This is a fairly straightforward winter ride that isn't too hard but will
give you a bit of a workout nonetheless. It is about 12 miles long
and takes around two hours to complete at a leisurely pace. A determined
rider or group of riders could easily do it in well under two hours, but
most people will take a bit longer to do it.
Start at the Ivory Jack's parking lot. Head south toward the Commuter
Trail that goes to Sheep Creek. You can do this either of two ways,
1) take the road right behind Ivory Jack's proper (with the "No Trespassing"
sign on it, you can ignore that!) or 2) go over to O'Brian Road and follow
the trail down alongside same until you get to the end of the airstrip (you
used to be able to ride straight down said airstrip, but alas, that is no
longer the case). Either way, you come to a pretty Alaskan house (with
the obligatory "No Trespassing" and "Private Property" injunctions warning
you to stay away under pain of death and/or dismemberment) and pick up a
snowmachine trail going south. This is the Commuter Trail. It
rides straight on down the valley for almost a mile past the end of the airstrip
until it crosses a little bridge over Goldstream Creek. Then, it parallels
the Alaska Railroad for a little while until it puts you out at the crossing
of Sheep Creek Road, just east of Ann's Greenhouses.
Once there, you can either ride the first trail that spurs off to the east
or pick up the bike path and ride it for about 300 feet until you get to
a snowmachine trail going off to the east. Either way, you head off
across the valley toward Ballaine Hill. Depending upon the snowmachine
and/or mushing traffic, the trail may be very well packed or it may be grungy
and soft. If it is hard-packed, you can make excellent time cruising
across the valley. After a mile or so, you cross over Miller Hill Road.
Keep going and after about another mile or so, you sort of parallel
a driveway off of Miller Hill for a while, following a powerline easement.
There are a few side trails that spur off up the hill (including one
right off of Sheep Creek, about a quarter-mile from the railroad that is
a BLAST to come down in the winter!) which can be explored later.
In short order, the powerline leaves the residential area and starts across
the frozen bogs and swamps before getting to Ballaine Hill. The line
does a weird triangular jog along two section lines, then meanders back toward
Ballaine Road. You come out at the bottom of the hill. You can
now either ride the bike path directly or take the snowmachine trail that
parallels it for a bit, crosses over Goldstream Creek, and then links up
to it (as is mapped). Once you pick up the bike path along Ballaine,
it is a long, boring two-mile slog uphill out of the valley to Goldstream
Road. You can take a shortcut at the intersection of Trice, ride over
to Goldstream, and then back to your car, but that is not what is mapped.
When you get to the Vallata Restaurant, keep on riding up the hill behind
it. The road you are now on is called Cordes Road and it goes on up
to the airstrip above the restaurant. Turn right here, follow along
the airstrip until you get to the path going along into the woods. Follow
this trail for about 2/10ths of a mile until you see a rough, single-track
snowmachine trail going down the hill. Turn left here and follow this
narrow, twisting, winding little (EXTREMELY technical, depending upon how
much snowmachine traffic, horse traffic, and moose traffic has been upon
it) trail all the way down into the valley. You come out at O'Connor
Creek. Be careful when crossing the overflow here!
Follow the trail across O'Connor, turn right (uphill) when you get to the
first trail crossing, and follow this trail through the woods until you come
to a little clearing in the woods. The trail forks, take the right
fork and follow it up to the main O'Connor Creek trail. You can either go
on up to Jones Road and take it all the way back, or (the much more fun route!)
follow the trail as it parallels Jones Road, going downhill all the way,
doing whoop-de-doos up and down the driveways and berms. Eventually
the trail ends at a driveway and you have to cross over to Jones Road, but
do not despair. Go down Jones Road for about 30 feet to the first driveway
on the right. Turn here and a few yards or so in, a trail takes off
to the left. Follow it for as long as you feel like (though if you
go too far, you have to divert around the old dog yard). This trail
eventually comes to a driveway about a quarter-mile from the end of Jones
Follow Jones Road to Goldstream and voile, there you are back at the Ivory
Jack's parking lot, hale and refreshed and ready to do this ride again!