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Part 4 - Cloudburst
Energized by the liquid and the sense that we are close, Hahn, Cole and I race to the top of the climb. Aaron and Neil follow a few minutes later. In the parking lot at the top, Aaron immediately stuffs himself under the van and falls asleep within minutes. The rest of us find shade to eat and drink. The space between us is filled with gallon jugs of water, Cokes, Fig Newtons, bags of nuts, apples and hunks of bread. It’s an orgy of calories. The wind off the desert to the north is dry and cold and within minutes of narrowly avoiding spontaneous combustion, we’re zipping up and digging out vests and arm warmers. Aaron continues to sleep under the shade of the van.
Hahn: Is anyone else going to bring it up, the Aaron thing? I don’t think it’s good that he’s able to make REM sleep so soon after that climb. He might be broken.
Neil: That’s it, I’m done, I’m cooked I’m packing it in.
Ira: I thought we were talking about Aaron?
Neil: I think I might get out for the descent but otherwise…
Cole: Aaron’s fine, he’s just sleeping off a light case of heatstroke.
Angeles Forest Highway starts with a massive tunnel and miles of rolling roads. The road we came up, closed to cars, dead-ends on the road we are on. The road we are on ends a few miles past where we joined it. We effectively own an empty, epic road on top of the world. At one point Aaron and I, only a few feet apart and descending at 35mph, round a corner into a headwind. We’re blown across the road together and stuffed into 14mph within seconds. When it’s safe to look up we burst into laughter, the glad-to-be-alive variety. Eventually, the road starts to climb, with fewer reciprocal descents as we approach Cloudburst Summit. We pass two ski resorts, Waterman and Snowcrest. On the other side of Cloudburst, my cyclometer doesn’t dip below 35mph for 25-minutes, and several times I hit 48mph plus for minutes at time. The field, led by Ben and Ira, is all over the place. I drop Hahn on the last major-ish climb before our final descent, a 15-mile run into Pasadena. Hahn flats but decides to ride it out to the top, where we’re all waiting at RedBox Ranger Station. Cole blows by us and heads straight down, like a horse making for the stable. Aaron almost does the same but we catch him.
"We’re re-provisioning and getting ready to leave when a sudden gust of wind blows over a tall, sticky bag of empty bottles, wrappers, half-eaten fruit and God knows what left near the van’s side-door. It lands right on Aaron who's sleeping under the van. He needed to get up anyway but that was cruel." – Hahn