Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Mountain Biking in the Auburn State Recreation Area

The Foresthill bridge from the Stagecoach trail
Now that the Tahoe-Truckee trails are covered in snow, it’s time to travel to a lower elevation to ride.  The close usable riding trails are in places like Verdi, Reno, and Carson City, Nevada.  My friend Michael Jacobs and I drove 60 miles to the Auburn State Recreation Area.
We started our 27 mile ride from the staging area on Russel Road, at the top of Stagecoach.  Stagecoach is a 2 mile fire road that leads to the bottom of the canyon where you find the confluence of the North and middle forks of the American River.
I started riding mountain bikes on these trails 23 years ago on rigid frames.  The first shocks we got were RockShox  Mag 21’s with 1.5 inches of travel!  It’s amazing how much smoother the trails seem now with 5 inches of travel front and rear.
We descended into the canyon on the Manzanita Trail off the end of Canyon Road.  This is the most technical section of the entire ride.  It has more rocks, sharper turns and steeps than any other section of trail that we rode.  However, anyone that can ride Tahoe trails can easily ride the trails in Auburn.
From the bottom of the canyon we rode the lightly rain soaked Clementine Trail past Clementine Lake.  This is a long steep grade up a paved road, my least favorite part of the ride.  Once on the Connector Trail, the fun begins.  The narrow single track winds through the trees like a roller coaster on the side of a mountain.  Up and down through the gears, right turns, left turns, brake jabs, and steep little rises.  The views into the canyon below are breathtaking, but you’ll find little time to look anywhere but straight ahead.  You can get into a rhythm with the trail, launching out of turns as your suspension decompresses.  You want to go faster and faster with every turn.
Lake Clementine dam
The Connector Trail takes you to the Foresthill Divide Loop Trail.  This is a similar single track trail (17 miles long) that brings you back to the Connector Trail where you return via the Culvert Trail and back up Stagecoach to your car.  We got a late start due to Michael’s morning skiing, so we rode the Old Foresthill Road back instead of the Culvert Trail.  As it was, we got back to the car after sunset.
The Auburn State Recreation Area is a great place to ride year round.   Poison Oak is everywhere, so stay on the trail.  Don’t wear your fancy bike clothes here, the red dirt gets into everything.  Carry all your own water and food.  Nothing is available on the route. In the summer it can get over 100 degrees here.
Everything you want to know about the trails is on the FATRAC website.  FATRAC was influential in getting the area open to mountain bikes in the first place.  They build and maintain the trail system.  They also do monthly rides that are open to everyone.  FATRAC: http://www.fatrac.org/Welcome

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