Panther Gap

The climb up to Panther Gap features a number of switchbacks with no really difficult sections. However, the road keeps going up and up for several miles with no relief.

The setting sun cast everything in a golden light.

A view of the countryside to the south.

Nearing the top, the sun had truly set and presented a lovely scene yet it was no time to dally. I pushed on in order to cover as much distance as possible before total darkness set in.

We stopped just over the top of Panther Gap to put on more clothes and attach headlamps to our helmets.

Here I smile, not knowing the miles of difficult descent ahead on switchbacks. The meager headlamp beam barely allowed us to pick out the dashed lines in the center of the road as they rushed up. There was nothing reflective on this narrow, steep road. We also could not see the rough road surface and had to just absorb it as best we could.

Here, Patrick stopped to capture a shot of me cursing as I nervously tracked the dashed lines around a hairpin turn. My delight in finally getting off the descent quickly turned to more vociferous curses when we properly entered Humboldt Redwoods State Park and the dashed lines I'd used as my sole guide disappeared. With no dashed lines, nothing reflective on the road and tall redwoods obliterating any moonlight, we rode for many miles in near total blackness. The light from our headlamps dimmed as the batteries wore down.

I recalled Obi-Wan Kenobee calling out from beyond the grave near the end of Star Wars: "Luuuke. Trust the Force." Tracking our way through the blackness felt like that. However, whenever a car came along we accelerated madly, making the most of the illumination before it disappeared. The above photo shows me safely back at the truck. Ride over! If I ever do this ride again we need to bring some more serious lights. That, or ride faster and not dilly-dally so much taking photos.

Stats: 100 miles; 9,900 ft of vertical.

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