After a long weekend of driving, on Monday I went for an extended pedal up to the top of Saddleback Mountain, over to Chimney Rock Trail, down Empire Creek and finished with First Divide. In total it was nearly 30 miles and more than 5,000 feet of climbing – a brutish ride for most locales, but a pretty typical cross-country ride in Downieville.
The unobstructed views of the Sierra Buttes from the watchtower at the top of Saddleback were spectacular, but not as amazing as the views from the top of Chimney Rock. Chimney Rock is an otherworldly singletrack climbing above tree line through scree fields of shale and volcanic rock, peaking out at 7,000 feet, or roughly 4,000 feet directly above Downieville.
The last 10 miles of the ride on Empire Creek to First Divide was a 4,000-foot freefall, starting on primitive, stick-strewn singletrack that opened up into treacherously fast sections with some surprise fall-away corners. It’s not a ride I would do several times a month – maybe not even several times in a year – but it’s a memorable backcountry adventure that must be experienced at least once by Downieville regulars.
Like a stubborn idiot, all I took with me on the ride was two water bottles and two Salted Caramel GUs – barely enough to survive a four-hour ride with no mechanicals or other acts of God. Thankfully there weren’t any of those on that day. But in Downieville, you always have to plan for the worst-case scenario. Just don’t press the panic button unless you absolutely know for sure that it needs to be pressed.
Editor’s Note: The Angry Singlespeeder is a collection of mercurial musings from contributing editor Kurt Gensheimer. In no way do his maniacal diatribes about all things bike oriented represent the opinions of Mtbr, RoadBikeReview, or any of their employees, contractors, janitorial staff, family members, household pets, or any other creature, living or dead. You can submit questions or comments to Kurt at [email protected]. And make sure to check out Kurt’s previous columns.