Visiting an old friend, having ridden through the Cedars as part of the The Wild Horse. Taking the short course route I come upon the junction to Hastings Pass, the road continuing around the mountains the bastion between the dry high desert landscape and black ash.

It’s a shock. My planned campsite is nothing but black and grey surrounding the burnt stumps of what few trees can survive in this place. The fire must have been recent, the smoky smell strong as I continue the climb up the pass. I’m tired, it’s getting dark and cold and I don’t know where I’m going to camp. Grateful for my handlebar light I trudge, pondering in passing the few bare, rocky, sloping spots big enough to sleep on. Unimpressed or just stubborn, I keep turning the pedals. The terrain turns ever upward, the canyon walls now closer, steeper, the rocks more rocky. I am literally crawling, just enough forward momentum to keep from falling over, darkness closing in and cold caressing my face. My light picks up a fallen sign, clearly run over (likely by someone unhappy with the now years-old Wilderness Area designation), smashed but still readable as the summit. Off to the right, an old jeep road. I know this ends at a trailhead, gateway to the high point of this range. Given the choice between descending and more climbing the choice is clear, pre-ordained, no real choice at all. I drink, I breathe, I continue my crawl. A quarter-mile brings a dirt turnaround, a corner relatively flat, the view spacious. I am on top of a burned world, stars, airplanes and satellites shining, streaming and blinking their approval of my campsite.