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Saturday, November 14, 2015

Getting to NoWhere, North Dakota

There's no way around it.  Just getting to the start of the Black Hills BackBone is an undertaking and there's no there, even when you get there.  These logistics are part of the reason why I am not turning this route into a race.  I call it NoWhere, North Dakota for a reason.

Not the Black Hills BackBone start, but just 15 miles away.
To drive from Rapid City takes a solid 3+ hours one way.  To start pedaling at first light would require an exceptionally early wake up call, even for me.  A later start would still result in starting a long ride immediately after sitting in a car for hours.  To drive from Spearfish saves less than an hour and from Belle Fouche not much more.  In any event, that's not enough of a difference for me to arrange lodging there.  One of these options may work for others, but they're not my preference.

The nearest motel I can find is the one in the bustling town of Buffalo, population 380, which is roughly 30 miles from the start.  That may be a viable option for others.  I prefer to get closer, and to camp, outside of town if possible.

One might think the town of Ludlow, right on U.S. Highway 85 with its busy, oil field traffic, would offer some lodging.  One would be wrong.  Shaun and I found only a bar with very limited provisions, although the proprietors were friendly.

All the action in Ludlow is at the bar.  On an early Friday evening in August, that was us.
Fortunately, there's an island of public land up there in the sea of prairie.   In August, Shaun and I camped at an 8 unit primitive campground nestled among pine trees in a small cluster of hills sequestered as national forest.  More specifically, the Picnic Spring Campground, North Cave Hills Unit, Sioux Ranger District, Custer Gallatin National Forest.  Good vehicle access, 8 prepared camp sites, a composting outhouse, no water, no electricity, no fees, no reservations.  Beautiful spot to spend the afternoon and evening preparing for the BackBone start, about 15 miles away.

Near the Picnic Spring campground.
So, for those considering riding the Black Hills BackBone, there are a few options to get to the start.  When I go back, I'll be enjoying an afternoon and evening at the Picnic Spring campground.

Our way to start the Black Hills BackBone.  After a relaxing evening in front of a campfire.

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