Pauley Creek … More Flowing Downhill!
This page describes our trek along the banks of Pauley Creek ... our second run on the Downieville Trails. If you have not yet read the introduction to Downieville Mountain Biking that's where you probably want to start.
If you have not already learned about Run 1, then you can go there by clicking Downieville ... Run 1 ... Butcher Ranch.
After eating a couple of power bars and filling up on water we were ready for Run 2. Getting there we shuttled up with a beautiful young lady and her little brother. She said they lived in nearby Grass Valley but had just started the sport of mountain biking. She said her brother was starting mountain bike racing but had not done that very long either. She said there were some good trails in the Grass Valley area and she told me the name of a few in the Reno area, where she used to live. Once we got out of the shuttle I would never see them again.
Length: 20.56 miles
The trails we were going to try on Run 2 were called:
- Sunrise Trail
- Butcher Ranch Trail
- Butcher Ranch Road
- Gold Valley Trail
- Pauley Creek Trail
- 2nd Divide Trail
- Lavezzola Road
- 1st Divide Trail
After taking a photo of the nearby peak (Sierra Buttes) I got my pack on and got ready to roll … to start the trip to Pauley Creek … and beyond.
We started Run 2 on the Sunrise Trail (just like we had done on the 1st run) but on Run 2 I felt much better for a couple different reasons:
- I had now done the a good part of the trail once. I had a pretty good idea what to expect on Run 2 … knew I could ride fast and not be surprised by a sudden three foot drop or downed tree.
- I now had flat pedals instead of the SPD’s I’d used on the first run. SPD’s are for cross country riding. Although some of this trail was cross country I felt a lot better on the rocky sections and extreme exposure sections not having my feet clipped in. I was lucky the shuttle owner allowed me to swap pedals for this one run.
- I finally got my seat height where I liked it. This might sound dumb, but I had used my Camber for at least a month and a half but had not decided where I really liked my seat. I have a dropper post but placing the seat for full leg extension left my seat too high for downhill runs. Placing the seat all the way down meant I had no power when I needed to climb even when I flipped the switch to raise it. I finally settled on a place that felt good for both.
After biking 1.86 miles down the Sunrise Trail we made a right turn onto Butcher Ranch Road … and after about 3 miles of gradual climbing we came to an abrupt turn in the road … a left turn. There were several signs nailed to a tree … which basically said we had 2 miles more to go to get to Pauley Creek … two miles on the Gold Valley Trail.
I was glad Steve knew where he was going as I had not been there before or taken enough time to study the options. Riding with Steve usually requires me to do some waiting yet he always knows where we are and where we’re going and is an excellent photographer.
So … to get down to Pauley Creek we had to travel down the Gold Valley Trail … which often resembled a dry creek bed. In many places this “Trail” was torn-up by jeeps and motorcycles, which left hunks of rubber and miscellaneous vehicle parts scattered about.
Here I chose the riding technique to what I used going down the middle stretch of Porcupine Rim … just stay loose … ride fast to stay on top of the rubble and reduce the pounding . Steve, being a little more conservative than I, took it slower … trying to maneuver around individual rocks. In this way he got to prolong the “fun.”
Once at the bottom of the ravine we had to cross Pauley Creek without a bridge. I managed to carry my bike while balancing on a skinny crossing log, Steve said forget that and just walked across (the water was only a couple of inches deep).
The rough jeep road continued along Pauley Creek for about a half mile then turned into singletrack … which was considerably better (there were plenty of rough stretches, but we were not just plowing over fields of debris like at the start).
At the end of the doubletrack we came across the remains of an old car … a real old car. The car reminded me of the “Bonnie and Clyde” car I had come across while riding in Blue Diamond (near Las Vegas). I knew neither was that particular “get-away” car … it is in a museum in Primm, Nevada. But both these cars were in the middle of nowhere … so I can’t help but think they might have been driven as far as possible by characters on the run!
About a mile down from our foot crossing Run 2 took us across Pauley Creek again … this time we used a bridge. Less than a half mile past the bridge and we came to a beautiful campsite right on the banks of Pauley Creek … log benches, fire pit with barbeque grill across the top, nice flat spaces for tents, and a bench for cleaning fish or making sandwiches. I wished I had brought a sleeping bag.
The Pauley Creek Trail was eventually joined by the Lower Butcher Ranch Trail, where we met a mountain biker heading up the trail wearing sandals. Steve said they made sandals for bike riding but this guy said he was not wearing them on purpose … he had forgotten his shoes at home in the San Francisco Bay area. I felt bad for him, for I knew it could happen. Through the years I have forgotten everything possible except my bike … and I have forgotten my shoes.
A short distance later and the Lower Butcher Trail brought us to the last bridge (until we got into town). As I approached the end of the bridge I came across 3 bikers that had been on our shuttle. As they were getting onto their bikes to cross the bridge I said, “Well, now it is time for a little uphill!” To which the last biker turned and yelled, “Yea, what’s with that … I didn’t sign up for any uphill!” I hollered back, “Yea, we paid for the shuttle, there shouldn’t be any climbing!”
I rode across the bridge, then waited for Steve to arrive. While sitting on my bike I noticed a date etched into the cement foundation of the bridge. It took me a couple of seconds to digest the information … 1952 … 3 years before I was born!
After Steve arrived we crossed the bridge and started the grind. When I got to the junction for the 2nd Divide Trail the three fellows who had just left us at the bridge were resting. When I pulled up they asked me which way we were going and I told them I thought #2 Divide, but I would have to ask Steve (he was still laboring up the climb).
As we were all panting I noticed the muscular guy sitting on a stump had a pretty bad gash in his knee, yet his buddies all had knee pads. “Land on rock or hit a tree?” I asked, looking at his knee. He said just one word … “rock.” Then I asked, “How come you don’t wear knee pads like these guys?” When he couldn’t think of anything to say right away I suggested, “Too macho?” We all laughed and then he said, “It is just a scratch, something I show off to my wife.” I then countered, “I try to hide any injuries from my wife … so she won’t worry about me so much!”
Just as I got my photo of them Steve came up and said if we were going to do 2nd Divide we had better get going. He took off down the trail while I gave my card to each and told them to have fun.
The 2nd divide trail starts with a skinny, smooth, steep downhill stretch built for speed, then alternates between short steep climbs and short downhills as it clings to the hillside above Pauley Creek. At one point we came upon an occasionally used mining cabin surrounded by signs which forbid prospecting for minerals.
After leaving the cabin we continued to follow the Pauley Creek but stopped when we rounded a corner and spotted a huge swimming hole far below. While taking some photos the 3 guys who had sat behind me in the shuttle van came around the same corner (actually, 2 came at first and the 3rd showed up a few minutes later). We discussed what a great trail we were on and then the two faster guys took off and I followed, allowing Steve to ride with their 3rd rider, the guy from Guatemala.
The 3 of us finished 2nd divide and tried to figure out which way to go on the dirt road. When the Guatemalan guy showed we conferred with him, but couldn’t come to a consensus. I suggested we wait for Steve … he would know where to go. While we waited I got a photo of the 3 guys and found out they all worked for United Airlines (my daughter is a flight attendant and flies on United almost every day)! I asked the Guatemalan (he was from Guatemala but now lives in the Bay Area) if he could ride with me some time down there. He said he does go down there and would join me some time.
When Steve showed up he immediately turned right and headed down the dirt road (we were thinking #1 Divide Trail was left!) so we all followed. Since we had already biked the #1 earlier that day I actually remembered most of it. We got some more great photos of Lavezzola Creek and then headed toward the town of Downieville.
Once on the edge of town Steve made a profound comment, “We were the first ones here this morning and we are the last to leave.” Actually, when we got to the car we found the 3 United Airlines guys packing up their car. We joked with them for a while then loaded up the bikes and braced for the long ride home.
- The blue balloon marks the Packer Lake Trailhead, the beginning of both Run #1 and Run #2.
- Click Garmin for all kinds of data (including GPX Track) for Run 2.
Have you done this ride? What did you think of it? How about sharing your thoughts on our Visitor Stories page?
During most rides I take many more photos than I can place on a ride page. The following is a slide show for the entire ride … 121 photos in all. By clicking either Slow Med or Fast (below) you can determine the speed the slides are shown.