By: Tom Clark
This ride is really a collection of rides thrown together. Start at Ester Community Park and ride toward Fairbanks on the Parks Highway a short distance, perhaps half a mile. Turn in on Gold Hill Road, and ride to Henderson Road. Go up Henderson, and go left on the big powerline. You are now finished with paved roads. Ride along the powerline for about 4/10ths of a mile or so. There are a variety of trails leading up; you can take any one of them. You'll encounter a lot of little intersecting trails and be tempted to explore, which you should do. Ultimately, you need to go UP, and you will find your way to the mine. Once you are at the mine, you need to get around it. A good idea is to take the trail that skirts along the southeastern edge. You'll know that you are on it if you end up doing a short climb in granny gear straight up a hill, or even pushing up it. Once you are at the top, keep going straight, as you are aiming for Henderson Road. Once you are on Henderson (which is now a narrow dirt road) go UP.
When you are directly across from the mine entrance (chainlink fence gates, big rocks), look into the woods on the right side of the road for a dirt trail. Follow it, but be sure your brakes are working... This is a steep descent, and the conditions are variable, so use caution. You'll end up on St. Patricks Road; turn right and follow St. Patricks for a mile or so back to Henderson Road. Once you are at Henderson, go UP. This time, keep going past the mine, and go past the road on the left just past the mine (the Marathon Trail). You'll come back to that later. Keep riding up Henderson, and do some elevation gain.
About 20 minutes later, you'll finally end up on Ester Dome Road. Go right, but go slowly, because you are looking for a trail on the opposite side of the road. It is a well used path and you should have no trouble identifying it. Ride the path for about a quarter of a mile (if that), past a run down cabin. Just past the cabin, go right. You'll want to bomb this hill, but be careful. There are some sharp turns with nasty pointy trees waiting to eat your lunch if you aren't cautious. Blaze straight through the clearing and then slow down a bit. Things get technical from here to the bottom, and it's a good idea to sit a little further back on your seat for this one. You'll dump out on Ester Dome road. NOTE: be EXTREMELY careful to WATCH FOR TRAFFIC before shooting out onto Ester Dome Road! If you don't want to take this trail down the hill, you can ride down Ester Dome Road to the intersection of St. Patricks Road. Turn right, and follow St. Patricks Road for about 3 miles all the way back to --- Henderson Road.
By this time, you are getting well acquainted with this area. Again, turn right, and go UP. This time you'll just go past the mine entrance, and then turn left. Immediately veer to the right, and you are on the Marathon Trail. Follow this trail as fast as you dare, all the way to a four-way intersection. If you still want more climbing, feel free to go exploring. If not, dive to the left and begin your descent into Ester. This is the Back Door Trail. There is a small climb or two, but this is pretty much a fast downhill. Narrow, too, and other people use the trail, so make plenty of noise. You'll do a funny little loop to get around a house, and then you'll cross a small driveway. Down, down, down. Ultimately, you'll end up in what feels like someone's back yard. No worries, simply exit out their driveway, and you are in magnificent downtown Ester. To leave Ester, just go downhill. The Community Park is just two tenths of a mile a way, to your left. OK, so I lied -- there is a wee bit of pavement here at the end of the ride, but it's minimal. A quick poll of a few people who have done this ride say they love it. Bring water and an energy bar or two, and plan on two or three hours of riding, depending on how hard you go.