While Rick and Tom were still snoozing in the morning, I went for a soak in the Shika-no-yu hotspring just 200m upstream from the campground. There was just one other guy in there. It was another moody, misty, damp morning.
Today’s route was almost 100% closed to general traffic. Even the main paved road up to Horoshika Pass (幌鹿峠) – Hokkaido’s second highest paved road pass at 1,081m – was closed to traffic due to washed out sections that were currently being repaired. None of these closed sections today had anywhere near the damage that we’d experienced on the Penke-nikorobetsu Forestry Road up towards Tomuraushi. They were mostly easy going, beyond the steep gradients. The Shikaribetsukyou Minekoshi Forestry road (然別峡峰越林道) upstream from the campground on the other side of the river was clearly being repaired in places.
The road on the downhill from the pass was in worse condition however. We were all taking it easy to avoid deep wheel-swallowing ruts.
We were quite surprised to see the road up to Horoshika Pass closed. This was the last road we expected to be damaged. But the main gate at the bottom of the pass was closed. We continued on gingerly, but the worst was a recently repaired bit of gravel and a few unrepaired gouges in the road near some bridges.
At the top of Horoshika Pass, we started down The Siddle Sizzler. This newly named (by me) stretch of gravel would turn out to be one of the best gravel downhills I’ve ever ridden in Hokkaido. I’d even rate it up there in my top five I’ve experienced in my life. Rick (last name Siddle) spied this route down from the pass to Kamishihoro. Since we were heading to Kamishihoro, it only made sense that we’d take this direct route down there. From the pass, there was a 2km mostly flat section along the ridge, before the road dropped in earnest. For the next 15km, we’d drop 750m in altitude on some of the deepest but most consistent gravel I’ve ridden. On my 2.35″ tires on the wide 47mm rims, I had just enough float to make it ear-to-ear-ginning fun.
Rick and Tom on their narrower tires apparently had a tougher time of it, but I was far too ahead of them to notice, and I was certainly having too much fun to care.
We rolled into Kamishihoro like three drowned rats, and promptly took over Rick’s colleagues’s garage. The rest of the afternoon was a blur of stocking up on supplies, having an onsen soak at Nukabira, having good food, and sharing stories over drinks. Many thanks to Paul for hosting three smelly cyclists for a night!