It's Wednesday morning, and I'm rushing a cup of freshly brewed coffee into the garage and starting to pack a bike. Cooking, sleeping bag, caribou, tarp or tent won't be needed, a few pieces of clothing, as much water as possible, coffee, tea, mug, tools and the necessary respirator. Somehow, I have this weird feeling in my stomach that this will be the last chance to go out overnight for a long time. The target is the Dog Church, which I've known about since last year, and I've long thought it would be worth going there for one night.
The weather is downright spring, the sun shines and warms slightly through a light haze, and the forecast for Wednesday and Thursday promises temperatures hitting thirteen degrees. Which is luxurious for late February. The route is planned for the graveling, and we know that the forest and especially the valleys are likely to be quite interesting.
At exactly two o’clock, Ondra arrives, and before I can blink, he has his bike out of the trunk and is ready for takeoff. Move out! We go to Hodkovice nad Mohelkou and here we turn off the main road and head for Petrašovice. These lie in the dimple, and so after leaving this village, we’ll warm up nicely. The valleys are very cold, and the hills are warm.
A hike makes you sweat and it freezes when you go downhill. What you might also expect in February. Beyond Český Dub we turn into a long and long climb towards Kotelský vrch. We turn off to Zábrdí, descend into the valley and are slowed down by ice on the road, with wheels on it I skate, one foot off the treadmill constantly, and every so often the icy surface tries to push us to the ground.
The road suddenly turns into a field of snow, and you can’t drive that on a graveling. All we have to do is get off our bikes, wade through the snow and push the bikes. Fortunately, it doesn’t take long before we’re in Zábrdí, where you can get back on your bikes and continue with the driving style. We are in Ralsk, all repeated, winter in the valleys and snow on the way in places. Fortunately, however, these are only short sections, and we no longer need to push. We’re steaming in Dopey’s direction, the sun is slowly sinking toward the horizon, and as it drops, so is the ambient temperature. Around 4:30, we’re in Mimona, where we buy food for dinner, breakfast and beer. Saddle up and ride. We still have a few miles to go, and the temperature is dropping fast. Finally, we are in Hradčany, where we detour into the woods in search of the Dog Church. We follow well-known roads because we hosted the Fat Bike Challenge here last year, but at the end of our journey today, we do get lost and end up on the next hill to the church. After searching for a while, we finally find the right turn, and after a moment of intense pushing, we’re finally in position.
Too bad we missed the sunset. What can you do? We’re putting our bikes down and going to the sleeping place. This has changed a lot since last year’s visit. There’s a sit-in by the fire pit, and most of all there’s plenty of sawn wood. In a rock niche we find newspapers and PePo for kindling, a cup of full-fat mustard and a metal barbecue grate. We won’t use the newspaper and the lighter, we’ve got birch bark for that, except we’ve got to collect kindling rattles and some smaller sticks. In the end, we do just fine in the wet forest, and soon we have a small, not yet warm, more smoky fire. While we’re waiting for the fire to burn properly, we’re getting ready to sleep, and it’s awesome because someone’s brought in a lot of straw that’s surprisingly beautifully dry.
The fire is burning, the grate is on top of it, the sausage grate and the ermine beside it, the beer cans in their hands, and the evening flows beautifully. We talk, of course, about bikes, bikepacking, but we can’t avoid the subject of COVID and politics. That’s the way it is these days.
It’s a clear, chilly night, with the orange glow of the moon shining into the cave, and we go to lie down in our sleeping bags around ten. The night is calm. Cool, but comfortable in a sleeping bag.
We wake up early in the morning, as soon as we get out of our sleeping bags, we get an uncompromising chill. We quickly make coffee, followed by tea and poppy seed pie for breakfast. And it’s time to pack. The fingers are so brittle that packaging proves to be a very difficult proposition. The satchel can’t even be rolled properly, not to mention clipped to the handlebars. Eventually, we make it through, taking the trash, the bikes, and hitting the road. After arriving in Hradčan, we decide to take a detour home. We take the main road and every time we get into the sun we stop and greedily suck the heat from its rays. We warm up and enter the freezing shadow again, and this goes on and on. When all of a sudden we’re stopping here staring at the Welcome to the Doksy sign!
What? How’s Doksy? What are we doing here? I mean, that’s completely the other way around. We look at maps and find that right at the start we took a wrong turn and reached Doks. Ondra remarks that it probably won’t be at work at noon, to which I reply laconically that he probably won’t be able to get to work today at all. We’re reopening the maps, looking for the easiest way home. We choose the direction of Munich Hradiště, which we reach around noon. We’re hungry, so we stop at a small pizza place, I put on a respirator and go buy us one pizza and a Coca-Cola sugar drink. We’re sitting in a small parking lot, eating pizza, drinking morsels of Coke, feeling blissfully happy. Delicious pizza. The belly is full and so we can get back on the road.
Due to delays and detours, we choose the fastest but not the shortest route, the direction of Zhababakor and Turnov. From Turnov we are already following the well-known roads to Hodkovice nad Mohelka. Last hike on Twinkle, and we’re home by 3:00. Ondra quickly loads the bike into the car, we say goodbye, and the two of us go to our families. The bodies are tired, but the heads are clear. And we don’t know what lies ahead in the days to come.
I’m sure I can highly recommend the Dog Church; it’s certainly worth your visit. Just make sure you choose the day you go out there. By all means choose, if possible, working days of the week, as you may well not find a place to sleep on the weekend. And even if he doesn’t want to sleep here, he’s certainly worth a visit anyway. Whether by bike or on foot.
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