Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Fire and Ice Loop…

…Where the Fire only came from the camp stove, and the Ice was mostly liquid. 

Makaela and I decided to do the Fire and Ice Loop. I had stumbled upon the route a year or so ago while looking for some close options for overnight bikepacking trips. We had just finished the overnight to Rainbow Falls. Both of us had obligations for Monday morning, so we planned to head to the start Monday afternoon, camp out, then start the route Tuesday. 

With some info from some friends who had done the route over the weekend, we opted to camp at a campground near a PCT Trailhead that is on the loop. 

We got to Crest Campground around 6:00. We got the bikes unloaded, and our tents set up. 

The morning after (it was too dark the night before)

In the morning, we packed up, moved the car to the trailhead parking, and hit the route. It had started misting just before we took off. 

Billy ready for trip #2. 


No crashies, no flatties, no whammies! 

Bubble of safety!

Before long, the the rain was becoming a bit more than a mist. It was becoming poncho time. I stopped and donned my poncho. 

Our first stop of the day was at Natural Bridges. It’s a place where water has created bridges of rock. 

The first bridge (Makaela walking to it)

Who is that poncho-wearing weirdo?

The colors were also spectacular! 

We decided the rain made the colors pop even more (at least, that’s what we kept telling ourselves).

These were sheltered under a tree. 

After wandering around Natural Bridges, we returned to our trusty steeds and headed back out to the route. 

The rain continued as we made our way to attraction number 2, the Gular Ice Caves. It is a series of caves (like lava tubes) that are common in this area. I’ve been to the Ape Caves which are not that far away. What makes this cave different is that it has ice in it. Well, it has ice late into summer…but not so much into Fall. Still we made our way down the stairs into the cave with our headlamps. 

Makaela was quite nimble on the rocks…me…not so much. 

That black part is not some doorway (it’s the shadow of my phone).

Looking back at the stairs

Coming back out (photo courtesy of Makaela)

Just as we exited the cave, a field trip of 5th graders were about to go into the cave. Whew! We got out just in time!

Back on the road, the rain was continuing to make our day…great (okay, maybe not great). In the morning, before we left, a Forest Service employee stopped to make sure we weren’t going to ride our bikes on the PCT. When we told him what we were doing, he kind of questioned our sanity (in this weather?). He asked where we were going to camp. We told him Surprise Lakes. He then told us there was a shelter called Lone Butte just off of FS Rd 30, which we would be riding on. He said we would go right by it, and it had a wood stove. This was further than Surprise Lakes. 

As we were riding along, we were thinking about this shelter. My concern was that it wasn’t included as a POI on the route. Seemed like, if there was this awesome place, it would be in the POIs. We kept riding, our hands and feet starting to get pretty cold and wet (even with waterproof gloves). 

We made the turn onto FS 30. It was paved, and going down.  Makaela stopped when she saw a sign that said Lone Butte Sno-Park. It said it was 5 miles. There was a gated gravel road. Was this the way to the shelter? I looked ahead on the Garmin. It appeared that the road would loop around, eventually coming back to our route. We decided to give it a try. 

We rode along, not seeing any signs of a shelter. I could see on the Garmin, that just before we rejoined the route, we would cross Meadow Creek. We decided if we didn’t come to the shelter, we would camp close to the creek so we could get water. We got to the creek, and there was a great campsite. I said we were home for tonight! 

We were both freezing, so hurried to set up our tents (Makaela got to experience her first time of setting her tent up under the rain fly). We then heated some water for hot cocoa, and eventually, dinner. We both retired to our tents to eat our dinners, and basically spent the rest of the night in our tents. 

In the tent for the night. 

The next morning, it wasn’t raining so much, but everything was still wet. At least we both had dry clothes to start out in (but wet shoes which made for cold feet, and wet gloves that didn’t keep the digits very warm). The beauty of it just being an overnight, was that I rode in my sleep clothes under some long pants, my hoody, my hi-vis jacket, and my Shake Dry jacket. I had a whole set of dry clothes waiting 15 miles away in Makaela’s car. 

As I was finishing packing up, Makaela was riding around. As I pulled out onto the road, she comes back, saying she found the shelter. Yep, turns out it was just on the other side of the creek!!! 

We could have had a fire! We could have dried everything out! We could have been WARM! 

It was just as the guy had said…right off FS 30. The reason it wasn’t listed as a POI on the route was because we weren’t on the route (as it was originally published). On the original route, there was a crossing of Rush Creek that has been permanently closed. The Forest Service has brought in a bunch of boulders and brush to keep ATVs (and pretty effective at keeping bikes out too) from crossing there. Our friends, who had done the route this last weekend, did not know about the closure. They ended up hike-a-biking over the boulders, and around the brush. Makaela knew about the closure, and also had found where someone had published a comment with a detour. I had recreated the route with the detour. The shelter was about halfway through the detour, so not listed as a POI on the original route. 

It all made sense after we found the shelter. It was a bummer that we didn’t find it last night, but we survived anyway. 

Since we had done 38 miles the day before, we only had 15 to go. Not long into the day, it started raining a bit more. We also had a 4 mile climb, which was good because it warmed us up nicely. Even my fingers were finally warm (until the next downhill sucked the warmth right out of them). We had about as long of a descent as we had climbed. 

Before long, we made the turn onto the road that the car was parked on. It was just two more miles…all uphill. The car was a beautiful sight to behold! We loaded everything, and changed into dry clothes. Heater and butt warmers on full blast, we headed home. 

As you can tell, I didn’t take any photos, except the one, today. That would have involved taking my glove off, and my hands were too cold. When we were about 2 1/2 miles from the car, the sun made an ever so brief appearance. But, then it was back to rain. 

The route (especially with the detour) was not a difficult route. Yes, it would have been nicer if we had not had rain the entire time, but we managed. If we go back again, with nicer weather, we would definitely consider staying in the shelter (now that we know exactly where it is)! 

Everything hanging to dry. 

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