Eighty Percent Attitude

[ Day 26 — July 8, 2012 ]

I awoke to find the clear overnight skies replaced by a dense mantle of fog. My neighbors were now disembodied voices; crows carried on measured conversation somewhere to the north. The sun was nothing more than a diffused glow, but that wouldn’t be the case where I was headed.

Humboldt Redwood State Park

Humboldt Redwood State Park

By the time I stopped for lunch in Myers Flat, it was 92 degrees in the shade. I sat on the sidewalk next to a middle-aged yellow lab and acknowledged that he had it far worse. He thumped his tail on the ground knowingly and reminded me that survival is eighty percent attitude.

I held onto this fact as the afternoon temperature continued to rise. My route followed the Eel River, which on this brick-oven Saturday was full of swimmers splashing in the river’s tamer sections and lazily drifting atop inner tubes, often with a cool beverage in hand. Traveling upriver via blacktop left much to be desired; the shade of camp could not come soon enough.

Though the campground in Leggett was nowhere near full capacity, it hosted the most crowded hiker/biker site I’d ever seen. Close to two dozen cyclists settled within its vaguely defined boundaries before nightfall. In addition to the prevailing southbound crowd, there were some headed north and even a few headed east—countless starting points with all sorts of driving motivations and intended destinations. One cyclist was riding a racing bike almost 140 miles a day, carrying nothing more than a daypack. A large and motley group was headed south to Mexico, brought together by similar pacing and a shared goal.

At nightfall, all the common topics germinated into conversation: southbound travelers advised northerlies on points of interest that lay ahead, and visa versa. There were at least three spirited discussions about food, held—of course—over food. Every gathering of cyclists contained at least one eccentric outlier and at least one exaggerated story of a previously encountered oddball: one person had met a guy carrying 130 pounds of stuff (including a cooler) on a trailer; another had met a pair of legally blind cyclists; someone else ran into a woman trying to meet her ride’s (significant) calorie needs on a vegan diet. To have toured any appreciable distance is to know these types of characters and to have had similar conversations. Too tired to partake, I settled into my tent and listened to them all as one great symphony of shared experience: longing, discovery, challenge, discomfort, growth… it was all there.

[ Daily Miles: 80 ] [ Total Miles: 1395 ]

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