started baking cupcakes for a friend’s birthday the next day. Yes, we are an obsessed people. Our guests arrived after their multi-week cross country adventure, unloaded their bikes, and quickly melted into our comfortable home. I talked to Caroline so much while cooking that the simplest recipe took hours and I forgot to add the water. The cupcakes were always delicious, if a bit dense. The following week Caroline, Corrina and I rode through the forest together, cementing friendships around a shared love of bikes on the land, wildlife and filling the fun bucket to the last drop.
Hollie Ernest (she) is a botanist and forest technician. She’s writing a book about her international cycling adventures, gardening and exploring corners of Northern California. Follow her on Instagram @Hollie_holly.