990 Adv, XR650L
Posted - 11/14/2017 : 11:17 PM
A little over a month ago I rode up into the hills to a place called The Junction that serves food and is frequented by motorcycle riders of all sorts. I was talking to a guy there who was riding a BMW R1200GS, which is sort of a competitor to my KTM 990 Adventure. He mentioned a few "adventure rides" that he had been on, including two of the Butler "Backcountry Discovery Route" rides. Eventually we got to the point of "hey, we should do a ride together".
We started looking at schedules and realized that since I would be leaving town for three weeks and there was likely to be snow in the Sierras by mid-November when I got back, it should be within a week. So I came up with a route that included about 120 miles of dirt and we went off on a two-day ride.
I used GPX files from previous rides to create routes with many dirt roads. The final destination was Sierra Buttes between Downieville and Sierra City.
The first day was supposed to include some easier dirt roads, but we had to revise the plan after stopping at a ranger station and finding out that the only route between Wentworth Springs Road heading east from Georgetown and Foresthill Road, east of Foresthill - 11 Pines Road - was closed due to a washed out bridge. I knew how to get around on the much busier paved roads to the west. Heading back up into the area that I know with the dirt roads, we ended up riding the one route I had deleted from my GPS unit to make space. I remembered enough of it to make an interesting ride, then we bailed out a bit early to find the hotel in Colfax where we had rooms reserved. We still rode 40-50 miles of dirt roads and only got lost once. Overall it was a nice day of riding both paved and dirt roads.
The second day went pretty much exactly to plan with interesting paved back roads from Colfax to Nevada City, then mostly dirt roads across from Nevada City to Downieville. I had to check about five times that we were on route, since I can't always trust my GPS routes, but we stayed on the planned route the whole way. My riding partner decided that those dirt roads were tough enough and he was no longer interested in going to the top of Sierra Buttes.
After something resembling lunch - every single restaurant in Downieville was closed on Wednesday - and a bit of rest I talked him into at least taking the easy dirt roads up to the bicycle staging area, then we could split if he didn't want to continue. We did that and he headed back down on paved roads while I went on up to the top. The uphill section was pretty much a rocky hillclimb the whole way and he wouldn't have liked it. I had to park the bike at about 8200 feet, but hiked above 8600 to the lookout station.
I almost dumped my bike once coming back down into Sierra City but managed to save it. I was worn out once down to the pavement. And I only had 200 miles to go to get back home. Fortunately most of that was freeway, which doesn't take a lot of effort.
Here are some photos from the ride with captions below each.
Where Latrobe Rd switches to S Shingle Rd near Rancho Murieta. Not really up in the hills yet.
A wrong turn off of Rock Creek had us on a road that got narrower and narrower until this point where it split into two single track trails. Time to backtrack.
Rock Creek Rd and a few California autumn leaves.
Tyler Foote Crossing Rd, looking back at an easier section.
Tyler Foote Crossing Rd at Middle Yuba River. That's a rough rocky road coming down on the left.
Tyler Foote Crossing Rd at Middle Yuba River with my riding buddy.
Mountain House Rd
Mountain House Rd almost to Downieville. More autumn leaves.
NF-93 between Downieville and Sierra Buttes.
End of the (legal) road to Sierra Buttes, after climbing the steep rocky road for a few miles.
It's a half mile hike from here to the top. The sign on the gate said no vehicles beyond this point, but I probably could have made it if I didn't mind breaking the law. There were two dirt bikes coming back down that had ridden up to the top.