Photo Credit: @GusGibbs
It's easy to get in somewhat of a perfect (figurative) rut in Downieville. Camp or stay some place, wake up, un-stiffen oneself preferably through coffee, make it to the home of the shuttles, Yuba Expeditions, ride the string of trails that never ceases to put a smile on your face. Anybody's face. What you don't realize, or I didn't realize, is that there's a whole 'nother side of trails. Bonus. Yeah dude, free trails, same trip, like 20% More Free on my cereal box, only far more than 20% More Free. There's stuff like this:
Mills Peak scenic turn, Sierra Buttes and Packer Saddle in background. Photo Credit: @GusGibbs
And it's just waiting for you. Cascading off the other side of the Sierra Buttes, visible in the background, is the Lakes Basin. Yes, people know about this area, I've heard about it, but hadn't ever actually ridden it. It's aptly named, riddled with lakes, you bounce about atop Granite spines and an undulating landscape.
Where we should have started but didn't: take shuttle to Packer Saddle, pedal along ridges to area of taken photo. Of course we tried driving as far out on bumpy roads as we could - did I mention we're lazy? Did I mention we don't have rad roads like that in Marin? Did I mention we retrieved the car in the dark. Did I mention I thought it was scary? Photo Credit: @GusGibbs
You still do have to work for it:
Don't let anyone tell you otherwise, hike-a-biking sucks, like serious bummer duuude. You probably can ride up that, I'm sure people do, I certainly didn't. Photo Credit @GusGibbs
There are still sharp rocks:
But there's sheer radness awaiting the other side of each climb:
Inga Beck. Perma Grin. Actually on the lead up to summiting Elwell but I'm pretending it's the reward portion for sake of post. Photo: @GusGibbs
And there's like, pretty stuff thrown in, flowers-n-stuff:
My Trail Boss 2.4s loved it and I loved riding them on it:
Yeah, it was rad. Here's how you should do it: park a return vehicle the night before in the parking area right next to Gray Eagle Lodge right off of Gold Lake Highway. Make sure you have a map and understand where you're going from Yuba Expeditions and book a shuttle for the next morning to Packer Saddle. The next morning, take your shuttle to Packer Saddle and then pedal out past Pauley Creek Trail where the XC course traditionally goes down. You take 93-3 and then veer up toward Summit Lake and then make your way to the lovely trail that has a horrible hike-a-bike going up the ridge to summit Elwell, it seems to be right next Oakland Pond. You make your way to the top of the peak, ride incredibly technical but great trail down that progressively gets smoother and faster and spits you out right where you parked. Or, do as Andy kindly told us, put on your big kid undies, and start and end by parking at the Lakes Basin Campground and make a 4 hour loop of the deal. Either way, stop by Yuba Expeditions, talk to them about it and assess what you're in for, and buy a map. Then again, doing another classic Downieville descent, as pictured below, ain't so shabby:
Photo Credit: @GusGibbs
Long live Downieville. Throw in Mills Peak if you're looking for something smoother with fewer think about it turns and intersections.