I documented this ride through a series of seven FaceBook photo albums, which is not a great platform for narrative or for preservation. So, I plan to reproduce those seven photo albums here in a series of posts, each with an added, rediscovered picture and an introductory note. Here are links to my prior posts in this series. DED Dirt Rice 2014 - Prologue; Day 1 - Centennial Trail; Day 2 - Centennial Trail.
As I'm beginning to build the gear, experience and mindset to consider longer bikepacking rides, I'm astonished to realize that five years have passed since this DED Dirt Ride. I am determined to bikepack more the next five years than the last.
|Cut-off helmets must have axed this picture before, but it's the only one I found with all three of us at the start of Day 3.|
We're ready for another day of Centennial Trail single track. This one gets gnarly in Custer State Park.
Day 3 of the 2014 DED Dirt Ride. Again, we awake refreshed after a relaxing evening at our campsite. With Shaun's Jeep shuttled to the end of the Centennial Trail, we leave his toy hauler at Sheridan Lake for a second night there. Today we face another 30+ miles of single track Centennial Trail, with a by-pass of more tree downfall and a wilderness area. Then, just south of Legion Lake, the Centennial Trail transforms into a series of rock-stuffed steeps that are difficult just to walk. Once past the French Creek Horse Camp, however, the route and our spirits improve. At the end of another long, hot day, we reach the boundary of Wind Cave National Park, marking the end of single track and the beginning of gravel. That was a hard three days covering the length the Centennial Trail. We're ready. Boy, are we ready.
Dawn of Day 3 delivers a transitional day from the granite spiked, thickly forested heart of the Hills to the ragged edge of the emerging prairie, with a route that offers a bit of everything: a gravel climb warm-up, a paved by-pass around the Black Elk Wilderness Area, smooth single track sandwiched between brutal hike-a-bike steeps, knee deep creek crossings and the longest, nastiest gravel uphill this side of Odin's Revenge. We finish the day where the Centennial Trail enters Wind Cave National Park, where bikes must travel on the roads. That was just fine. We're ready for some open gravel.
|After a pleasant gravel and paved road warm-up, we hit some Centennial Trail reality south of Legion Lake.|
— at Legion Lake.
|With the punishing climb behind, Shaun joyfully rails the ridge line single track.|
— with Shaun Arritola at Legion Lake.
|The gorgeous ridge line single track abruptly dumps us onto an eroded rock fall someone must have mischievously marked as the Centennial Trail. As Rob cheerfully reminds us, "It's what we're here for."|
— with Rob Sorge at Legion Lake.
|Yes, that's the Centennial Trail somewhere south of Legion Lake in Custer State Park. — at Legion Lake.|
|Undeterred by a few rocks, Shaun patiently waits to see what's ahead on the Centennial Trail.|
— with Shaun Arritola at Legion Lake.
|Relieved to be rid of the chute of ankle-breaking rocks, we follow the 89 signs that now approach French Creek. — with Shaun Arritola and Rob Sorge at Legion Lake.|
|Not long after dropping to the creek bed level, we begin a series of crossings of French Creek. |
Here's Rob in his element. — with Rob Sorge at French Creek, Custer State Park.
|Shaun happily cools his dogs. Seems like he's always happily doing something. We're just happy there's some moving water involved. — with Shaun Arritola at French Creek, Custer State Park.|
|Not exactly cyclocross form, but the cold water sure feels good. — at French Creek, Custer State Park.|
|In search of our next water source, Rob finds his rhythm on a very long, increasingly steep gravel climb |
out of the French Creek drainage. — with Rob Sorge at French Creek Horse Camp, Custer State Park.
|Shuttling back to camp, we turn our attention to recovery drinks, food, rest and tomorrow's weather. |
Another stellar day on the DED Dirt Ride.— at Custer State Park.