Photographs by Daniel Wakefield Pasley and Emiliano Granado
Table of Contents
II. What We Did
III. What You Do
IV. Shirt Pre-Sale
by Kyle Von Hoetzendorff
"I’ve only had to pull a knife on someone once. I was on acid in Hollywood and this creep who had been following me around all night followed me into the bathroom of some club. I turned to him, 'What the fuck do you want man?' brandishing my knife like a fucking haunted lantern. Whatever he wanted before he didn’t want any more and without a word he turned and walked away."
Mike spent his formative years documenting the Hollywood of the Doobie Brothers and Kim Fowley, the Hollywood of long, white nights and sun-bleached acid trips, of worn out cults and Pontiac Fieros. He was there, man: in it all, rubbing elbows in the black-lit green rooms of post-revolutionary excess. He reveled, he imbibed, and then at some point he gave it up, packed up camp and dislocated himself to the nowhere-ness of no place in Northern California. Since his arrival at the Mythical State of Jefferson (MSOJ), Mike’s personality has merged with the local culture—or maybe the culture, the heart of the place, was always there. Maybe he just needed to brush off the plasticized chrysalis accreted during his years spent in Los Angeles.
Mike carries a knife with him, always. I haven’t watched him sleep; I am not that kind of creep and on our ride we didn’t spend a lot of time on shuteye. I assume he just tapes the thing to his body with some sort of low-adhesive masking tape or that silky medical stuff, or maybe he just tucks it into his armpit. Whatever nocturnal management process he has established, the white light of his blade is always with him. It’s not a Crocodile Dundee deal, nothing with hidden matches, the ability to divine water, or find the magnetic North Pole. It's just one of those foldable things that men with beards in their 20s ands 30s have begun to wear while taking perfectly fine pictures of their well made camp coffee.
He has a goatee, is in his 60s, and as we climbed the murderous hills at the north end of the Emerald Triangle I wondered why he carried the blade. Showmanship, habit, or was he just better prepared? Would a little pocketknife be effective if we stumbled upon a cartel's growing operation? If you tell people you are going into the backcountry of Northern California, everyone from my mother to a telemarketer trying to sell me effective lawn watering systems will warn you about the THC-derived dangers that exist there. Men from Mexican cartels shuttled in at night with only a couple cases of beans, armed to the teeth with assault rifles and a fear of familial reprisal should anything happen to the crop. Or blasted-out locals with a murderous history and discount consciousness stalking the hills, just waiting to eradicate us future polymer-wearing, nutbutt adventurers who happen to stumble upon their operations. I mean, what’s a 3” blade in the world of high velocity automatic rifles? Throughout our ride his trusty blade was clipped to his right hip, inside of his bike shorts, between the black stretch lycra and his base layer. A pair of blue suspenders, oxidized from a history of effort, still managed to hold his chamois in place. He said he needed to get a set of bibs like ours. Then again if he really cared, he would have them already.
There is something in this sentiment echoed in the social landscape of the State of Jefferson, a laissez-faire approach to the necessary, a well-enough-will-do approach to getting by.
Maybe this comes from the region's deep connection to mining, a process that works strictly by subtraction, the stripping away of surfeit. Or maybe it's because this region lacks the velocity of humanity needed to motivate anything more than what’s necessary, or maybe it’s the weed or the idea of weed. Not that everyone here is stoned, the weed is well hidden and the style is less steal-your-face and more real tree. It's just an expected way of life. Marijuana has long been the principal export and economic foundation of this little part of the world.
Mike made the plan. We were to ride around 250 miles on desolate byways and little-used dirt roads through the Klamath National Forest. Our route started in Fort Jones, California and ended Ashland, Oregon—only 30,000 feet +/- of climbing in between. Things were looking good, as in difficult, as in this was going to be a shit ton of climbing with a good amount of miles and the very real probability of triple digit temperatures. The route wasn't fully tested; we were guinea pigging, hoping to end up back home with a good story. Mike had only ridden sections of the route, though he had scouted the rest by car to go along with his efforts to gather the word of wayward locals, directions from weather-worn road signs, and geographical information based on decades-old topographic maps. We were aiming to ride straight through, sleep where we collapsed and swim in as many places as possible. The route would climb mountains, follow rivers, visit communes, and test the fitness and resolve of our little flight of riders. We were riding in the Mythical State of Jefferson. Centrally located along the West Coast of North America and comprising vast areas of Northern California and Southern Oregon, it is Bigfoot country, weed country, Lemurian country; a sparsely populated region of under-appreciated natural beauty. The region is rife with river valleys that cut through sheaves of tectonic pilings created by millennia of volcanic unrest. The hills are steep and the valleys deep. This scarified terrain limits access and attracts rugged individuals seeking permanent escape: libertarian ranchers, libertarian bartenders, and libertarian mailmen shoot the shit with idealistic hippie dropouts at the local convenient store. Seasonal pot harvesters purchase cases of beer from sixth-generation travel lodge owners. Prospectors travel the skeins of rivers in search of the final remnants of Sutter's promise and wile away their free time enjoying Eskimo Pies on the shaded porch of an isolated mercantile.
Time didn’t completely forget about this area, it just checks in periodically.
What We Did
Captions by Kyle Von Hoetzendorff
These are the types of crushed-gravel harbors where land yachts come to bilge. Here tables are sacred, campfires non-existent, and Bill O’Reilly drones from the slated panes of every Bounder's rear window. In the near distance the tide of automotive traffic fills suffocating silence with a parody of tide. We had some drinks. There was a dust up with the camp docent, and Mike was forced to dispense valuable sweet talk before the ride had even begun. We worked on our bikes. We secured the number to the shitter. For those passing through in need of a break, it is #4134.
A campground without a fire pit is a campground where hotdogs are eaten cold. Rather than consume wet, cold, processed tubes of last-chance meat we pulled ourselves together and sped off to the nearest Mexican restaurant. Ty was drunk and wearing tie-dye. The rest of us were on our way there and we were all mostly wearing cotton. At the dinner spot we ordered big, unsure of our next proper meal and we went deep on too-sweet margaritas. The food was decent; at least it was then, nothing strange, abnormal, or suspicious about it. Clean entry. We returned to the gravel docks and slept in the open under the stars. Ty threw up. Overnight it sprinkled slightly and in the morning the heat came on quickly.
We collected our things, packed our bikes and headed south to Fort Jones. After much deliberation it was decided to that we should leave our rigs at the Salmon/Scott River Ranger Station. We rotated through the nearby Chevron’s convenience store, buying cheap coffee and testing the flush capacity of their services. We had our first flat before leaving, we laughed easy, and everything felt right. Note to Chevron convenience store architects: when laying out the floor plan of your stores, may I recommend that you avoid having the door to the sanitary services section open directly into the cash wrap/work area, from which your employees will not have an escape? This will go along way in helping both customer and employee avoid the uncomfortable moments which happen when one party shares the idea of something that the other party has no interest in knowing about.
Piss happens. How many events, both great and trivial, have been shaped by the unavoidable departure, or the simultaneous daydream, or the post-relief bliss of a pee break? After miles of rolling roads, dotted with ranches, accompanied by a mess of past their prime homesteads, we came across the desiccated remains of what was once a perfectly good rattlesnake. We had our second flat, followed ten feet later by our third flat, and as we waited for John to make repairs we branched out from the shade of a solitary tree to relieve ourselves in the rattlesnake-infested sage, searching for inspiration and finding none that could be put in to words.
It went up, and there was natural grandeur to behold, and we talked of immature things and thought the puerile thoughts of men who have refused to go all-in on adulthood.
Cole double flatted minutes into our first descent. He had been leading us out and much of the group passed him, unaware in the thrall of gravity. A few of us saw what had happened and pulled off to help. The triage group included Mike Cherney; map diviner, jewelry maker, and mythical spirit guide. Cole’s rims showed significant damage, the sidewalls splayed open like a knife wound. Mike, being a jeweler and disciple of metallurgy, immediately began working these splayed openings with two-pieces of broken road. His technique, the time honored hammer stroke. The idea was to subject the ruined rim to a rapid series of successive strikes, administered by lunging arms with a palm-sized piece of broken road acting as hammerhead. While Moi and Ty laid out across the wide shoulder, soaking in the roads radiant heat, Cole and I watched as Mike wrought the rim back into shape. Later, Hahn would bring the rim true (or, as close to true as possible) and Cole would be rolling once again.
Outside of this town I am told there exists a swimming hole. That our route took us not to this chimerical liquid paradise but rather a up into a mountain—that I am convinced should have caused cardiac arrest in at least one of our riding party—explains much about the decision making process that goes into creating the Yonder experience.
This climb hated water. It hated comfort. It hated breaks and conditioning. It hated hope. The road tracked upwards in leaps and starts, bolting and breaking towards an unknown end. This was a road of exposure, the tan path twisted and baking like the dead snake from the morning. Were we swallowed whole or were we heading for the fangs? The heat from the sun was a powerful venom.
Eventually we arrived at a single tree that marked the top of the long climb. From our vantage point Bear Mountain cast off coniferous-covered folds of evolved geology in all directions. This was a time to rest and catch our breaths, even as the view struggled to take it away.
We had come to understand the limits of our reach. Time it seemed was not in our favor. Our group had to split—it was decided without words. Cole, David, Emiliano and Kevin were to head down to the Black Bear Ranch commune, deliver our tribute, experience transcendental community and hopefully capture enough of its essence to share with the rest of us. We sent forth some of our best and brightest and the rest of us spent our descent down the mountain chattering, our words a mix of envy and hope. As it turns out, we didn’t miss what we had wanted; we missed what we should have expected.
In a small watering hole, below a tall bridge, we soaked in the cool current, practicing our Dead Man Floats while waiting for news of truly compassionate living. We skipped small rocks and heaved big ones. When the commune splinter faction rejoined our group. Cole summed up the experience: “The commune sucked, man.”
A local couple put us up for the night in their deer hunting camp/shelter. I am not at liberty to disclose more as there is a high degree of certainty regarding the illegality of their structure and operations. The food was unbelievably bountiful and amazing, and despite our knowing admission that the need to eat was dire I felt it was particularly difficult to eat. The steak, cakes, chips, beans, salad, fruit, chicken, brownies, cokes, muffins, Rice Crispy Treats, and whatever else was there didn’t go down easy. I had to force the process, mechanically chewing. I was a little shattered—actually I was a lot shattered—and there was something about the effort of eating that I had to convince myself was worthwhile.
This place, being a deer hunting lodge fit for a well-prepared crew resplendent with their own personal camping equipment and not well stocked for a collection of ride-light, CLIF Bar-eating, hot weather athletic clothing-wearing types, the lot of us had to get inventive with our sleep set up. While the first and smartest of us staked claims on one of the two available beds, the rest of us had to be creative in our approach with the hope of discovering a marginally comfortable sleep experience. Our success varied. Moi wore his jacket as pants, Cole slept on top of a picnic table, and I slept in the back of the van. It was cold enough to be uncomfortable, as if legions of icy fingers kept prodding you awake.
We had to be up early the next morning. We had to keep riding our bikes. Our route took us along the Klamath River and at various points we stopped to piss, fix flats, and take photos. Daniel responded to repeated GI inquiries, letting fly over the side of a cliff, and Emilano captured this deeply philosophical moment on film. What did this say about our trip, what tempest had been quelled?
Happy Camp, a since-acknowledged Yonder Journal outpost, made its initial appearance in the annals of our experience as a breakfast-slash-early morning nap location. For this type of multi-use eating and sleeping experience I can highly recommend the Frontier Cafe. With a curated selection of Americana breakfast options and sturdy, flat tabletops at every place sitting, we were able to eat our fill, ravenously devouring scrambled eggs and home fries with a appetites that had been absent the night before. We dozed, intermittently drooling across the tabletop, until the last of us had finished eating and it was time to once again ride on.
By all accounts, some of the worlds finest swimming holes are to be found in the Mythical State of Jefferson. Not every corn dogging spot is par excellence, however. Hours after our morning meal the crew ground to a halt at a homely culvert. We were aware that down the road we were to face the longest and steepest climb of the trip, and with yesterday’s dry experience fresh in our minds, we ventured to take advantage of any and all corn dogging opportunities. It was not our finest moment. The shallow waters were dotted with discarded detergent bottles and a few odd shoes had capsized along the shore and those who did swim did so while logging trucks rushed by, horns blaring. We of course looked like pussies.
We had stopped for Coca-Colas and ice creams at a tiny little convenience store in Seiad. From here we would be leaving the main road and would once again be climbing into the mountains. It was very, very hot and the heat pulled at our faces like hyper-gravity, creating the hangdog look of the wounded. Had the proprietor of the store told us that the road ahead was simple and quick, that the temperature would definitely drop, that there were lemonade stands and massage therapists dotting the entirety of our journey I don’t doubt we would have left that place slightly invigorated. Instead his words, portent and dire, foretold a road recently repaved with bowling ball sized gravel in the spirit kidney stones and delivered by hell-bent truck drivers gone mutant on mescaline and roadhouse speed. We were to expect All Quiet On The Western Front trench-sized water bars and unbelievable heat; solar flare meets nuclear explosion heat. I don’t know what this dude's angle was because his tact wasn’t convincing me to buy any more Snickers bars from him. Mostly I just felt bummed and anxious.
Even without the truckers, the gravel and the serious water bars made this climb a bear. The heat didn’t disappoint and as we neared what appeared to be the ridgeline the road would turn a bend to reveal another set of peaks and ridges. This was going to be a motherfucker.
And there it was, streaming down mountainside like a sweaty wizard's beard, a magical waterfall crashing into a shallow pool at the road's edge. This is the kind of thing you dream for and never realize, a sort of, "What am I going to eat when I finish this ride?" fantasy delivered on silver platter, this was a dream oasis, the kind of place the builders of Las Vegas mean to copy with their glib theatrics. This is the pool where John posed for his “Boys of Bib Shorts” calendar and Moi acted upon his Will Oldham – The Mountain Low fantasy to our delight and distress.
Not far past the wizard waterfall the road finally gained the topmost ridge and we once again rested, feasting on chocolate bars while joking through the insensible consciousness of fatigue. We met Anish, and after hearing of her Pacific Crest Trail thru hike, we gave each other trail names. Emi was Chubby Tie-Dye. We took dumps in the rattlesnake-infested underbrush. Daniel was Meat Ring. We talked the talk of thirteen-year-old boys and our cackles carried our choice expletives across the forest. John was Shivering Goosebumps. That our neighbors in matching zip-off hiking pants and future-fabric camping shirts were displeased was evident in their horror putty scowls. Mike's was Flashback.
Cowboys ride horses, and bikes are not horses. On the descent from wizard falls mountain our troop had to ad-lib a bit of real Western work. A herd of cattle, while eager to flee the angry buzzing of our Chris King hubs, seemed to be governed at a rate I would place slight above "agitated walk," and the group certainly wasn't interested in getting off the narrow mountain road. Of course this was stressful for the poor animals if dreams were easy I would have had a Temple Grandin hug machine in my pocket. As we tracked them downhill they let fly shrapnel excrement, accompanied by the lowing wails of agitated herbivores. We had to dare, we had to dodge, and as we let loose with our own howls the sea of beef parted, blindly charging into the surrounding fauna.
From what I can tell there were many flats on the descent. David’s carbon wheel exploded, Daniel chain-punctured one tube after another, and by and large the majority of the crew just wanted to get down. Moi, Greg, John and I skirted the pneumatic plague and rested in the shallow trickling water of a no-name creek in a no-name bend on a no-name road.
Somewhere between the flat bonanza and the Applegate Lake overpass, we passed from Oregon into California. Oregon greeted us with open arms, open containers, and open waters. There were some flips, some displays of aquatic prowess, and some humble ingratiation with the locals. It was hot, there was a beach, and though this wasn’t an all-time top ten corn dog spot, at that point at that time I would have stayed all day.
Mike had a couple more climbs planned for us but they were not to be. His legs and our legs were not interested in doing any more ascending then necessary. From Applegate Lake we descended in a fit, harried on by the finality of our energy. Mike the debt of his Herculean effort to keep pace with a younger group of riders compiling, was beginning to fade. Spit out the back, he would gain the group back time and time again. It was the McKee Bridge Restaurant and their burgers that infused the group with the energy needed to make it back to Ashland.
It was with the arrival of the rest of the group that I learned about water intoxication. Daniel it seemed couldn’t keep any water down despite his best efforts. This was concerning. Not like an oh shit we have a big climb or its already getting dark concerning, those being the types of concerning that although not desirable can typically be managed with time and patience. This water vomit thing that was happening, that was a whole other type of distress. It turns out that after prolonged physical efforts its not enough to just replace your fluid loss you must also replace the salts and minerals that are essential for the rehydration process. This is what makes Gatorade green. Of course this is why Daniels jersey looked like it had been on one of Italy’s most pigeon perched statues. Those white streaks were the salt skeins of dehydration.
Back from the dead. Hours before, Daniel had been facing death by hydration and now, as we approached Ashland city limits it would come down to Daniel and John sprinting for the line. If I wasn’t so tired I might have been impressed. Unfortunately for those two, Ashland’s city limits sign is placed miles outside the metropolitan core. We finished, was it a strong finish? No, no it wasn’t. It was just a finish. Showers, food, drinks, and pass out.
What You Do
Captions by Daniel Wakefield Pasley
As noted above, there are two primary routing options out of Cecilville: one is the way we went, up an unending climb modeled with fire and brimstone; the other is the way you should go, down a beautiful road and by an idyllic swimming hole. The latter is our primary route, found in the cuesheet at the top of the post.
Following the instructions provided in the primary cue sheet linked at the top of this post will bring you to Matthews Creek Campground, whereat a swimming hole with ample opportunities for cliff jumping, floating and rapid-ing exist.
Instead of turning onto Eddy Gulch Road in Cecilville, you'll continue heading south on Cecilville Rd.
Approximately nine miles further, you'll find the Matthews Creek campground. It's here that you can find the swimming hole, which is further documented on Yonder Journal.
If you really, really, really want to climb Black Bear Mountain, you're welcome to do so with the assistance of the cue sheet attached here (PDF). But keep in mind there's no water, it's an unreasonable combination of steep and rough, it's probably really hot, the commune sucks, etc. etc. And you'll miss an all-time swimming hole and an all-time road.