Absolutely awesome day. We followed roughly the classic Big Boulder route outlined in Roger McGee's Ride Guide. With the exception of going across the ridge to Deer Lake and dropping down from there instead of dropping down Road 93. Deer Lake was beautiful and the views from the top of the ridge were great.
After dropping down from Deer Lake you merge with the classic Pauley Creek route. Shortly after crossing Pauly creek is the turn off for Big Boulder. There's a fairly conspicuous sign. At that point there is quite a bit of climbing. After climbing for some time you come over the ridge and start down some fire roads. This is the tricky part. The views are so awesome here it's hard to focus on the trail (which is pretty boring at the top). It was on this downhill that we ran into Nick (Chum), Steve (WhereWolf), Kip, and Tim (UncleMTB).
There is a flat spot where it looks like the Big Boulder Mine was and shortly after that is where the singletrack starts. So if you adjust your seat or shocks or whatever and haven't already this is a good time. The downhill starts fairly tame and then there is a short/ very steep climb. After that it is just plain wicked. Steep and super skinny in some places. There are plenty of spots to fall into oblivion so be careful. Try to ride withing your line of site!! Several times I found myself coming around a corner and grabbing too much brake because the trail just shrunk down to nothing.
By the time we rode it the trail was pretty trashed, there were quite a few places where there was 4" or more of moon dust hiding deep ruts in the trail. The switchbacks are tough mostly because they sneak up on you and you fly right past them.
After riding down Big Boulder for some time the trail runs into third divide trail. If you've survived Big Boulder you probably want to take Second Divide Trail. So take a LEFT on Third Divide (be careful you are going opposite the downhill traffic at this point) and go back about 1/4 mile to the turnoff for Second Divide Trail.
Second Divide is if anything more challenging and more dangerous than Big Boulder. There are lots of short/ steep climbs and downhills that are very exposed. The drop to the side is often 50' or more with a rocky landing. I can clean pretty everything on Big Boulder but Second Divide Trail is another story. The downhills are all ridable (some are pretty hairy) but several of the short climbs are a bit beyond me.
Take I-80 East from Sacramento to Auburn. From Auburn take 49 North to Downieville. If you are shuttling I suggest you call ahead and find out from the shuttle service where to park your car. We used Downieville Outfitters, but I didn't care for the bike racks on their vehicle.
When Pimpbot (Erich) and I got to Packer Saddle everyone was gone - Don't blame them they didn't even know we were coming and we were unfortunately about 10 minutes late. After a short debate we decide to head over to Deer Lake before dropping down to Pauley Creek.
The Pacific crest trail tempted us, it looks like some sweet riding but we resisted.
We hammered down some babyheads.
Skated on death marbles.
Did some climbing and enjoyed some views.