Knoxville OHV & Buck Island DS Ride
My friend Chris & I have been exploring the Knoxville OHV area and Reiff & Rayhouse Roads that connect Cache Creek on Hwy16 to Knoxville-Berryessa Rd. Here is a Google Earth KMZ file that include these routes. We explored most of the Knoxville trails on our trip back in November. We also rode Reiff Rd, Rayhouse Rd, and Langs Peak Rd down to Buck Island and back. We didn't explore the south ridge or its many side trails.
On Monday, February 18, 2008, we loaded our DS bikes into my truck and drove up to the Knoxville OHV area again. Found my left fork was leaking oil. Oh, well. It was foggy in the bay area & around Berryessa, but we climbed above it. We got to Knoxville about 10AM. Headed north from our staging area on the Knoxville road to the bridge over the creek crossing. Then we took the little single-track on the right over Dunnigan Hill. Back to the road & then the single-track trails on the left. Back to the road again and all the way to the north exit. North on Berryessa Knoxville Rd a little more than a mile & right on Reiff Road.
We climbed the first ridge to the top and stopped at the gate with the ROAD CLOSED sign. We whipped out our super-secret DoD Teleporters and ...
POOF!!! We automagically appeared on the other side of the gate!
On the November trip, this road had only seen a little rain and was still in good shape. This time the recent heavy rains had turned many steep downhill sections into rocky-bouldery dry river beds with many runoff ravines crossing the road at angles. Some of the fresh ravines were 2-3 feet deep towards the outer road edge. This was now technical & dangerous in places. I was WAY too distracted to think of taking pictures.
Real obvious why they close this road off in the winter. Davis Creek Reservoir was full and had water flowing out the spillway. The climb up Langs Peak Ridge is not as steep and the rain damage wasn't as bad. Same rock slides, but smaller boulder beds and narrower ravines.
But today, we were heading south first to explore the ridge road down to the two BLM trailheads.
The road across the top of the ridge was fun and FAST! I was glad there was no traffic out here. As we descended off the ridge into the canyon, road damage & storm debris was everywhere again.
We came across many downed trees and bushes. Most you could sneak past, but not all.
We cleared them far enough for us to get by. We passed a few minor roads & trails on the way to the trailheads. There was much road damage from rain runoff and rock slides down this ridge too.
A pine cone?
The Fiske Creek Trailhead at the bottom of the canyon. This trail is not marked locally as hiking or horses only, but if you walk up it about 15 feet you will find one of those metal-pipe frames that are supposed to keep dirtbikes from entering. Probably works on quads. The trail was very over-grown though and in need of maintenance. We continued on the road up the next ridge to the other trailhead.
|We had lunch at this Trailhead and enjoyed this great
view of the ridge & road we just traversed. We were the only ones
here and it was ALL ours. :-) On the far right of this
panorama, you can just see snow-capped Snow Mountain, Goat Mtn., & St.
Johns Mtn. west of Stonyford. We could also see side trails off
this ridge that just looked too interesting to pass up.
After lunch, we headed back down the road to the canyon. We rode into the first clearing on the left and found a BLM picnic table, and a trail heading south. About 10 feet down this trail, a large shrub on each side of the trail had fallen across it. Looked suspiciously like these were downed to limit access. No "No Tresspassing" signs here though.
About 2/3s the way up the south ridge road, we took the 1st left trail and started exploring this area. Double click the "S.Trail-Loop3" in the Places column in this Google Earth KMZ file to "fly" to this zoomed-in 3-D view. The meadow under the oak trees was gorgeous. There were deer trails in every direction. Yes, I should have gotten a photo. We climbed to the top and re-joined this ridge trail as it led back to the road. Nice loop!
"S.Trail-Loop4" had several dirt mounds to navigate over just as it left the road. Obviously here to discourage folks from going this way. Again, no NT signs. Then this old jeep trail snaked down the west ridge and onto a north-to-south ridge. This followed a fence that was labeled "University of California Ecological Study Area". More Oak-studded meadows. :-) We eventually reached an open gate across this trail about the same time we could see a large white barn below us. We decided we didn't want to ride down into some ranchers backyard, so we turned around and headed back up.
"S.Trail-Loop5" was similar to #4, but didn't go near as far before we reached purposely-downed big shrubs to block the trail. Again, no NT signs here either. Back to the main ridge road. We toured the south pond and then back to the Rayhouse Rd. intersection.
As we came to this intersection, we saw a couple hiking and looking at the sign. They had hiked up from Cache Creek and were looking for the Frog Pond Trail. We told them they passed it about 1.5 miles back down the road they just hiked up. After pointing them in the right direction to get back, we continued across Langs Peak Rd to Buck Island.
The steep sections of this ridge road had a lot of rain damage also. Glad I was on the WR and not the Caponord. Many more downed trees and rock slides to get around. We were obviously the first ones down this way since the last storms. Mmmm ... virgin territory!
At the bottom of the hill, you can turn right to continue around Buck Island, or go left past the closed gate to follow a trail through a creek crossing and up the side of the next ridge. We took the left first to explore this area further. Double Click "Beyond Buck Island" in the Places column on the left in Google Earth to "fly" where I'm talking about.
We continued up the side of the ridge we passed a couple of small downed bushes to block the trail access. A little further we came to a new "Private Property - No Trespassing" sign. This sign wasn't here last November. Hmmm... A little further yet and we came to a HUGE downed bush blocking 95% of the trail. You could just walk past it if you held on to the bush branches to keep from falling down the side of the hill. The bush was kinda fresh & green, so it didn't want to break with our hands, only bend. This was going to take to much work to clear enough to get the dirtbikes past. Well, POO! We turned around and rode back to Buck Island thinkin' about the foldable hand saws & trimmers we need to bring the next time...
We cruised past the meadow with the two restrooms and the open gate labeled "Authorized Vehicles Only" to tour the rest of the Island. Cool place! Back to the meadow, we stopped for a break. There was a large stump that wanted to take our photo! CHEESE-Click!
|What a beautiful place to have all to ourselves.
:-) We enjoyed a few snacks, took a couple more photos, and
suddenly felt sorrow for our friends toiling away at their jobs.
The sun was getting low in the sky and it was time to go. We climbed the ridge road dodging fallen boulders, downed trees, and runoff ravines. Once on top of the ridge, a severe case of Hooliganism overtook us as we flew back to Rayhouse Road. Rayhouse to the reservoir was a little treacherous and FUN! We stopped for one last photo.
The last ridge to climb to reach Reiff Road was very technical. The boulder beds & ravines were now on steep climbs and momentum was needed to clear most of the bad spots. We noticed truck tracks on this ridge that we didn't see on the way in. Someone (ranger, rancher, ?) has been down & back up since we came through. The gate was still locked, so we had to use our transporters again.
We continued across Reiff Rd, south on Berryessa-Knoxville Rd, and then through the OHV area on its main road back to the truck. Which had a flat tire on the right front when we arrived. We replaced it with the spare and found a screw in the flat. We loaded the bikes just before dark and headed for home.
On the way down Berryessa-Knoxville Road, we saw the large white barn on the left that we saw earlier, and stopped at the locked gate at the road. It had the same University of California Ecological Study Area sign here. HMMMmmm ...
© 2008, Mike Chaplin catfish at endorphin-express dot com
This page was last updated; February 22, 2008