Mountain Bikes and Buttes - October 2018

It’s fall in California. Days are getting shorter, the temperatures are falling, and the upcoming snowfall that will eventually close the forest is on my mind. A local 4x4 and mountain bike group I follow was putting together a weekend in Downieville and the surrounding areas, I had to jump on the wagon. Downieville is a California mountain biking mecca with well maintained, world class trails snaking through Tahoe National Forest. The “classic Downieville route” is a 16 mile, point to point trail with a total descent of almost 4,400 feet.

On this trip we would camp near the trailhead at around 7,000 feet, ride in the morning down to town and head back to the summit via a shuttle from Downieville. And to make the trip even better, monsoonal moisture brought nearly an inch of rain to the area the Wednesday and Thursday before we got there. We were about to enjoy some of the best riding conditions all season, and being able to explore around the forest service roads dust free was another big plus.

 Wednesday’s radar for the Downieville area! HERO DIRT!

Wednesday’s radar for the Downieville area! HERO DIRT!

We got into camp late on Friday night, and contrary to forecasted precipitation reports it rained a good portion of the night at the summit. Thankfully the wind was calm, making the rain a really serine addition to the night in the tent. Now, if only I brought my rain jacket…

Morning came, and we were off to the summit to meet up with the rest of the group at the trailhead for a day of riding.

After an awesome run to the bottom we shuttled back to the top where we enjoyed a well earned lunch and beer. Soon after, a few of us headed out for a quick 4x4 and hike to the top of the Sierra Buttes lookout. The trail isn’t too technical, but it’s a fun way to get almost to the top.

We wanted to get to camp with enough time to enjoy the sunset, so we pointed down the mountain for a little spot I had seen on an earlier trip. Sean (TRDP) decided to make a dash back to civilization, so it was just Peter and I camping for the night to ride in the morning. I had been keeping an eye on the weather, specifically the wind for Saturday night. High winds were supposed to develop Sunday afternoon from the ENE. So I wanted to position us on the SW side of the mountain, hoping for an eddy effect, giving us a break from the wind. Around 7-8pm the winds started to come up from all directions, and I knew the winds had developed early leaving us with a blustery night ahead. I stuck it out in the Autohome, and Pete opt’d to sleep in his passenger seat. I got more sleep than I thought I would, but even with earplugs in, the wind was wicked. We both called it a night early because of the cold and lack of campfire. Not before we watched one of the best sunsets I had ever seen.

The wind in the morning was steady and cold. Pete and I had the same thought, get off the mountain and into the trees to make coffee. You’ll test your tent break-down procedure trying to get things closed up with a 15+mph, 30º wind. You can’t see the wind in the photos, but believe me, its there. Once in the forest, we positioned the 4Runners to block as much of the breeze as we could.

Shortly after coffee time, we made our way over to the trailhead for another round at some downhill excellence. I took a scenic route there and was able to mark out a few more remote campsites for the next riding trip.

Pete and I were rewarded with some surprise Russian River Brewing Pliny the Elder at the local pizza joint in Downieville at the end of the ride. Quickly back to the summit on the shuttle, and we were on our way home. It was an excellent way to spend a weekend in the mountains, and with perfect conditions it really didn’t leave any stones unturned.

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Max Sheehan