When my boss told me to pack my things and go to Sacramento for the week I figured I put my bike on the roof of my car figuring I could get at least one ride in during the week.
I was working in Rancho Cordova off of Whiterock Road and the trailhead is a straightshot down Sunrise and out Highway 16 (about 15 minutes off of my route home). I figured if I hustled I would be able to get a ride in before dark, but I got a late start. I had a meeting which ran until 6:00 PM and I was a little bit confused about where the trailhead was and what the route was.
The loop circles the Rancho Murietta community. Take Jackson Highway to Rancho Murrietta and park anywhere in town. I parked in front of the Chinese Restaraunt on Murietta Road. The loop goes down Highway 16 to Michigan Bar Road and turns left. Then you follow Michigan Bar to Latrobe Road. Turn Left on Latrobe Road. Follow Latrobe to Stone House Road, and then Jackson Highway back to your car.
A couple routes starting from the Latrobe side
The route is pretty simple following dirt roads and a bit of paved roads. I parked in front of a Chinese Restaurant on Murieta Parkway right off Jackson Highway (16). From there I headed up a gradual climb east on Jackson Highway to Michigan Bar Road. I even saw a couple of other MTBers coming from the opposite direction. At Michigan Bar Road I turned left and followed the road for about 6 miles until it T's into Latrobe Road.
About half way down Michigan Bar Road, the road turns right and cuts through a farmyard and across a really cool, narrow bridge. After the bridge Michigan Bar Road is unpaved dirt road and there is a series of rolling hills which generally go uphill overall. I stopped just after sunset to snap a few photos in the waning light and by the time I hit Latrobe road it was almost entirely dark. There was no moon, I hadn't brought my light, and somehow I had forgotten my helmet as well.
At this point I had to make a decision, continue on an unknown trail an unknown distance with who knows what hazzards ahead or do the sensible thing and turn back down the known route and still get a 12 mile ride in. Throwing all common sense out the door I decided to turn Left onto Latrobe Road and proceeded into the unknown.
In daylight this loop is a calorie killer, a trail you ride as fast as you possibly can and don't have to worry about any significant technical terrain. At night things were a little different, little things seem big and big things... well thank goodness there was nothing big. The dry creek crossings and potholes in the route which I would have had no trouble with during the daytime, were downright dangerous when I came up to them at speed at night. I had also never ridden this stretch of trail before so I really didn't know what to expect.
At this point I saw the riders I had seen on Jackson Highway again. They were coming at me and had one nice bright handlebar mounted light. I was coming at the pretty fast and I don't think they saw or heard me so I gave them a heads up and said hi as I zipped by. I would have stopped but I wanted to make tracks and I think they did too.
After about 5 miles of a low grade descent I saw the road sign and turned left onto Stone House Road. Stone House road is paved and takes you back to Jackson Highway where I made another left and proceeded back to my car. Then my strategic parking paid off because I went into the Chinese restaraunt and was treated to an excellent dinner.
I had so much fun on my Monday ride that I decided to repeat on Tuesday. I started at about the same time, but this time I parked in a parking lot behind an abandoned building on Stone House Road. I was a bit more prepared for the dark, I brought my light, a helmet, and my air pump. I also planned on I hitting the road in the opposite direction so I would get all the creek crossings and rougher riding done while it was still light. I managed to get the rougher parts of the ride taken care of while it was light. By the time I turned the corner to Michigan Bar Road it was very dark outside, and again there was no moon.
As winter approaches I am thinking more and more about night rides and places to go in the rain and on wet days. While I was in Sacramento I managed to get two great rides in even though I didn't have the daylight to do it in. This just goes to prove that you don't always have to go to great lengths to find an adventure on your mountain bike.