Good Times, Good People, Great Trails

What a weekend…

Tom and I took Friday off so we could participate in all the activities for the spring Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship (SBTS) epic. Twice a year the stewardship invites its members to join in a weekend of riding, debauchery and some trail work.

The spring epic kicked off with an extra ride on Friday in Forest City. The Forest Trails Alliance (FTA) has been working to resurrect parts of trails and roads that were historically used to access mines, carry supplies, etc. They are establishing a series of trail loops in and around Forest City for non-motorized use and we got a preview Friday of the trails that aren’t fully under snow.

A group of about 20 people met in Forest City, about 12+ miles from Downieville via a combination of paved and dirt roads. Reps from the FTA organized the group and we were off, climbing towards part of the Sandusky trail. What makes the trails extra special is that some of the people in the FTA consider themselves artists, not just trail builders. Specifically, the art comes in the form of rock work and bridges…considering how remote some of these trails are, the work is truly art. Some pictures of the rock work can be found on their website, Riding with 20+ people and dogs requires a bunch of stops and re-grouping. Although some folks were anxious to keep things moving, most were just happy to be riding, not working, on a Friday. The first loop dropped us back to the parking area in “town” so people could grab more food (or beer in some cases.) Although I can’t speak to the history of Forest City, it has a history rich in mining. With a year round population of 3, it’s close to becoming a ghost town. But some of the old houses in town are being restored and if the trail system takes off, it’s like that population might increase.

The next loop saw us climb up part of the High Grade trail and then we dumped onto the Plum Valley Ditch trail, 7 miles of singletrack…actually it was all singletrack! As we progressed on the PVD trail, we stopped just short of a mining claim we had been warned about. The claim owner has some sort of rights further than just a mining claim that has apparently extended to the area also being private property. A piece of cyclone fencing lay across the old road bed and apparently easement and use rights are still being debated. We were warned to stay together and proceed through this area quickly. After a more lengthy break while one of the guys fixed a flat, we were on our way. We rode right by one of the mine openings and some of the lead guys decide to jump off their bikes and peek in the mine…bad idea. They could hear the sound of metal on rock, probably a hammer…someone was in the mine and working. Suddenly we hear someone yelling from down below…clearly pissed we were “trespassing”…we all start to hurry to get out of there when the first gunshot went off. I’ve never seen people move so quickly!! We get past the other fence blocking off the other side of the claim when a second gunshot goes off. You could hear a chorus of “oh shit!” as everyone scrambled to get the hell out of there. A few miles later in a forest opening, everyone re-grouped and shared the pissed-off-miner story. Soon we were on our way again for more awesome singletrack. At this point we were probably 10 or so miles into the ride. Timed perfectly, we popped out onto a fire road and feed station. The FTA guys had a spread of oranges, watermelon, peanuts, chocolate and water. I was ready for more calories and so was everyone else…

What followed was what the FTA called a “social spin”…less than a mile of a fire road climb and then about 3-4 miles of rolling road climb until we reach our next trail junction. At the relative top of the next trail, which dropped us back to the parking area, the FTA boys were again waiting with refreshments…this time of a more adult nature. I never thought chips, salsa and margaritas could be so good mid-ride. These guys were awesome!!! They ran a blender off an inverter hooked up to one of the vehicles and the tequila flowed.

While we enjoyed our margaritas, Zachi, the leader of the FTA pranksters, proceeded to confess to the miner/gunshot incident. It was the FTA boys in the mine, Zachi down below yelling and setting off firecrackers…basterd!!! We all felt like suckers…every one of us fell for it. After each of us finished a couple margaritas and more snacks, it was time for the final descent. This was the High Grade trail…3+ miles of almost all downhill. We ended back out on the road into Forest City for a couple hundred yards of rolling back to the Jeep. Our day on the trail and with the crew of new bike friends was almost 6 hrs and 19 miles. Everyone was dirty, thirsty (now there were beers) and telling stories of the day. Although we’d hoped to stop by the Indian Valley campground to hang a bit with our fellow riders, it was late and the dogs surely needed bathroom break. So we headed back to Sierra City and the cabin where we were fortunate enough to take hot showers, cook a big meal and get some laundry done.

Saturday we woke up early to load the bikes and drive to the campground for the Saturday festivities. Once again hugs were exchanged and friendships renewed after a winter spent apart while trails were under snow. Today had ride options. Tom and I chose to get shuttled to Downieville and leave the car at the CG with the dogs hanging until we returned. Knowing that we haven’t been riding much, I opted for the “short” ride…the 17 mile North Yuba trail back to the CG. Tom opted for the medium ride…climb up 1st divide and 3rd divide, down 2nd divide and then the NY trail all the way back to the CG…probably a 35 mile day. SBTS had an aid station at the bike shop so we could grab fruit, make sandwiches, grab drinks, etc. I packed a lunch headed “down” the NY trail with 2 fellow riders, Nica and Skye.
Tom and I had done trail work on the North Yuba but never ridden it, so I was looking forward to riding the whole thing. After starting with about 3 miles of climbing, the trail does a lot of rolling…down, up, down, up, down, well, you get the picture. We stopped for food and breaks at bridge crossings and along the river. The trail was rocky, narrow, fast, slow, steep, switchbacks, technical, flowing…it had it all. After about 3-4 hrs out on the trail, we landed back at the Indian Valley CG. I inhaled the lunch I’d made…we haven’t been riding much, so 35-40 miles of riding Sierra singletrack was some work! I jumped in the FRIGID Yuba river to clean up (translation: poison oak everywhere on the NYT) and get the dogs cooled off. We hung at the river for awhile and then I made my way back to camp to get changed. While at the river, several more people had returned, food was starting to be put out and kegs were tapped.

It was getting on towards 6pm and Tom was still out on the trail somewhere…I hoped he was ok…he chose to do a punishing ride considering how little we’ve been on our bikes. I’d had 2-3 beers and chips and salsa and finally saw Tom roll up to the car. He was wiped out too but glad he did a bigger ride. We grabbed our camp chairs and settled in for an evening with the 50+ SBTS members that showed up for the epic. The monster, custom BBQ was cranking out food but barely keeping up with the appetites. After dark we all relaxed by the fire, full from plates of pasta, salad, chicken, cheeseburgers, beer, etc. There was a raffle of cool bike schwag to benefit the SBTS and then it was time for Tom and I to hit the road back to the cabin. We did our poison oak showers and completely crashed…

Sunday we woke up and debated whether to head back down river again for the trail work. The day before, the SBTS folks weren’t sure where to send people since the lower trails were in good shape and the upper trails were still under snow. Tom had a long drive back to Bishop and we were both pretty wiped out so we decided to bail on the trail work…losers, I know.

Several times during the weekend, we remarked about how fortunate we were to have grabbed the cabin. In the real estate world of location, location, location…we couldn’t have picked a better location. The amount of trail work going on near Forest City, in Tahoe National Forest and over the hill in Plumas National Forest and the Lakes Basin is staggering. We will continue to do whatever we can to help out as these trails are in our backyard.

Again…what a weekend.