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Ride Report - Downieville/Gold Lakes Loop area

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Ride Report - Downieville/Gold Lakes Loop area

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Old 08-12-08, 07:54 PM
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bigbossman 
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Ride Report - Downieville/Gold Lakes Loop area

This past weekend was the annual "rent a cabin in the mountains" weekend for our family, and so we journeyed once again the the same little cabin we rent year after year. Located on the edge of Packer Lake in the Gold Lakes Loop area of the Sierra just northeast of Downieville off of historic Hwy 49, it is a a scenic, quiet little spot to sit and relax for a few days. The lake itself is only about 50 or so acres in size, but it is full of hungry fish, surrounded by pine forest and mountains, and is residence for eagles, osprey, deer, and the occasional black bear.

Situated at about 6200' in elevation, the back edge of the lake butts up against the base of a steep saddle and the ridge that comprises the Sierra Buttes, some 8500' in elevation. I spent Friday and Saturday with the family, fishing, sleeping, reading, and eating at random. I did, however, bring a road bike along. And on Sunday, I had accumulated enough energy to go for a ride.

And energy is just what is required to ride a bicycle in these parts, at least for me. As the lake itself is perched on a bench and at the end of the paved road, there is no place to go but down. It is a 3-1/2 mile down to the main road, and then you get to choose your poison. Turn left and you go up for 4 miles with a subsequent 8 mile descent, before having to loop back around and suffer climbing all the way back up to the lake via hwy 89 and then 49. Turn right, and you get to climb 7 miles up to Yuba Summit, descend 7-8 miles to the valley floor, and loop back around to face an 8 mile unrelenting slog back up to the turnoff to the lake. Total mileage either way is about 47 or so miles, with very few opportunities for water. If it's hot or windy, your potential for suffering is quite real.

Anyway - last year I turned left at the junction and paid for it dearly. So, this time, I turned right, and instructed the girls to give me 3 hours head start before looping in the opposite direction to meet up.

This time, I was in fine fettle and slowly but surely ground my way up Hwy 49 to Yuba Summit, and started down the other side. It was a very nice 8 mile descent with sweeping vistas, good road, no traffic, and excellent site lines. I eventually reached the bottom, and cruised to the Hwy 89 junction and took a left. This road was a bit more trafficked, what with it being a connector between two major highways and skirting around the base of the mountains. So, I found my self being fairly regularly passed by motor homes, trucks pulling boats/trailers, 4WD rigs, and working ranch trucks. No matter, though - there was adequate room on the right, and plenty of opportunity for faster vehicles to pass. Everyone was courteous, and after another 2-3 mile climb I drifted down to the town of Graeagle while battling a light to moderate headwind.

I reached the junction for the road going back up, and started to grind my way upward in building heat and suddenly dead air. Thankfully, my 3 hour head start had expired and the girls (right on time) came into view coming down opposite of me. I allowed them to pick me up, and we headed back into Graeagle for a cold soda and some ice cream before retiring back to the cabin for some fishing, BBQ, and S'mores.

Monday was getaway day, so I devised a plan to get one more ride in. This time, I planned a milk run down from the lake to Hwy 49, and then down Hwy 49 to Downieville, some 25 miles distant. I say "milk run", as the entire duration of this ride is a descent down the canyon with the Yuba River on the left and the mountains on the right. I helped pack the truck, and then instructed the girls to give me an hour before following me down.

In total, I dropped in excess of 3200' while having to climb a paltry 350' or so. Pretty good numbers for a 25 mile jaunt. Even coasting, I managed to average over 22mph for the entire 58 minutes it took to compete the run, and had time to lounge around town and enjoy a cold, refreshing beverage before I was rejoined by my wife and daughter.

Total mileage for both days was about 55, and the climbing and descending pretty much balanced on opposite sides of the ledger at around 3200'.

A few pics:

Garmin trace for Sunday's ride:


Garmin trace for Monday's ride:


Packer Lake - cabin is behind huge rock outcropping:


Mountain meadow:


Yuba Summit:


Yuba River drainage:


The Buttes:


Horse and barn on the valley floor:


Looking southeast towards Tahoe:


Hwy 49 and the Yuba River:
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Last edited by bigbossman; 08-13-08 at 12:29 AM.
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Old 08-12-08, 09:37 PM
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Great report. When I saw the title, I thought you were mountain biking at Downieville. Sweet.

Sounds like a great vacation.
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Old 08-12-08, 09:59 PM
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Fantastic pics - I love the shot of the horse and barn. There are some beautiful spots up there.
Did you catch any fish while you were there?
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Old 08-12-08, 10:13 PM
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Beautiful! Thanks for the ride conditions too- I`m trying to figure out where to go for a three to four day tour this Fall and that area is part of the top contender. Happy to hear the traffic is manageable.
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Old 08-13-08, 12:22 AM
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Originally Posted by MarkoPolo View Post
.....Did you catch any fish while you were there?
Always. These are the one's we kept, and had for dinner that night. The Sunday night dinner consisted of the best ribeye steak I've had in recent memory, corn on the cob, and baked potatoes - all cooked on my little "Smoky Joe" mini Weber that I bring along.

The fish:


(What's left of) the steak:


What swimming all day does to the family mutt. I wish I had his life:
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Old 08-13-08, 01:35 AM
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I was actually hoping to see a picture of the BigBossMan all decked out in full face helmet and armor. .
Great ride report, awesome pictures. I can't remember the last time I caught my dinner, way cool.
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Old 08-13-08, 07:33 AM
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What beautiful scenery! And I enjoyed your write-up as well -- it was (almost) as though I was there.

Thanks for sharing!
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Old 08-13-08, 11:05 AM
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Originally Posted by Ty.S View Post
I was actually hoping to see a picture of the BigBossMan all decked out in full face helmet and armor. .
Well - this one time, at band camp, I...... ummm...... nevermind.

Every year, I go up there with resolve to ride down one of the divides. And every year, I wimp out. I need someone to go with me to keep me from bailing..... Anyone up for a road trip?
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Old 08-13-08, 03:15 PM
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Sorry.. the last time I rode downieville the result was:

Broken Crankset
Bent Rim
Destroyed Chest protector
Destroyed shoulder pad
seat bag still somewhere out on course
Cracked Bell Full Face

Sprained wrist
Bruised Hip
Concussion (my 6th)

Over 15 crashes in 20mi. And in the end.. I was still having fun. Some of it was lack of experience with real singletrack, the other was just simple bad luck. In any case most of the crashes happened so fast i didn't have time to get worried. The rock garden crash was where I got my concussion.. just like everybody else who lets that front tire stop.

The way I looked at it.. I've been hurt worse when I wasn't having fun, so this is all good. For what its worth.. the 3rd Divide is by far the most fun, very fast and just flat out cool.
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Old 08-13-08, 07:14 PM
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Originally Posted by bigbossman View Post
Well - this one time, at band camp, I...... ummm...... nevermind.

Every year, I go up there with resolve to ride down one of the divides. And every year, I wimp out. I need someone to go with me to keep me from bailing..... Anyone up for a road trip?
<Raises Hand> Me. Me. I want to check it out... safely of course.


Originally Posted by Ty.S View Post
Sorry.. the last time I rode downieville the result was:

Broken Crankset
Bent Rim
Destroyed Chest protector
Destroyed shoulder pad
seat bag still somewhere out on course
Cracked Bell Full Face

Sprained wrist
Bruised Hip
Concussion (my 6th)

Over 15 crashes in 20mi. And in the end.. I was still having fun. Some of it was lack of experience with real singletrack, the other was just simple bad luck. In any case most of the crashes happened so fast i didn't have time to get worried. The rock garden crash was where I got my concussion.. just like everybody else who lets that front tire stop.

The way I looked at it.. I've been hurt worse when I wasn't having fun, so this is all good. For what its worth.. the 3rd Divide is by far the most fun, very fast and just flat out cool.
<Speechless>
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