By Eric Sayetta
Sometimes it pays to ride out of the box. I know some riders from Stockton and
vicinity. Some of them are TROGS (Trail Riders Of Greater Stanislaus). One of
them calls himself 0gre (thats zero-gee-are-eee), but his real name is Dennis,
and he likes to find trails off the beaten path. Check out his great website at
Dennis shares my opinion that Downieville, Hole-In-The-Ground, and Mr. Toads
are overrated. He likes his trails more technical and less blown-out. He invited
me to do a trail that Id never heard of called Pinecrest Peak. Its off of route 108
near the town of Strawberry. I asked my Marin friends about it nobody had
ever heard of it.
We got together a group of TROGS to do the ride. Im a little out of place in this
group (the Fuzzy Duds and flask of elixir get some stares), but in my experience,
in a group of mountain bikers, if you can ride, all social barriers can be erased.
The ride starts from the Strawberry store. You can ride all the way to the top, or
you can shuttle it. We compromised and shuttled part way up, and added a
singletrack climb through an area called Hammil Canyon.
The Hammil Canyon trail is a singletrack mostly used by hunters, bikers, and a
few motocross riders. It alternates between rocky uphill technical sections and
easy meadow riding. Its a challenging climb due to the altitude (starting at about
7,000 feet) and the rocks.
Climbing up Hammil Canyon
We did some playing on the rocks and even went the wrong way on purpose just
to try the rocks in the downhill direction. After perhaps 45 minutes of climbing,
the views became distracting
View on Hammil Canyon trail
At the top of the Hammil Canyon trail, we rode some fire road to reach the top of
Pinecrest Peak. The TROGS were a little faster than me up the fire road and I
was suffering but not bonking.
Fred surveys Pinecrest Peak
The hedonistic ways of the Marin crowd have not been discovered in Stanislaus
county. At rest stops, the riders stop in the middle of the trail and straddle their
bikes for a minute or two. Sometimes a rider will take out a sandwich and take a
few bites while still straddling their bike. During our lunch stop on Pinecrest
Peak, all of the riders remained standing (except for me, and again I received
some blank stares). Of course, after ten minutes you will hear the usual
comment such as, lets go before our legs get cold. This is just something that
you have to accept. They are the nicest people on earth but they have not
discovered the leisurely pleasures, although they have certainly discovered the
My offers of Fuzzys elixir were also met with puzzled stares, and I had to enjoy
the spirits by myself (and quickly).
The TROGS enjoying lunch
The Pinecrest Peak trail was built by a mountain biker. From the very top of
Pinecrest Peak, there is a new bonus trail that he built. He purposely made it
difficult to find so that motorcyclists are not likely to come upon it.
The entire Pinecrest Peak trail is a double-black-diamond adventure. The first
thing you will notice is that the trail doesnt get over-ridden. Perhaps 5 10
bikers per summer weekend. The next thing youll notice is that all of the
obstacles are cleverly designed to look impossible but each one has a magical
solution that allows you to roll it. When you approach an obstacle, you will say
(out loud) NO WAY, but just before you unclip in terror, you will see the solution.
Then you will roll the obstacle and say to yourself, oh, I am such a good rider!.
A few of the solutions are totally unique, especially on the bonus trail at the top.
For example, there is a sharp downhill switchback with a big tree right in the
middle of it. NO WAY, you say, but then you see a large boulder, which you
thought was also in the way. You ride straight up the boulder (not too far, or else
youll plunge 20 feet), and then you execute a SHARP left turn on top of the
boulder, and then you roll steeply down it, and voila! You have executed the
Finally we reached the original start of the Pinecrest Peak trail. The views are
awesome and the very first 50 feet of trail puts you on notice that you are in for a
five star technical adventure.
Oh my god, its legal for bikes!
What line should I take????
Try this line
I did it, now YOU do it !!!
It is really amazing to experience obstacle after obstacle that stretches you to
your limits, but somehow is ride-able! The Pinecrest Peak trail sustains this
challenge for ten miles! Eventually, you will fail to see one of the solutions and
you will crash, especially when you get tired near the end. All five of us crashed
at one time or another, but nobody got seriously hurt.
Pinecrest lake from the view spot
Just after the view spot, you ride past a pristine lake and the trail gets easy for a
Dennis finds a few meters of flat land
The final mile or two of the Pinecrest Peak trail ups the ante and goes just a little
bit beyond double-black-diamond. The solutions are a little more elusive, and
youre already dead tired from the first eight miles of trail. This section may
remind you of the Grouse Ridge area.
Rock puzzle on the final stretch
I tried to ride this rock puzzle and made it to the bottom but then crashed hard.
As I struggled to get out from under my bike, my enormous 2.5 inch front tire
emitted a sharp hissing sound, announcing a pinch flat. It takes a lot to pinch flat
my front tire, but the Pinecrest Peak trail is a lot of trail !!
My wounds were superficial. Im coming back for more!