By: Tom Clark
Though a portion of this ride is quite ridable in the summer, the entire loop is not, so this is a winter ride. It's about 23 miles, has about 2300 feet of elevation gain, and has a creek crossing. Bring fluid and something to eat. Figure about 3.5 hours with good conditions. If it recently snowed, find some other ride.
As with many fine winter rides, start at Ivory Jack's on Goldstream road. Ride the commuter trail over to the railroad crossing on Sheep Creek. Cross Sheep Creek and follow the trail on the west side of the tracks. It veers into the woods and is a lovely trail. Look for a trail veering up to your right. Follow it for a mile or so, to an intersection with a big powerline. Continue uphill across the powerline, until you get to St. Patrick road. Follow St. Pat's left, all the way to Henderson road. Ride up Henderson all the way to Ester Dome road, turn left, and go up, up, up. Don't stop at the first flat spot -- you'll just cool down too quickly -- keep going down the little saddle and up the other side toward the first group of antennas and buildings.
Ride up to the antenna area (this requires a right hand turn at the 3-way intersection), and get your hands ready on the brakes. Look down the hill. You can see a trail that veers down and to the west, off in the distance. You will aim for that trail. Go down the hill, using some caution of course. At least in 2003, stay on the most packed trail. Down, down, down. Down. Down, down, down. Whew. Near the bottom you will probably encounter a lot of overflow. You'll also go past a really shabby little shack. Keep going down.
At this point the trail gets a little challenging. There are a lot of dips and jumps, and you could crash pretty easily if you get going too fast... Finally, just as things are flattening out, you come to Goldstream Creek. If you are fortunate, it is completely frozen. If your luck is about usual, there's probably an inch or two of overflow. You can probably get across on one of the logs across the creek if you really have to.
Once on the other side, you'll want to stay on the main trail and aim back towards town, to your right. The trail does a few little jogs here and there, and there is likelihood of more overflow as well. The ride back is great if you are still fresh and energetic. It can feel unending if you are tired. Eventually, you'll encounter a road / powerline intersection. Cross the railroad tracks, and continue on the trail on the other side of the tracks (north side). Again, stay on the main trail. There's a couple points where the trail comes suspiciously close to some houses; don't worry, just stay the course. Finally, you are dumped out on Sheep Creek road. You can either ride the road back to Ivory Jacks (boring) or cross the road and take the continuation of the trail. Again, just stay on the main trail. Once again, it comes close to someones house, but never fear, the trail bends at the last moment. At last you connect with O'Brian road. Turn left, and ride up to almost Goldstream road, and take the little trail on the side back to Ivory Jacks. Ahhh...