Forest Frolicking in Northern California

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Day Trippin'' started by tricky., May 31, 2021.

  1. tricky.

    tricky. Been here awhile

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    Part 1: Fast Fridays

    With the Memorial Day long weekend approaching and conditions near on perfect, it was time to take advantage and plan a fun multi-day trip. But as the weekend neared, the weather didn’t quite want to cooperate. Memorial Monday in sunny Sacramento had a planned high of 108 and the day before a balmy 102! Ouch. So the plan was revised to stick to two nights, leave on Friday after work and get back into town Sunday afternoon before the heat of the day.

    The ride? A fun 450ish mile, mostly dirt route taking in as much of the amazing northern California forest as possible. The route was a combination of Forest Service Backcountry Discovery Trails (BDT), previous rides, and blind-luck basecamp mapping (we all know how well that goes). Along for the ride was fellow member @Drufiddy . We’ve done many a fun ride together. In fact, the amount of time we’ve spent together on DR650s is borderline scary. However good mates, known quantities, and a small group make for carefree fun brapping.

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    The planned route

    With the bikes packed, we rolled out of Sacramento a little after 430pm with the destination of somewhere around Bowman Lake in the Tahoe National Forest. We’ve been doing Friday overnighters of late as a fun way to have cake and eat it to. You get to sneak away for a relaxing night of camping in the woods, wake up Saturday refreshed and hit the trails first thing, then return back home Saturday evening to still enjoy all the responsibilities of being an adult and maintaining relationships outside of riding.

    The traffic headed north up I80 was pretty thick, but thankfully the narrow DRs make light work of lane splitting. Fortunately our destination of Dutch Flat was only about an hour of slab away. Upon arrival at Dutch Flat we grabbed gas then immediately headed for the hills for the first taste of dirt of the weekend. The first road of dirt was Lowell Hill Road through to highway 20. A nice, easy, narrow flowy road through the forest. In the glow of the late afternoon light it was enchanting and a good way to blow away the cobwebs.

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    Fun Fridays

    Hitting highway 20 briefly, we descended into the old gold mining town of Washington, now a weird mix of tourists, hippies, and wild west renegades. But we were here for important things, beer.

    With our beer stocks resupplied, we headed off into the forest again bound for bowman lake. This forest road was a wide-open affair, however a loose freshly gravelled surface made for some loose riding and close calls.

    Rolling upon bowman lake, most of the waterfront camps had already been snagged by the memorial day weekenders. Not to worry. We decided to take a trail to the north up McMurray Lake road to escape the crowds and snag a good spot. This was a rocky old affair but nothing the old DR tractor couldn’t plow. Even up here though the good lake spots were taken. Unperturbed we continued on until we found a nice secluded clearing and called it camp for the night. Ahh cold beer, clear skies, and great views. Perfect!

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    Rolling into Bowman

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    Camp for the night

    #1
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  2. tricky.

    tricky. Been here awhile

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    Part 2: Sierra Saturdays

    The next morning we got up early and after a cup of joe, enjoyed the rockly breakfast descent back to bowman lake. Riding along the edge of the lake in the crisp morning air was a treat.

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    Rise and Shine
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    mmm A nice breakfast serving of rocks

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    Bowman Lake's all right eh Dru?
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    We continued along Meadow Lake road before crossing Jackson Meadows Reservoir and onto 89. Fortunately, our time on the highway was very short and before we knew it we were turning off on Dog Valley road. By this point the scenery had changes from dense sierra forest and granite, to the more mellow hills, open plains and sparse forest of the Eastern Sierra. Hitting Smithneck road the section to Loyalton was both stunning and fast. All I could do was twist the throttle and enjoy all the visual diversity California has to offer.

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    From Frenchmen lake the destination was antelope lake via a relatively unknown series of trails connecting two fire lookouts along the way. Before long we reached the turnoff to the first fire lookout, Dixie Mountain. The road up here was fun – one lane wide, a varied surface and a couple of water bars to test the mantra if pigs fly. At the top we were greeted by a spectacular 360 panorama of the Sierra. What a view!

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    What a view!


    Despite the apparent maze of forest roads, the route gave way to a wide, flowing and fairly easy to follow major forest road with great meadow views. This was too easy. Better throw in a ‘on basecamp this looked doable’ road to the next fire lookout.

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    'Nice roads' Says Dru

    We should have known better at the turnoff as this two track had not seen action for many years. But we continued to push on confidently. It wasn’t particularly hard riding but bit by bit the trail became overgrown until eventually there was trail no more. Drat. Back to the main road.

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    Going.....
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    Dru searching for the trail. Hint, its not up there buddy.
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    ....going....
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    ...gone.

    Fortunately not that far up the road was the actual road to the next fire lookout. Made us feel very silly. Again the road up to the fire lookout was a fun one with more stunning views at the top beyond the eastern sierra to Honey Lake.

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    More views

    After a couple of wrong turns, non-existent roads, two gates, and even a little bit of sand, we reached Antelope Lake. Much like everywhere else in California it seemed pretty dry. This didn’t seem to deter the large memorial weekend crowd though.

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    A boat anchor on a sandy shore.

    Continuing on we passed a rock like a fin and headed back up into the mountains. The road was climbing steeply and the forest service decided to make things a tad more challenging by piling what felt like a foot of fresh gravel on every turn of the climb. Eventually we reached Kettle Rock pass. Never heard of it, but I guess cool to say we hit a pass on the ride. From there it was a quick descent into Taylor Lake.

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    Rocky shark du du du du du...
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    Sweet roads.
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    Bike next to a pass sign. Pretty hardcore.


    The only way to describe Taylor Lake is magical. Clear waters, a smattering of residual snow, and only a handful of other people made for a serene spot to take a break.

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    Just, wow!

    From here the road descended quickly into Taylorsville. After a quick sugar hit we charged up 89 to Lake Almanor to hit the dirt again. The dirt road descended fast and before we knew it we’d almost hit the bottom of a canyon. This wasn’t right. We stopped, realized we’d missed the turn, and headed back up the hill.

    After taking the right turn it wasn’t long before we hit a pretty significant obstacle in our way. Dang. We really didn’t want to double back via the slab.

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    Into a canyon we go.
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    Yeah...that's not great.

    We took a gamble on another forest road and before we knew it had joined up with our original route. This next section was sublime on the DR. narrow, super twisty one last forest road. Enough grip to rely on the brakes but lose enough to get a few slides around the corners, and keep up a pretty good pace. This made for a fun ride through to highway 70. The fun continued up and through to Bucks Lake Road.

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    Braap Forest, braap!

    At this point it was starting to get late in the day. We figured we’d get another good breakfast in Quincy in the morning, so we stopped in the forest a little short of Quincy to set up camp, while being close enough to get the nights beer.

    It wasn’t the most stunning spot in the world but a good clearing to call home. Or so we thought…

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    Hangry face.
    #2
  3. tricky.

    tricky. Been here awhile

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    Part 3: Sweaty Sundays

    While we didn’t have any actual issues throughout the night, two clapped out jeeps drove past on the forest road close by then stopped within earshot, remained silent for multiple hours then headed back off again, only to return two hours later. This happened 2 or 3 times at 11pm and 3am. Fortunately they couldn’t see us and we weren’t really sure of their deal, but figured potentially tweakers heading into the hills to get their silent fix. Whatevs.

    After a delicious breakfast in downtown Quincy we headed back up into the forest near Sloat. The super fun forest road continued. Thanks you US Forest Service and the fun BDT maps you publish. The road offered fast flowing dirt, great views, a couple of rocky sections and even a good view of a bear (sadly n pics). We had a great morning working our way through to near LaPorte.

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    Sweet morning brappage
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    Something felt wooden in the DRs handling

    Just short of LaPorte we hit the only question mark of the trip, Poker Flat Road. Locally known for its rocks and steepness. With a big gulp and the overconfidence of full bellies and the unknown, we pressed on.

    Poker Flat road was no joke. The first section threw a couple of steep and rocky water crossing at us and other obstacles. In a few miles we hit the sign ‘To Poker Flat, 4x4 only’. ‘Now you’re telling us?’ we thought confused. The last two water crossings only passable by pretty serious 4x4s we thought.

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    Water crossing 1
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    Water crossing 2
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    4x4 only? You don't say


    After the sign, the road got super steep and super rocky. Think of a falling elevator in a shaft and that’s basically what I loaded DR with overheating breaks down poker flat road felt like. Somewhat cut into the mountainside the trail forced us to pick a narrow dirt line to avoid craggly rocks in the trail. We bounced and bucked our way down.

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    Why don't pictures articulate steepness?

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    What a mess. Notice the bend of the trees to grow straight - gives an indication of the slope.

    In one final rock garden section before the bottom we hit an impasse. A crew and their Land Rover was blocking the whole path while they reconsidered they decision to try Poker Flat road in the first place. Eventually with some careful bike and car placement we squeezed our bikes past the car and into the valley floor. What a work out! We were both exhausted and stiff from clutching the bike in terror down the descent.

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    Impasse!

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    You can faintly see the LR crew at the top of the trail

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    Poker Flat. Thank. God.

    Crossing Canyon Creek I had a little dismount with the front tire slipping out on the rock of the river bank. One of the ones where you feel the weight go and that’s all she wrote. Fortunately I had cleared the river and could right the bike easily with no real damage except pride.

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    Wet boots for days.

    From here we had the ascent out. This was steep, loose, and also hard work. We almost got to the top when Dru on worn tires, in the wrong gear, hit a muddy rut which stopped all forward progress. Not wanting to stop my progress I bucked and weaved up to the top before walking back down a couple of feet to help get Dru going.

    With a loose and muddied rut, it was difficult to get momentum going. But we were hopeful as the rest of the track was pretty dry. So, with a bigger inseam than Dru I swapped in as rider and bounced the rear while Dru pushed and that was enough to get us out. Unfortunately, Drew kinda got the short straw of that one, as my bouncing and spinning had given him a pretty good mud shower. At the top we were pretty wiped but pleased that poker flat had been uneventful despite offering plenty of opportunity to go awry. From the ridge line we descended into Downieville for much needed refreshment, Drew proudly showcasing his new adventure cred.

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    Where's Druldo? Can you see him. Can confirm, walking blows.

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    What we call sweaty happy.

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    Good view at the top.

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    They call him Mr. Adventure.

    From here the plan was to continue on via dirt to Alleghany and then Tyler Foote Crossing through to Malakoff Diggings. However having done this section before and with the day heating up, we deciding to simply blast highway 49 and the interstate home. 49 is an enjoyable stretch and after blasting the slab we rolled in around 230pm.

    Even though it was only a short little trip, it was a fun adventure and a great reminder of the awesome riding options in our backyard!

    Thanks for reading! Happy to share gpx file if anyone want to ride some of the same roads.
    #3
  4. Essbee

    Essbee Been here awhile

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    What an awesome RR in a stunning area! Thanks for sharing.
    #4
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  5. tricky.

    tricky. Been here awhile

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    Thanks for the positive comments! it was a ton of fun!
    #5
  6. weldpro

    weldpro Been here awhile

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    Basically riding in my backyard! Looks like a great trip!!! Concerning Poker Flat you are absolutely correct, its a bitch with anything larger & loaded. It was the winter of 16/17 that really made that road tough for adv bikes.
    #6
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  7. tricky.

    tricky. Been here awhile

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    Yes seems like it is getting rockier and rockier as the jeepers tear it up too. There are a couple of youtube videos on the trail from a few year back and many parts are totally different.

    As an FYI should anyone read this searching for poker flat info, riding it north to south I think is way easier than south-north.
    #7
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  8. Bike Guy

    Bike Guy Long timer

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    Well written ride report. Appreciate the effort
    #8
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  9. discoganya

    discoganya Engineer, Rider, Dad

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    Excellent ride report and awesome pictures, thanks for sharing.

    Would you have the GPX tracks of this route?
    #9
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  10. tricky.

    tricky. Been here awhile

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    sure thing! Send me a pm with your email and I’ll send it to you.
    #10
  11. SmileyRingo

    SmileyRingo n00b

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    Stunning pics. Loving those off-road forest trek lanes!
    :)
    #11
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  12. discoganya

    discoganya Engineer, Rider, Dad

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    Sent you a PM!
    #12
  13. relichunter

    relichunter Precariot

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    I love the picture of "Mr Adventure". It sounds like a great ride with some good variety. The steep sections can be imagined by anyone who has tried to take a picture of one and failed.
    #13
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  14. tricky.

    tricky. Been here awhile

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    Indeed! Also looks like we are not the only ones to struggle with the depths of Poker Flat. Bret Harte wrote a short story on the area The Outcasts of Poker Flat. Thankfully our Ride Report did not end like that tale!
    #14
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  15. discoganya

    discoganya Engineer, Rider, Dad

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    #15
  16. tricky.

    tricky. Been here awhile

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    It starts off pretty easy on narrow but easy dirt forest roads. Where it nears the PCT (dashed green line) it gets a bit rocky. You could probably make it through but it would be slow going - the loose baby head rocks wont be much fun on the GS but the rocky section does not last long. From there I would connect the forest roads back to quincy laporte rd. Do not try Poker Flat road on those bikes. If you have never done Quincy Laport Rd either, although it is paved it is an amazing stretch of tarmac.

    There are a ton of jeeper poker flat road videos on youtube if you want to assess the road conditions of that section for yourself.
    #16
  17. tricky.

    tricky. Been here awhile

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    Part 4: Terrific Tarmac with a Glint of Gravel

    A bunch of us were in dire need of some two-wheeled therapy, so we decided to head off again towards the forest. This time though it would be mostly paved, so the DR was left at home in favor of the FJ. Along for the ride was a ragtag group of friends on various adventure bikes.

    After a quick slab up I5 we got our much-needed early dose of twisties in the form of Leesville Road. Fun and tight, you always got to take a little caution on this one due to the dirty apexes. From Logoda we continued up the valley to highway 162/FH7. Highway 162 headed West rises up from the valley through a series of fast sweepers and then right at the top turns to dirt. From here it was easy graded dirt all the way through to Covello. The views were stunning (although previous year’s fire damage pretty severe) and the dirt was freshly graded and the best I have ever seen. You could ride a Goldwing four up through here it was so smooth. Upon arriving to the outskirts of Covello, we grabbed a tasty burger and a cold beer at the Black Butte River Ranch – a great little spot for a break.

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    First gravel of the day
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    Buttery Smooth!
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    Great views


    From here it was dirt again from Covello to Mina and then a section of severely potholed tarmac. Watch out cast wheels! The views continued to impress. Returning to quality pavement, we relished the fun, fast and flowy twisties of Ruth Zenia road.

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    More dirt fun!
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    More great views!


    After a quick hop over Highway 36, we were climbing again up Forest Service Rd 1 (Titlow Hill). This one is a cracking ride. It is a paved narrow forest road which climbs rapidly and provides stunning views of the surrounding area. A couple of sections have some deep potholes but totally worth it for the rollercoaster elevation change and amazing views.

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    Love this road!

    At this point the day was beginning to near to a close so we stocked up on gas and beer in Willow Creek (they even had tall cans of Sacramento New Glory beer - yum!) and ventured north in search of camp. Not wanting to camp directly on 96 we continued along the planned route and selected the first campground we found on Salmon River Road. The campground, Oak Bottom, wasn’t on the river, but had a nice host, good amenities and was nice and quiet.

    The next morning we packed up camp early, eager to relish to fun snaking roads along the Salmon River. These roads offer great tarmac, stunning views and an element of danger due to the sheer drops to the river below.

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    Roll out!

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    Brilliant!


    Before we knew it were rising up from the canyon to the summit on Sawyer’s Bar road. A great place to take a break, it is also where the Pacific Crest Trail crosses. After a couple of steps on the PCT (checks box) I was happy to return to powered transit. From here we snaked down to highway 3. While at the highway the road opens up a bit, the twisties don’t stop and make for a fun jaunt into Weaverville. Well, until you run out of gas on the outskirts of town as one of our group did. But no worries a popped petock and a bottle of gas later and we were on our way.

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    Another great view!

    After a satisfying late breakfast in Weaverville we continue on 3 (the best section), had a fun run at the bumpy yet twisty Wildwood road and enjoyed what’s left of the corners on 36. (That road will be straight before you know it!) Unfortunately the jaunt from there home was a bit of a long freeway slog, but at least this time I had multiple cylinders to power me and the temps weren’t too bad.

    While just a quick weekend jaunt, it was still an awesome time with great friends in and among the fantastic forests of Northern California.

    Here's a link to our Route

    Day 1
    https://goo.gl/maps/DFxiNPyuvNFC9Be67

    Day 2
    https://goo.gl/maps/hZkAYwTpKKUq7Dni7
    #17
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  18. EMFL

    EMFL It's an adventure if nobody died Supporter

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    Awesome RR, thanks for sharing. I love these weekend moto-camp adventures. This is a great reminder that I have to get my DR out into the Sierras. Cheers
    #18
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  19. tricky.

    tricky. Been here awhile

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    Thanks! We are really lucky to have adventure on our doorstep. I also love your signature - I find myself talking in my helmet all the time.
    #19
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  20. redog1

    redog1 KTM 950se old fart

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    nice job, great pics. :clap
    #20