Becky had been down in Santa Rosa (220 miles south of our home here in Eureka, CA) taking care of her mother while she was recovering from some eye surgery. Becky was able to make it home only for part of this Memorial Day weekend before going back down to S.R. again…it seemed only natural to break out the motorcycles, take a ride and spend some time together.
I had been hearing about this "Forest Highway,” USFS 1 for years now. It travels north and south connecting Highways 36 and 299. I didn’t know much about it other than reportedly it IS paved all the way, it closes for the winter, that it travels a ridge top and is supposed to have scenery to die for. I checked it out on the map and the Hwy 101 to 36 to USFS 1 to 299 and home should be about 170 or so miles…nolo problemo.
We took off Saturday morning about 8:30 and made it as far as Ferndale (15 miles) before we decided that maybe we should have some breakfast at Curley’s Bar and Grill before going any further. For all those who rode the "Lost Coast Ride" with us at the ST-N's, West Coast Regional are familiar with Curley’s (the owner Curley used to be the manager for “Spanky and Our Gang” and is a local celebrity)…GREAT food. This breakfast lived up to the restaurant’s reputation.
After finishing our meal (and licking the plates...at least I did) we went outside to get on our bikes and really couldn't help but notice that the police were are blocking off the main street of town for some sort of Portuguese religious parade…we watched for awhile, it was all very colorful and cool.
So we got back on the road, fueled up in Fortuna (not much in the way of gas where we’re headed) and headed out the legendary Highway 36. Hwy 36 is always a fun road to ride but with a bit too much traffic on this holiday weekend. We topped off our fuel tanks in Dinsmore, rode another 5 miles or so to the USFS 1 turnoff, turned left and up and away we go!
It became immediatly obvious that USFS 1 was NOT going to be a sport-bike sort of road and that we were going to be in for a bit of an ordeal! In reality this so-called "Forest Highway" proved to be pretty much a paved goat trail through some VERY RUGGED mountains. It travels straight up and straight down, scattered with ALL SORTS of obstacles and is FULL of VERY TIGHT, non-engineered curves to negotiate.
I was rarely out of first gear. It didn’t look like the road had been open for very long with lots of debris, rock slides and logs (recently bucked to give some access) across the road.
After about an hour and seeing only 2 vehicles, we came around a corner and screeched to a stop. Damn, that looks like SNOW! Lot's of SNOW! The road was completely blocked by a large drift. It must have been at least 30 yards across and 5 or 6 feet deep! (ok, so maybe it was 15 yards across and 2 or 3 feet deep) There was simply no way we were going to make our way through it on these bikes.
We considered our situation carefully. I figured we could maybe get around the drift by going off-road for a ways between the trees, up a hill and through the forest…but then what?
All this time we had been traveling up the south slope of this mountain (the sunny side) and from here on out we’d be dealing with the shaded, north slopes…and I know there is a 5,000 foot pass coming up. There would be no coming back up through the snow barrier (my "through the forest trail" was going to work one-way only) if we were actually able to negotiate the going down through it…Becky thoughtfully decided to name it “THE SNOWDRIFT OF DOOM!”
We decided the only prudent thing to do was to turn around and head back. We’d only gotten about ½ mile or so down the road when we happened upon some riders on quads. We stopped and told our story to them and they assured us that there were ONLY two drifts blocking the road and the one we saw was by far the worse…they seemed to think we could make it (really, what do they have to loose?). We hated the idea of backtracking over the same road we rode in on, tails between our legs, admitting we'd been defeated and leaving the majority of this road still unridden. We decided to go for it. So back we went, taking off through the woods, just like we had any sense at all. Between the trees we rode, over the limbs, through the snow and miraculously we came out on the other side in fine shape.
The second drift was no big whup…there were tire tracks to follow and it was only about 10 feet across. We were feeling like old hands and were quite comfortable with spinning and sliding our way through the snow.
Now we could settle back, relax (when we weren’t dodging crap all over the roads) and enjoy the scenery. It the scenery was SPECTACULAR! As I mentioned before the road is perched directly on top of a ridge on South Fork Mountain. To the west you can see the mountains, ridges and valleys trailing all the way down to the coast with the Pacific Ocean in the distance. To the east the snow covered Trinity Alps dominate the skyline…and there is NO ONE else was around…it was awesome.
We stopped at about the half way point, goofed on the scenery, ate some energy bars, drank some water and declared it a fine “lunch” (there being no restaurants nearby-HA).
After about 3 hours into this 50 something mile piece of road we started noticing some faded fog lines painted on the sides of the road (there had been no paint at all up to this point). A sure sign that we were getting closer to civilization that we would perhaps actually see our home again someday. We stopped and I smoked a celebratory cigar.
...and Becky did the “Sound of Music” "we're going to live after all" dance in a grassy field.
Then we picked up a centerline again! The decent from this ridge line was a continuous steep grade, full of hairpin turns with gravel, rock and bark in them for the next 10 or so miles.
Suddenly we were surprised to find ourselves unceremoniously dumped out into civilization on Highway 299 at the top of Berry Summit. We whooshed westward on our way homeward at HIGHWAY SPEED…what utter delight.
All in all we’re glad we did it. It was an adventure for sure but we did live to tell about it (the best kind). I don’t think we’re going to be traveling over “The Forest Highway” again anytime soon but we will carry the images of those spectacular views in our hearts and minds for a very long time!
Total miles…I figure about 170
Total time…8 hours!