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Thursday, October 15, 2015

Off the Bike

Notwithstanding all the fun scouting remote roads all over a wide swath of western South Dakota to create the Black Hills BackBone route, I'm still processing the simple fact that I did not ride it all this year as planned.  Last weeks ride off the map south of Jewel Cave helped.  And I'm really looking forward to the upcoming Omaha JackRabbit, put together by bike aficionados Pell Duvall and Scott Redd.  But a bit more of a respite is in order.

Enter Paul Matson, one of my best friends from Yankton High School and one of the best friends a person could have.  Paul is a medical doctor living in Portland, Oregon, with a propensity to return to South Dakota occasionally to share some time.  Usually there's some hiking involved.  This year, he flew into Rapid City several days in advance of pheasant hunting in parts further East.  Great timing.

Now, there's a hike for a couple of old friends.  Old Baldy Mountain.
We set out Monday late morning for Old Baldy Mountain in the Northern Black Hills.  It's a bit of a drive from Rapid City for a relatively short 6 mile loop, but we aren't in a hurry.  Although I submit that any route is a scenic route, we take a variety of back roads, including portions of both the BackBone and the Gold Rush Mother Lode.  Nice drive.

Paul enjoying the view atop Old Baldy Mountain.
 Mid-October in the Northern Hills is past prime time for the changing of the colors of the aspen and birch stands.  But this fall has been mild and we find a few pockets of trees holding onto their golden leaves.  The trail is mellow and the miles pass.  We greet a solitary hiker, who enthusiastically tells us of a herd of 20 or so elk that had just crossed the trail ahead of us.  We see no elk and no other hikers, but relish the fall air, the scenery surrounding us and the simple experience of a nice hike.

Still a few golden leaves left.
Dropping off the summit, we somehow venture off the loop trail circling back to the trail head.  Instead, we hike several miles due north before emptying onto School House Gulch Road (USFS 222), north and west of Iron Creek Lake.  So, we end up on more remote roads, hiking a few miles east to Tinton Road (USFS 134) and over 4 miles back to the trail head.  Something more than double the 6 mile loop.

Getting a little dark by the time we found our way back to the trail head.
A little off the marked trail.  A little off the planned route.  Maybe just a little off.  Thanks, Paul.

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