(editor’s note: Check out Zeb’s guide company blog and website for more details, especially if you’re interested in skiing Portillo, Chile or Antarctica or anywhere really: Alpine Mountain Works)
This is the beta from our XC ride in Graeagle followed by a downhill lap at Downieville.
XC Ride: Graeagle
Ride: Mills Peak XC Out-and-Back
Vertical: 2800’ total gain + 500’ up and down
Mileage (one way): 9
Trailhead: Park in the pull off next to the large billboard on CA 89, just south of Gold Lake Highway in Graeagle.
The Mills Peak trail starts in Graeagle and ends up on top of Mills Peak fire lookout. It’s an amazing single track with flowing corners and moderate technical climbing. On the way down it is pure all-mountain fun!
The boys, Mattias Sullivan, Duncan Sisson and I, in front of Gold Lake and the Sierra Buttes.
Gold Lake from a vista on the Mills Peak Trail. Beautiful ride!
The Sierra Buttes…also amazing skiing in the winter!
On the way up it was hard to picture how fun the downhill would be. It seemed like it would be good, but we were blown away by how how much better it rode than we expected. Flowing smoothly and pedaling hard out of every turn made for fast riding, topping out at 30mph! Burmed turns, jumps and awesome dirt made the down stick out as one of my favorite rides so far this year.
Hiding from the wind at the fire lookout on top of Mills Peak.
Tight corner on the way down from Mills Peak in Graeagle, CA.
An awesome 3 hour epic, if this trail isn’t on your radar –put it there! Thanks to Allie Donovan for suggesting this great ride!
Downhill Ride: Downieville
Ride: Downieville Downhill Shuttle, Sunrise to Butcher Ranch to 3rd Divide to 1st Divide
Mileage (one way): 14
Trailhead: Park at the top of Sunrise (get a map of the Downieville trails at your local bike shop before coming!) and arrange a shuttle from Downieville back up to your vehicle. This will save you some time if you’re coming from Truckee/Tahoe area. Cell service is spotty, so if you’re going on a busy weekend call ahead when you have a few bars of service. Yuba Expeditions or Downieville Outfitters both provide shuttle service. If you’re headed home on 49, park in Downieville and shuttle up first.
The only pic from Downieville. Our ride became a resce as we happened upon a badly injured rider. Photo: Mattias Sullivan.
From Graeagle we made some calls and arranged a shuttle in Downieville for a classic lap on their acclaimed downhill single track. True to their reputation, these trails do not disappoint!
The dirt was generally tacky and smooth, in awesome condition for fast riding. It was my first time on these trails and I was blown away at how fast they could be ridden. My riding partners Mattias Sullivan and Duncan Sisson ripped it fast a smooth while I hung on to stay on their back wheels.
These trails are no joke and require skills and experience to ride fast. As we descended 3rd Divide we came upon a rider who had fallen and badly broken his wrist. Duncan and I are both ski guides and former ski patrollers, so helped the injured rider. We irrigated the open fracture, bandaged it and slung it with a camelback while Mattias prevented other riders from crashing into us from above.
The injured man was tough as nails and helped us clean his open radius and ulna fracture without even wincing. We stood him up to help him walk out and he asked if he had hit his face. Describing the deep laceration his helmet visor had gouged almost entirely through his cheek didn’t seem like it would help so we left out most of the details. We helped our patient slowly to the bottom of the 3rd Divide where one of his biking friends picked him up to drive him to the hospital. What a terrible way to end a day!
Happy to have helped an injured rider, but a little disturbed by the crash we finished the ride with a little more caution. We all like pushing the line between riding in complete control and riding as fast as we can, but this wreck underscored the consequences of a high speed crash. Wishing a smooth surgery and recovery for our injured friend!
Have fun, ride fast and don’t crash!