Downieville MTB weekend, July'04

Saturday, July 17, 2004

Downieville, CA: Sierra mountainbiking heaven

After an unbelievably long drive up (left SF at 3pm and arrived after 10pm) we checked into our decadent (for me, at least) motel rooms on a warm evening in Downieville. There were 4 riders (DS, SC, AZ, & me), two ladies not riding and two doggies in our party. After a pint or two at the local saloon (St Charles Place, where their motto is: Liquor in the front, poker in the rear -- and that's the way it was), we headed off to bed to rest up for tomorrow's ride: The Big Boulder Trail.

In the morning, we relaxed by the river while waiting for our shuttle. Soon, we were atop Packer Saddle at 7100' (around 4200' higher than Downieville), the start of the downhill runs. From the start of the ride, we could view Sierra Buttes, about a mile to the south.

Pre Ride

Pre Ride

Soon, we were on our way. The first few miles are an easy northwesterly traverse over the divide between upper basins of Butcher and Pauley Creeks. We had great views of Sierra Buttes (8941' - 2725 meters) and down into the canyon of the North Yuba. Pennyroyal and many other flowers were in bloom

The tough part of this trail is the loose gravel spread all over the road. It got a little squirrelly at high speed with pebbles flying around. The forest was Red Fir with White and Jeffrey Pines with a manzanita ground cover. We were there at prime-time summer - beautiful.

Canyon of the North Yuba

High Cruise

After a technical, rocky descent down the so-called 'baby head' section, we reached Gold Valley. There were meadows and a couple of wet crossings of Pauley Creek. It was tempting to spend the rest of the day here, but we had quite a way to go.

From Gold Valley, we could view our objective: Big Boulder Ridge.

We were fortunate to get a little cloud cover just in time for what actually turned out to be a pretty mellow climb of BB Ridge.

Stream Crossing

Gold Valley

Just a few steep switchbacks followed by a long traverse and we were on the top - around 6400'. There we had lunch while enjowing sweeping views from northeast to southwest with Sierra Buttes dominating the landscape to the southeast.
North from Big Boulder Ridge

Big Boulder Ridge

Here's where it gets gnarly. The downhill from the top of Big Boulder Ridge and Third Divide is a relentlessly technical and steep descent of 2000' in less than 3 miles. But right at the start, we had technical difficulties requiring the combined skill of SC & AZ.

SC must have caught a stick or something happened to almost sever his rear D cable where it loops around the rear hub and connects to the rear D. The housing was ripped and the cable had a couple of severed strands. SC offered up a nylon strap and AZ lashed the cable to the stays.

On and on... and on we descended through several exposed and challenging stretches. We passed an old mine and rolled through areas of pretty blue or black oaks. Lots of loose rock, sticks, steepness, bears (not), rock obstacles -- very challenging.

Pit Crue

Down Down Down-ieville

Finally, we are down off of Big Boulder Ridge. Now, the trail traverses the ridge dividing Pauley and Lavezzola Creeks.

These trails feature technical singletrack on ledges perched high above the two creeks. Plenty of ups and downs and numerous exposed technical rock outcrops. Definitely a no fear zone.

I saw lots of strong riders, including our own DS who was sticking everything. AZ & SC were so far ahead, I didn't get to see them ride very much. Several people passed me, but all in all, we didn't see too many people - and it was a Saturday.


Second & First Divide Trails

DS's photos