By: Tom Clark
This is an excellent three hour ride, even when it is wet and icky out. It makes use of a newly "discovered" section line trail, which has improved greatly since the first finding.
Start at the Ester Community Park, and ride up into Ester, and take the Back Door Trail up the hill. If you can't find it ask someone, or do this: bike up Stone Road, and ride down "This is not a Road!", past the first driveway. When you are just about in the second house's yard, look for a trail going uphill to your left.
Ride up the Back Door Trail, all the way up to the big four-way intersection, and continue straight across (bear right). This will take you all the way to Henderson Road, well into the unpaved part. Turn uphill, and follow Henderson all the way up to Ester Dome Road. Yes, it's a road ride, but it is a dirt road ride, and a narrow one at that. When you get to Ester Dome Road, again turn left, and go up. Grind to the first summit, and keep going. Go past all the antennas.
You'll be on rutted four-wheel-drive trail for a while, so watch for ruts, trucks, people, etc. This area gets a lot of use. Follow this track down from the antennas, across a saddle, up the other side, down again, across some rollers, and then down again. Use brakes. On a steep downhill pitch, there's a three way intersection. You'll want to bear right, across a shallow saddle, and then up the other side.
This is a short little grind that will leave you puffing. When it begins to flatten out and then drop a little bit, look for a fork in the road, and take the fork to the left. This puts you on the West Side trail. Stay on this trail, and take it as hard as you want. There are plenty of hazards (bumps, diagonal sticks, loose sticks, headbangers, moose), so don't go any faster than you can handle. After a while, the downhill peters out, and you ride up a gentle climb, where you finally encounter the Fireplug Trail. Turn right.
Though you can really bomb this trail, there are two reasons to go a little slower: first, there can be some hazards. Second, there are some lovely big trees, nice natural clearings, and nice scenery. Besides, you are only going to go 0.8 miles before you encounter a moderately used intersection where you turn left.
This is a section line trail connecting the Fireplug to Old Nenana Highway. It has improved greatly in a short amount of time, and has gone from "This is stupid" to 100% rideable. It's really bumpy, and probably not something that you want to bring your rigid bike on. It's also really fun. Ride the length of it, and when you come out on a little dirt road, look on the other side of the dirt road for the rest of the section line trail. It's a steep descent down to Old Nenana Road, and fun.
Once on Old Nenana Highway, ride about 2.75 miles, looking for Old Wood Road, to your left. Jump on Old Wood Road, and go less than two tenths of a mile, looking for a trail to your left. There's some good old Alaskan junk around it, and you may have to ride over some stuff to get to it. Once on this trail, follow it down, down down. At one point, you'll come to a clearing kind of thing, with a weird Air Force trailer on it. Continue down the hill. If you have crappy brakes, consider walking...
Finally, you come out on a mining road. Bear right, and ride past all the mining activity, back to the pavement. Turn left and ride a short ways to Ester Community Park. What a ride!