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Monday, February 25, 2019

Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep

Where to rest? The Black Hills BackBone and DoubleBackBone are long, remote rides.

Conceived as a continuous through-ride, the 310 mile Black Hills BackBone readily lends itself to a multi-day tour, whether self or fully supported. At 640 miles, the DoubleBackBone even more so. Overnight options abound, once near the Black Hills. Pull out a map, or two, and dream up a tour.

Power breakfast meeting at Black Fox, plotting a return ride from the 2016 Pedal Power Campout.
Black Fox is a sweet little USFS campground right on the Black Hills BackBone route at Mile 178.7

If riding with a support vehicle, it's easy. As a well developed tourist destination, the Black Hills offer a wide assortment of hotels, motels, BnB's, RV parks and campgrounds. Ride whatever distance the day brings, shuttle to your home for the night and then shuttle back to start the next day.

That's how our Black Hills BackBone turned out in 2017, because none of the three days went according to plan. In the heat and wind of a Fourth of July weekend, we planned for Day 1 of 133 miles to Spearfish (rode 113 miles to Fruitdale), Day 2 of 94 miles to Custer (rode 84 miles to Deerfield), and Day 3 of 83 miles to the border (rode 113 miles to the border). With the support of shuttle vehicles and BnB overnights in Spearfish and Custer, the riders and crew adapted to create a memorable weekend. For a six part report of 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.

If riding the BackBone self-supported, one must cross the Northern Prairie before entering the Black Hills. Although hard packed with relatively minor elevation gain, those roads starkly expose one to the elements and offer little respite over 100 miles of gravel crossing mostly private land. After Picnic Spring Campground near the North Dakota border, the BackBone eventually skirts a campground at the Rocky Point Recreation Area by Orman Dam (mile 109.0). Then it's another 24 miles of hilly, thicker gravel to Spearfish (mile 133.0), which offers many overnight options.

After Spearfish, there are a couple of campgrounds right on the BackBone, including the popular Black Fox USFS (mile 178.7) and White Tail USFS (mile 195.4), as well as a few just off the BackBone, including Timon USFS (east of Tinton Road just past Big Hill), Mountain Meadows (east of White Tail USFS), several around Custer (mile 227.7), and Elk Mountain in Wind Cave National Park (south at mile 247.8).

Another night at the Black Fox USFS campground, here at the 2017 Bikepack Extravaganza.
Jim Meyer, Jay Erickson and Robert Cota, with Christopher Grady and Jason Thorman in the background.

Continuing onto the DoubleBackBone, Edgemont (mile 360.3) sports a spartan city campground and a little further up the road is Red Bank USFS (mile 440.0). Just off the DoubleBackBone, one can explore Jewell Cave National Monument (east at mile 412.7) and Beaver Creek USFS. North of Spearfish (mile 494.0), one rides by Rocky Point again (mile 518.0), but very few options exist thereafter to Camp Crook or to the North Dakota border.

Motels and cabins may be found throughout the Black Hills, including Spearfish, Trailshead Lodge atop O'Neil Pass, Mountain Meadows on the east side of Deerfield Reservoir, Custer, Edgemont and Spearfish. Check the map, though. There's not much development of any kind on the DoubleBackBone north of Edgemont to Spearfish, or north of Rocky Point to Camp Crook.

For the spunky self-supported rider, dispersed camping offers the most flexibility. Once up and into the Black Hills, the BackBone mostly passes through the Black Hills National Forest, with dispersed camping available most anywhere that is not developed. Check the Forest Service regulations beforehand. You may be able to simply ride until you're done for the day and disperse camp nearby.

For the Black Hills BackBone, I still plan to complete a continuous ride at some point. For the DoubleBackBone, I'd like to ride it self-supported over however many days it takes, camping dispersed along the way. It's all just a matter of time.

Right now, it's time to rest.

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