Sorry for the delays, life is crazy!
Bernie took the lead as we climbed further, passing through the trees from clearing to clearing. Rounding a corner I see Bernie stopped in the middle of the trail starting to turn around, a bull (likely a steer) staring him down.
A big boy, he stood there stomping his hooves and kicking dirt until the three of us grouped up. With all of us present he decided to clear the road for us and the rest of the herd followed suit. We let them get clear pass by, keeping an eye on the big one.
Shortly after that we cleared 6800' altitude, and began to descend. Every few hundred feet we dropped the temperature jumped up noticeably. The boundary of the National Forest was near, and it was getting later in the day.
We continued winding our way down and heading North in a roundabout way, passing through more burnt forest.
The landscape was beautiful and the road well graded. We made good time through here without any of the previous days drama. It was nice not to see any sand for a while, but I missed the technical sections of mid-Washington. None of us missed the heat.
Little did we know what we were in for. Lower and lower we went, the temperature already reaching the mid 80's. We continued the descent with the tiny town of Loomis, WA growing closer every minute.
Mountains gave way to broad flat valley, carved over time by release of glacial lakes, formation of rivers and eons of rainfall. With plenty of gas but no water, Loomis would be our next stop.