On the road slightly later than planned (I was lazy and didn't want to get up....) traffic was surprisingly light as we made our way east on I-80. Still funny to me going east to find mountains. After about 2 hours of driving, we hit National Forest land and started to lose cell service...and still had about an hour and a half to drive. Apparently we were going way off the grid.
The two-lane road (California 49!) twisted and turned following the Yuba River through the cradle of California's 1849 Gold Rush Country. Towering pines lined the roadside, with the occasional glimpse of the river and rocky cliffs as we gained altitude. We hit Downieville early afternoon - just in time to grab lunch at the local pizza joint before heading the last 30 minutes to our destination at Packsaddle Campground.
After lunch, it was time to play rally-car navigator and find the fun and fast way to the campground. I had managed to use my pretend tech-savvy skillz to save a copy of the map on my phone, so we had a functioning GPS despite no cell service. I saw what appeared to be a short-cut to the camp road and figured we had to at least check it out. Sure enough, the maps did not lie and there was a little gravel road to the left. All-wheel drive? Check. Sense of adventure? Check. Time to see where this road goes!
|Sometimes the low road is just more fun...|
Now - on to making new friends and camping!
What I love about people who share a love of adventure, the outdoors and mountain biking - is that 99% of the time, they are awesome, and Kyle's friends did not disappoint. We pulled up just as they were working on inflating a giant turtle and orca to use on the lakes. My kind of awesome :-)
After making a a round of hellos, we set up camp and set off for a little adventure to check out the trails. Of course this meant starting off with a 1.5 mile climb that averaged 9%. Ouch. Our effort was rewarded though, with sweeping views of the "Lakes Basin" of this part of the Sierras, as we explored some trails and managed not to get completely lost before returning to camp for a quick clean-off dip in Packer Lake and a fantastic campfire dinner with our new friends.
Up early as usual while camping and was excited to break out my spiffy "Handpresso" for the first time. Nothing says "Glamping" like a portable espresso machine... After our fantastic breakfast it was time to hit the trails. With a long day in the saddle on the schedule we packed the CamelBaks full of food and water and rolled out - of course back up my new favorite climb and then into the Sierra backcountry.
|Riding above Lakes Basin (Photos: Aaron Johnson)|
The trail network in this region is amazing. Kyle's friend Aaron acted as our guide and photographer extraordinaire as we wound along ridge-lines, with a new crystal lake around each new bend. The trails were incredible, the scenery, un-real and the company was fantastic. We had a bit of hike-a-bike to get up and down the top of Mt. Elwell, but all part of the adventure!
|Hike, hike hike your bike!|
Mikey took a little tumble but luckily Kyle is a sales rep for Adventure Medical Kits and had one of their field kits out in no time to fix Mike up and get him back and rolling in no time. Tough Canadian Cookie! :-)
|Mid-ride break on the summit of Mt. Elwell (Mike, Kyle, me & Sean)|
We stumbled through some more hike-a-bike, circling some of the lakes before heading up one last peak to finally drop into the Downieville trail network. Downieville is known for his downhill mountain biking and the trails definitely did not disappoint. For the girl on the hard tail who still has a slight fear of downhills from one too many endo's - you couldn't get the smile off my face. I was flying and re-learning how to ride downhill and falling in love with it all over again. The wind in your face, the feeling of flying and the slight knot of terror in your stomach - all from riding a bike down a mountain. My perfect type of day :-)
|Trailside waterfall - Tahoe National forest is full of surprises!|
The trails drop you almost right into downtown Downieville, where Aaron and Sean's girlfriends (and adorable pups!) were waiting with pizza and beers for us. After 6+ hours of running and pedaling around in the woods - perfect ending to a near perfect day!!
Got back to camp for dinner round 2 and some campfire time before calling it a night. Fun filled weekend of adventure, sweet single track and new friends! California is starting to feel like home!
And super thanks to Aaron for all the awesome photos!!