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Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Black Hills BackBone Bump

The Black Hills BackBone was a whimsical daydream that materialized into a 310 mile gravel and dirt road route spanning the height of the State of South Dakota along the spine of the Black Hills. From the Dakota Marker start at NoWhere, North Dakota to the Stop Sign finish at NothingThere, Nebraska, the Black Hills BackBone showcases the remote ruggedness of western South Dakota.

This route is out there. The first 200+ miles pass through but two towns, one of which offers little more than a bar/convenience store. There very well may be more miles without cell phone coverage than with. And in this back country, people are outnumbered by cows, and probably by deer and elk, too.

Conceived as an unsupported, solo ride, the Black Hills BackBone readily lends itself to a multi-day bikepacking ride or even a multi-day supported tour. In 2017, a small group of friends rode the entire route over three days in the heat and winds of a Fourth of July weekend. For a six part report on that ride, go to these posts. An Idea Takes Shape; Gathering; Crossing the Northern Prairie; Up and Into the Black Hills; Focus on the Finish; A Weekend to Remember.

From the broad shoulders of Flag Mountain, the granite peaks of Mount Rushmore and Harney Peak loom on the horizon.
To my knowledge, the entire Black Hills BackBone has not been ridden on a bicycle as a continuous, unsupported solo ride. That is not from lack of preparation or effort on my part. In my first attempt in 2015, I stumbled into ferocious prairie winds with horizontal rain that eventually spit me out in Spearfish 135 miles later, barely able to stand.  A Rancher's Kindness.  In my second attempt in 2016, I flew across the 135 miles of Northern Prairie in ideal conditions before plowing into a freak ice blizzard climbing O'Neil Pass, dropping me into a trail head outhouse shaking like a frozen leaf.  A Sudden Turn.  My third attempt remains undocumented, as I still cannot wrap my mind around that ride.

So, the first to complete an unsupported, continuous Black Hills BackBone will hold the course record. Whether anyone else gives it a go, or not, I'll be back out there again.

Lots of details and pictures of the Black Hills BackBone route are posted throughout this blog, if you're looking for a nice, long, remote ride. To save a trip through the blog archives, here are links to prior blog posts for the route.  Introduction;  Overview;  Final CutNew Cue Sheets & Tweaks; BackBone Photo Essay.

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