By: Tom Clark
This was done as a "prospecting" ride on 9-1-2002, searching for a trail that we figured ought to exist. It does, and it is quite rideable now. Since we first rode it, someone cleared a lot of the stumps, making it a great ride.)
Fun Factor: Way up there. Our gritty little group (Liam Wescott,
Pete Wilda, Dave Leonard, Doug Burnside and yours truly, Tom Clark) did
the thing in about 4 hours, with energy left to spare. The best parts
were the descent off Ester Dome, riding the Fireplug trail, and the whole
section from Ester back to the start.
Distance: 23 miles or so, but we did some double-backs. If you make all the right turns, the distance would drop at least a mile, and if a bypass can be discovered around the house, another half mile would come off.
Start at the pullout near Anne's Greenhouse's. Mosey up Ester Dome Road, turning right onto the Marathon trail, following it up as far as it will go. This puts you back onto Ester Dome road, where Henderson comes out. Continue up the road, all the way over the first summit, past all the antennas, down the quick little descent, through the saddle and up the other side. Riding across the top, and then down, use your brakes. Not only is it tricky, but you'll need to make a quick right, following the course of the Marathon "Out and Back" section. This is a steep, but short ascent. When you top out, take the first trail to your left, about 100 yards shy of the the Marathon Turnaround. Follow this trail down, across, over, down, up, whoop-dee-doo, all the way to a major intersection. A lot of it is tight singletrack, and a lot of fun. At the intersection, turn right, admiring the excellent trail. Ride for about 3/4 of a mile, scanning for a trail to your left.
This is the trail that we were prospecting for, and though we found it, it is currently in rough shape. It's little more than a stomped down section-line complete with lots of 4" high little stumps, big stumps, logs, sticks, and moss. Though some of it is rideable, most of it is not. Follow the section line for about a mile. There's one point where another survey trail was cut in, and we chose to bear right, and up. We think that bearing left, and up, would work as well. Going down didn't look very promising.
Anyway, it finally connects with a dirt trail adjacent to Old Nenana Highway, on a portion that is currently someone's driveway. We went east (up) for half a mile, behind a trailer, and followed some beautiful trail right up to where someone built a house, blocking the trail. The map shows that the trail continues along past the house, but a bypass is needed to get around it, as there is a "No Tresspassing" sign. So, bummer, we turned back, and rode all the way out to the Old Nenana Highway, and back towards town for a few easy but boring miles.
Good news! You can pick up dirt road again at Old Wood Road! Turn left off Old Nenana Highway onto Old Wood, and follow it. Within the first quarter mile, there is a decision point. You can either follow Old Wood down all the way almost to the bottom of Old Nenana Highway, which is the course mapped, or you can find a little trail to your left and down, that is an amazing descent, coming out on a good dirt road in the valley, becoming Quartz Road. This is on the map as the "Alternate Descent". This is a way cool descent that you'll thank yourself for trying.
Either way, you'll end up at the road to Ester. We decided to ride up the "Back-Door" trail, to where it picks up the Marathon Trail, and out to Henderson. Then, because we weren't quite dead yet, we elected to ride UP Henderson about 3/10ths of a mile to a nice double-track on the right, just past two wooden gates. The trail goes along mostly flat, past some dirt work, past a little run down cabin on the left. Then, it veers downhill, through some fine single-track, where it picks up the double-track again. Continue DOWN the double-track at whatever speed you are comfortable at. There can be logs on the road, but it can be taken very fast.
There is a big intersection, where most traffic bends right, and down. That way works, and goes past some big mining pits, but it's more fun to continue straight through the woods, until the double-track finally wears out, in a rocky field. You go down and sort of right here, until you find more double-track. This seems to always be pretty rutted, so it is a good section to go a little slower on. This goes down, through a few bends, and down. It will finally end in a confusing little clearing, which you need to seek the bottom right corner of. There is an excellent old dirt road there which goes down and finally dumps you out on the far end of St. Patricks road.
Go left on St. Patricks road, back out Ester Dome road to the pullout at Anne's Greenhouse. Eat! Rejoice! Cuss at the mud on your bike! Swear to do this ride again, real soon, especially the St. Patrick's bypass trail!