Last Saturday, my buddy Scott and I met in Downieville to ride the XC course for the upcoming Classic on July 12th. I got there first and got a map from Yuba Expeditions. The map was just the centerfold from the Downieville Classic newspaper. I looked at it, folded it up, and stuck it in my pocket, the first of many times that day. The area was smoky, but better than it had been from the sounds of it and certainly not as bad as Carson City earlier in the week. It was plenty warm though, in the high-80s, by the time we got back to Sierra City where the XC course begins. We launched around 11:45 with full hydration packs, 2 bottles each, gels, bars, and spare tubes.
The climb to Packer Saddle started out nice enough but after a couple miles, it got steep and loose and definitely grabbed your attention. In the full sun and heat of mid day, it really gets your attention.
About five miles in, the road flattened out and we had a couple miles of easily pedaling before another short climb to the start of “Sunrise Trail”, a fun, fast section of twisty single track. We rode this to somewhere along where the Butcher Ranch section starts and then headed up a fire road to the beginning of what’s known as the Baby Heads. This section, a very rocky jeep road descent, keeps you on your toes. It’s notorious for crashes and flats and with the exception of one minor digger when I unclipped and still went down, overall it went OK.
The baby heads section segues into the Pauley Creek trail which was another fun section and a bit of a reprieve after the boulder hopping bedlam. Multiple smaller creek crossings were more than welcome cool downs from the day’s heat.
Pauley Creek itself was a nice wide splash over smooth free-stone and a good opportunity to get off the bikes and soak our heads. This would’ve been as fine a place as any to spend the remainder of the day drinking beer. Provided we had beer and not another 12 or so miles to Downieville.
Not long after this, things sorta went south from a navigation standpoint. Numerous times throughout the ride we stopped to consult the map at various intersections and up to this point, we’d made all the right choices. We came to a fork in the trail, a trail going up and a trail going down. Thirty yards down the low side, the trail split again. None of this quite seemed to jive with the map and our semi-confused state. Long story short, instead of taking the 3rd Divide trail, famous for it’s “Star Wars like speeds, magic carpet tread, bermed corners and lofty airs” we took the 2nd Divide, equally famous (in our book) for some extra suffering in the name of more up than down and enough hairy, rocky, hike-a-bike sections to convince us that this couldn’t be the race course anymore. That, and the Sleestaks.
The 2nd Divide eventually meets up with the Lavezzola Road and a mostly downhill run into Downieville. Somewhere along the way, we must’ve also missed the 1st Divide trail but we got 30 miles in nevertheless and were plenty cooked for it too. We capped the day off with some Boulder Brewing’s Hazed and Infused, purchased at the market across from the parking lot. A perfect end in more ways than one.