Mickelson Trail

Peter and I biked the Mickelson Trail in South Dakota

Preparing our gear. I tried to go as light as possible.A prom was being held in Deadwood, the starting point of the trail. There was no dancing - apparently dancing is not common anymore.

Old train depot in Deadwood

Sunday, June 21, 2020

First day of the bike ride, 16 miles of almost all uphill, with a lovely stretch of downhill in the middle. Caught in a rain shower twice. Absolutely beautiful terrain, lovely and green, lots of old mining stuff and buildings around. Apparently around here was one of the most productive gold mines in the world.

The trail surface is very nice and even. One of the best gravel trails I've been on. A world of difference between it and the Iron Horse trail, which shook up my hands so much, gripping the handlebar, that they were numb.

The beginning of the trail, with our rental bikesLots of old mine buildings and artifcats along the way

This truck had been caught by a landslide

The first few miles were uphill and tough. Finally it leveled out a bit.

Thank God I was watching the map very carefully and knew exactly when the place we are staying tonight (Carston Cottage) was coming up. There was a sign that I thought was very obvious, but I was looking for it. There were a couple of bikers (2 older guys), in the cabin next to ours, were apparently told by the person they booked with that Carston Cottages was "right next to Rocheford", so they went 8 miles further into Rocheford, downhill! Yikes. Soaking wet and cold, they went into a bar to ask directions, and were told it was 8 miles back. Luckily a guy with a pickup gave them a ride to Carston Cottages.
After a shortish distance, but lots of uphills and rainstorms, we were happy to arrive at Carston Cottages.

Carston Cottages is interesting. About 5 little cabins (electricity but no water), with a bath/shower house a few buildings down. The owner has LOTS of animals of all kinds. Guinea hens, peacocks, lots of chickens, turkeys, roosters, ducks, geese, cows, donkeys, lamas, goats, pigs. Unbelievable. I chatted with the friendly lady (the niece of the owner) who's caretaking for the weekend, she was collecting eggs (4 dozen a day). She gave us 3 peacock feathers. Peter spent a long time playing with the cat, who was very affectionate.

I chatted quite a bit with the guys from next door, who went 8 miles further than they should have. Friendly couple of guys, one from Texas and the other from Montana. About 60 and 70, I'd say. The one from Texas teaches construction management at a university there. The older one is (or was?) a fire lookout. Every year, they meet up for an adventure. They brought with all their food (freeze dried) and are camping the whole way, wherever they can. Although they're in cabins tonight. They're taking 6 days for the trip. In previous years they've done multiple adventures such as going down the Missouri river in a canoe, biking the Katy trail (which goes along the Missouri river), etc.

Monday, June 22, 2020

A gorgeous spread of trail today, 4 tunnels, lots of mining artifacts, lots of cows, biking alongside streams most of the way. There was a long, glorious downhill stretch as we left Carston Cottages, lasting all the way into Mystic, where we started uphill again. For some reason the uphill didn't bug me as much as yesterday. Also, there was less of it than yesterday (1100 ft vs 1700 ft).

And I'm getting used to the bike, which I thought yesterday was a piece of junk. Honestly, the first 2 hours or so (uphill, and on a bike that's not well fitted to me) was tough, I was wondering if it would be so torturous the whole way. I'm still not thrilled with it, but I'm managing.

Overall the ride was very nice. We arrived here at around 2 (the Lantern Inn in Hill City, apparently very popular with motorcyclists). There's a grocery store just across the street, we bought a few items. Also bought some cereal and milk since the complimentary breakfast buffet is not available any more because of coronavirus. We bought a cup-of-noodles package, and I'm planning on re-purposing the styrofoam container for cereal tomorrow.

This afternoon we've been hanging around the hotel in Hill City, which is very comfortable. Also very nice to have the bathroom in the actual hotel room, unlike the cabin last night. Did a little bike ride through town and picked up a Subway sandwich to eat in the room.

Glorious ride the next day, mostly downhill, to Hill CityThese round "shingles" are actually the lids of old cyanide containers, used in mining.

At the Montana Mine, just off the trail

Lots of cows along the trail

An old cabin in Mystic

Tailings from an old gold mine

One of the many trail shelters that we used along the way. I think this was the Redfern shelter.The usual - old mining artifacts along the way

Most of the trail shelters had these water tanks, with pumps. Thank goodness for that - otherwise we would have had to carry a lot of water.

A beautiful, slow downhill coast into Hill City

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Rode from Hill City to Custer, just 16 or so miles. A fair bit of uphill, just before the exit to Crazy Horse Memorial, which we were able to see (at a distance) from the trail. Lots of people on the trail, more than yesterday, which is understandable considering that we were biking between Hill City and Custer, two of the larger towns in the Black Hills. Much of the bike trail today was closer to the road than I'd like. But it was still great overall.

After Crazy Horse, a glorious downhill, through some beautiful terrain, right into Custer. Other bikers said they had seen a mountain lion, that ran up into a tree.

Love Custer, a very Midwest cowboy type of place. One store we walked by that you NEVER EVER would see in our area was called Claw, Antler and Hide. And the store actually had a lot of animal skins, hanging outside the front of the store! A bearskin for $350, deer for $90, skunk for around $40, and so on. Amazing. We also went to a cool rock store, where Peter bought a piece of rose quartz and orange calacite.

Next day - on our way to Custer

The Crazy Horse memorial, from the trail. At this point another gorgeous downhill started, into Custer.

Tonight we're staying at the Chalet Motel, which is one of those little 1930's style clusters of little cabins, around a central court. Cute. Hotels here are much more expensive than when we in Austria last year. Another difference from Austria - people are much friendlier, and easier to talk here. I chat with all the hotel people, and also in the middle of the trail yesterday, a couple from Texas who were also biking the trail (in the other direction) just stopped in the middle and we chatted for a while. That NEVER would have happened in Austria.
At the Chalet Motel, in Custer. Really cute little 1930's roadside motel.At a rock store

Now this is something you don't see in the Seattle area! All kinds of furs for saleAntlers too...

What could these items be on the left?

Apparently the world's largest log building

Wednesday, June 24, 2020




That was my main impression of the day. It's too bad because stretches of the 46 miles that we biked were beautiful. But it was so hot - in the mid-90's - that it was hard to appreciate them. It was too long a ride, but it wasn't possible to break up the day, because there was no place to stay in the middle. There were some bikers just south of Custer, but after that only one guy, from Fort Collins, Colorado. We met him in the Pringle trail shelter. He was doing the whole thing in 2 days, so he'd biked from Hill City that day.

Thank God there was enough water along the way.

Lots of beautiful interesting rocks on the trail south of Custer

Model T Ford in the field

A graveyard of bikes, just at Pringle. This is when it was starting to get HOT.

A Lime mill along the trail

Milepost 28 - both the old and new sign.Barn swallows, nesting under a bridge. You can see the beaks of the chicks in some of the nests

First view of the yucca plant. The plants changed quite a bit as we went south. Much drier, too.

Hot and dry

The area around Sheep Canyon was really pretty. Would have been nice to spend some time there, go slower, look at things. Lots of carvings in the rocks, probably from the 1880's, from people who were working on the railroad. One section where the trail went across what I would have thought should have been a bridge, but was a dirt embankment. It went down so steeply on both sides that it was quite scary.

Yes, it was downhill most of the way, however much of the downhill was a very shallow grade, so we still had to pedal. Sometimes with a headwind. Lots and lots of grasshoppers, sometimes every few feet on the trail. And again - very hot, probably mid 90's. Peter and I both got sunburned.

Deadhorse canyon

Carvings from men who worked on the railroadGlad I wasn't here then the rock crashed into the trail!

It's hard to see in the photo, but the trail here passes over a steep, scary ridge.

Finally got to Edgemont and the hotel - the Cowboy Inn - really feeling at the end of my strength. Checked in, the lady checking us in was very friendly, the place is a little rustic and old-fashioned. Still, everything worked, and she gave us a large room, we were able to bring the bikes inside. I zonked out on the bed for a couple hours, after drinking a bottle of water.
The town of Edgemont. Very wide roads, very friendly people.

Eric flew in to pick us up, and when he was setting up his plane a guy by the name of Brian came in and started talking to him. Brian was an older guy who had been a pilot for an oil company in Angola. He gave Eric a ride into town, and we ended up chatting for a while, listening to his stories of being a pilot in Angola. Apparently some scary stuff happened there, during the war.

After dinner (a local diner) we walked around own, and locked up the bikes at the city park as I had arranged with the bike rental place. Edgemont seems like it's de-populating. Some of the streets look like they're transitioning from being paved to being...dirt. Haven't seen that before. But people were extremely friendly - almost everyone driving by waved to us.

Lots of buildings that have seen better daysAt the city park

$19.500 for this house!

Edgemont from the airThe Gold Creek area

An old airstrip?