any of this route will do you well. I rode it clockwise. One long fire road climb.
You can also - once you are on skylands (the first "proper" bit of single track thatyou turn left onto after the first fire road climb) you can carry on and not turn right -you can then go straight and get to the race route which takes you to sheperd lake.
this is also a good route - slightly shorter - from sheperd lake that dies the race trail and skylands
Sorry again that i can't join you this time and im so late in responding.