Mountain Bike Bill, Get the Dirt on the Dirt

Downieville 2007 - Day 1

Day Five of the Norcal 2007 Trip

Downieville is freaking awesome!! I could not wait any longer to tell you that. With great trails, incredible scenery and enough blistering fast downhills to keep your inner speed demon fed, I can not imagine anyone not having a great time on a bike here.

I had rolled out of Truckee about an hour before the rest of the group as I needed to get into town and find out where my cohort in trail grime for the weekend, Bill O’neil had snagged us a camping spot. The plan was to hook up with him after a run down the “Downville Classic Downhill”.  Cell service is patchy to non-existent in Downieville so Bill was to leave word with the folks at Yuba Expeditions.  I made good time to Downieville and I was soon chatting it up with the Yuba folks. It takes all of about two minutes of being in the shop to start feeling the cool vibe of this place.  The word was that Bill had scored a primo camping spot right near the one the trails (Yes I’m being ambiguous). The town itself had a cool feel to it and if you get some free time between rides it is well worth a perusal through town.
Directions:   Just get into Downieville.  Everything is within spitting distance. 
images/Trails/Norcal07/DownievilleClassicsMap.JPG Map: Here is the map of the first day of fun in Downieville.   Yuba Expeditions have complementary maps that will get onto the classic trails but getting one of the larger ones is a good call.  The Forest Services Lakes Basin/Sierra Buttes map is excellent.    Here is the TOPO File          GPS-How-To
KML  GPX Morning Ride GPS Files for Butcher Ranch - 3rd Divide - 1st Divide 

Afternoon Ride GPS Files for Big Boulder - 2nd Divide - 1st Divide 


The Classic Downhill

images/Trails/Norcal07/Norcal07-Downieville-19JUL07-03.jpg Soon Cris, Heath, and Fady arrived and before long we were loaded up and in the shuttle van headed towards Packer Saddle. The drive up to the saddle was pretty exciting on it’s own as our driver was well versed in the handling characteristics of a fully loaded 15-passenger van at speed on curvy mountain roads. After a weekend of taking this shuttle I highly recommend the far-back seat on the passenger side for best "experience".

images/Trails/Norcal07/Norcal07-Downieville-19JUL07-02.jpgBefore long we were at Packer Saddle at 7,070 feet and rolling. At almost 17 miles long with 5,316 feet of descent with only 919 feet of climbing the Classic Downieville Downhill is simply freaking awesome.   It consists of a handful of trails. We hit up the Sunrise Trail to Butcher Ranch to 3rd divide to Lavezzola Road to 1st Divide which took us down into the outskirts of town at 2,900 feet.

      The Sunrise trail is the newest edition to the classic downhill route and it is a 1.9 mile fun section of singletrack that is a great warmup.  While you are mostly descending there are a few incidental up and downs to keep you busy as well as a few tight but flowing turns.  
images/Trails/Norcal07/Norcal07-Downieville-19JUL07-04.jpg This brings you out onto a dirt road where you make a quick right followed by picking up the Butcher Ranch OHV trail on your left.   This section of gravelly jeep road is pretty wide with good sight lines while it just flushes the elevation away.  You can get stupidly fast through here.  Soon you come to the Butcher Ranch trail.  This trail is technical but fast.  I would say it is the most technical of the whole route.  Speed is your friend for most of this trail.   The trail mellows out a bit once the Pauly Creek trail merge in on your right.   images/Trails/Norcal07/Norcal07-Downieville-19JUL07-05.jpg
images/Trails/Norcal07/Norcal07-Downieville-19JUL07-14.jpg The next landmark is the steel footbridge.   Right after crossing the bridge you will start the climb up to 3rd Divide which can be a pain, particularly if you ride a big bike.  It is less than half a mile but enough to stick it to you.  Just before you reach 3rd Divide you will see two trails heading off to your left.  These are both the 2nd Divide trail.  The two lines merge just a little ways done the trail.   You know when you are at the top of 3rd Divide.  About 30 yards past the top of the 3rd Divide the Big Boulder trail merges in from the right.  images/Trails/Norcal07/Norcal07-Downieville-19JUL07-15.jpg
images/Trails/Norcal07/Norcal07-Downieville-19JUL07-07.jpg Third Divide is the MOST RIPPING singletrack I HAVE BEEN ON TO DATE!.  I felt like I was on one of those Speeders from the Star Wars movie on the planet Endor.  The kickass thing about this trail is that there are lots of trees, rocks, roots, and some cliff exposure that require you to be utterly on your toes.  Even still you can just FLY down this trail. images/Trails/Norcal07/Norcal07-Downieville-19JUL07-08.jpg

images/Trails/Norcal07/Norcal07-Downieville-19JUL07-06.jpg    images/Trails/Norcal07/Norcal07-Downieville-19JUL07-11.jpg     images/Trails/Norcal07/Norcal07-Downieville-19JUL07-12.jpg     images/Trails/Norcal07/Norcal07-Downieville-19JUL07-13.jpg

images/Trails/Norcal07/Norcal07-Downieville-19JUL07-09.jpgThird Divide dumps you out on Lavezzola Road were you will turn left and travel at little over 1.2 miles. Just after you cross Lavezzola Creek you will pick up the First Divide trail on your right.   This trail is lot of fun as well but it does not have such easily obtainable speed like Third Divide.  You will have to kick in some pedal strokes to get up to speed.  There are some nice sections of exposure here and there as well.   First Divide cross over Lavezzola Road once about halfway down and then dumps out on to the paved lower portion of the road again on the outskirts of town.   Go downhill and cross over the bridge and hang a left onto Main Street.  You will have a mild climb before you roll into the middle of town.

Big Boulder

images/Trails/Norcal07/Norcal07-Downieville-19JUL07-16.jpgimages/Trails/Norcal07/Norcal07-Downieville-19JUL07-17.jpgOnce in town, we ran into Bill and as luck would have it, the last shuttle was a wee bit delayed so after a bit (okay only the slightest) of arm twisting on Bill’s part, I bid farewill to Cris, Heath and Fady, loaded back up and was headed back up to Packer Saddle with Bill. This time we did the Sunrise, Big Boulder, 3rd, Divide, 2nd Divide, 1st Divide route.  Getting up to the top of Big Boulder was some work. We took Sunrise again but instead of dropping Butcher Ranch we continued on the fire road (FS 93-3).
images/Trails/Norcal07/Norcal07-Downieville-19JUL07-19.jpgimages/Trails/Norcal07/Norcal07-Downieville-19JUL07-23.jpgBill had been here before so I went into tag-a-long mode vice "remember for later" mode so take my directions and recollections with a grain of salt.   At around 3.6 miles there was a major turn. There is a trail head sign about 8 feet up on one of the trees on the left hand side that said “Pauley Creek 2 miles".  The fireroad got a lot rougher as it descended into Gold Valley. Pretty much right when you get to the bottom there is a doubletrack on your left.  I believe there is also some marker for Pauley Creek there as well.  Take the left and soon you cross over Pauly Creek.  After crossing the creek the road turns uphill and gets pretty rocky.
images/Trails/Norcal07/Norcal07-Downieville-19JUL07-22.jpgimages/Trails/Norcal07/Norcal07-Downieville-19JUL07-24.jpgReal soon there is another fireroad intersecting on your right.  If you keep going straight, you will take the Pauley Creek trail.  Take the right and keep climbing.  I remember this next mile or so of this climb as a rocky grunt.  The next intersection was the trail to Smith Lake off to the right.  We went to the left and uphill.  A half mile further up the fireroad you will want to keep to the left as there is a fireroad going off to the right.  A little further beyond this point the climbing mellows out a bit.  About 1.5 miles after that last turnoff you will come to a very prominent T-intersection.   You will want to turn to your right.  Bill and I went to the left and did a little side excursion off the left before coming back to this intersection and taking the the original right turn.
images/Trails/Norcal07/Norcal07-Downieville-19JUL07-25.jpg From this point you will be zipping along on double track for about half a mile before you pass the remnants of the Big Boulder Mine on your left.   After this point the trail turns into some singletrack.   You will have to do a short but steep climb before the trail turns downhill for good.  The Big Boulder trail is a true singletrack that is quite narrow with great views, twisty turns and enough technical features to keep you honest.   It was sooooo much fun.   images/Trails/Norcal07/Norcal07-Downieville-19JUL07-27.jpg

Big Boulder Pan Upper end of the Big Boulder Singletrack

images/Trails/Norcal07/Norcal07-Downieville-19JUL07-26.jpg Big Boulder dumped out onto the 3rd Divide trail.  My legs were feeling pretty worked at this point and we were starting to get a little concerned with how much of the day we had left.   We hung a left and did a quick grunt up 3rd divide and down the other side to pickup 2nd Divide on the other side.  images/Trails/Norcal07/Norcal07-Downieville-19JUL07-28.jpg
images/Trails/Norcal07/Norcal07-Downieville-19JUL07-33.jpg Second Divide was also a lot of fun.  It is a "working" downhill as the trail does lots of quick up and down pitches.  It also has some bits of exposure that could make for a nasty fall if you blow your line.  It was quite pretty and well worth it.   The light was getting pretty low so I only took a few pictures.   Besides we were a little concerned over daylight.  After about four miles or so 2nd Divide comes out on Lavezzola Road.  Our original plan was to hang a right and go down the road just a little bit and pickup up 1st Divide on our left.  Since our daylight was marginal at this point, we went to the left and rolled Lavezzola Road back into town just as darkness was setting in.  images/Trails/Norcal07/Norcal07-Downieville-19JUL07-30.jpg
I was officially freaking cooked by the end of this ride.  Somewhere above 30 miles was the total for the day.  I was hungry enough to eat the paint off of my frame.   Luckily that was not needed as we had some awesome burgers in the local restaurant called the "Grubstake".   After setting up camp in the dark we formulated plans for more singletrack conquest.  Now Bill was sporting a fresh set of legs while I have had thoroughly seared my today after slow cooking them all week long.   I balked at a couple of his recommendations that spelled out death march even with a fresh set of legs.   After several mighty fine  microbrews, we decided that we could figure it out in the morning.

The video from the 3 days in Downieville


Onto Day Six - The Norcal 2007 Trip