Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Exploring Ponderosa Way

Ponderosa Way, heading south to the N. Fork of the American River
I recently discovered an interesting road I hadn't been aware of. While riding Placer Hills Road I had been searching for an alternate route back down toward home. It always looked like there was a frontage road that could take me from Weimar back down to Clipper Gap. Alas, I could find no such road, all the frontage roads on the south side of I-80 seemed to be dead ends. But I did discover Ponderosa Way, a road out of Weimar which seemed to continue through to Foresthill Road.

After doing a little research it seemed like Ponderosa Way should be ride-able. I put my 37C shod wheels on the Mercian to handle what was most probably a good long stretch of dirt road, and I wasn't disappointed!

Here's the plotted route I took, going in a clockwise direction.
 The first part of the ride is a conventional road ride up Placer Hills Road though Meadow Vista, eventually turning off that road at the Weimar Crossing intersection, climbing up to Weimare and the crossing over I-80. you then have to take a little jog to get to the frontage road where the "Welcome to Weimar" sign stands. You are now on Ponderosa Way!
On Ponderosa Way, just crossing I-80. (This was taken on my scouting ride, hence the "skinny" 28C tires!)
 You will follow Ponderosa through some nice country roads, a curvy, rolling course that takes you to the entrance of the Auburn State Rec. Area.


You'll go about a mile or so on easy paved roads until you reach this gated point, where the pavement ends.

Now you begin a long, dusty and rough descent to the North Fork of the American river. This road is rough. There are lots of eroded channels in it and plenty of stones. I needed to ride my brakes more than I cared to. At one point I stopped to let the rims cool a bit. Disc brakes would be useful here. The road is in worse condition that Yankee Jims, you need to take your time...

A look southward, down the Canyon. The road snakes it's way down the hillside!

Finally, the river crossing!

Not the greatest bridge surface, but it worked.
Reaching the bottom, I paused for a bit to relax from the stress of the descent. There is a porta-potty at the bridge if you need it. It's a bit of a scramble down to the water.

The climb up from the bridge is moderately steep, again rocky and rough. I used 26f/28r gearing for the lower section and that was adequate. It is a tough going but fortunately, you're on the north facing side of the hills so there is some shade protecting you from the sun. I strongly suggest you do as I did and take this ride in a "clockwise" direction. Your descent into the canyon will be in the sun and your climb will be in the shade. I think descending on the shady side would also be tricky because you may not see the irregular contours of this rough road surface well enough to avoid some ruts, etc.

The vista point on the south side, looking back down into the canyon, you can see the road descending on the far side.
Eventually, you will come to a vista point on the right side of the road. No facilities here but its a nice place to stop and rest and take in the view. From this point on the road seems to improve ever so slightly and the gradient loosens up a bit.

You enter the pine tree level again and finally come to a sharp switchback which has a private gate at its apex. From this point the road improves, with some sort of tar surface on it, not quite asphalt, but not too bad.

Looking back, back on the blacktop!
Once you reach the county-maintained section of the road again, you are very close to Foresthill Road, coming out well above Drivers Flat Road. Its now the regular slog back to Auburn and home to Loomis!

Post ride shot of the bike with the 37C tires and a coating of dust.
I enjoyed this ride but must say that the condition of the road on Ponderosa was pretty poor. Hopefully somebody, (the state?), will see fit to do a little maintenance and grading soon. Still I was able to navigate the road with a touring bike and 37C tires, (actual measured width is 35C on my sun CR18 rims). A disc brake equipped gravel bike would be ideal for the road as it is now. I hope this description will encourage others to try it!

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