Search This Blog

Sunday, July 4, 2021

2021 Black Hills Bounty (Day 2) - Trust

Trust I seek and I find in you
Everyday for us something new
Open mind for a different view
And nothing else matters.

Nothing Else Matters, Lars Ulrich & James Hetfield (1991) 

Say, what?
Ben Cooper, Paul Brasby, Lane Bergen, Jeff Bloom, Mark Hoffman
Day 2 of the 2021 Black Hills Bounty.

"How'd the Mickelson Trail get here?"

Now that's something every out-of-stater wants to hear from the guy creating and leading a five day bicycle ride on rough, remote roads through sparsely populated backcountry with practically no cell coverage. Does he know where he's going? Does he even know where he is?

But these guys heard me say that early on Day 2 of the 2021 Black Hills Bounty. And they still trusted me to show them the way.

It matters.

Paul Brasby and Mark Hoffman cruising down Black Fox Camp Road.
Early on Day 2 of the 2021 Black Hills Bounty.

Day 2 of the 2021 Black Hills Bounty opens clear and warm at our impromptu dispersed campsite a couple of miles off the summit of Flag Mountain. Everyone rises early, eager to ride. Not surprisingly, Jeff Bloom immediately fires up his stove to brew the first cup of coffee of the day. Paul Brasby apparently orders room service and dines in. Ben Cooper and Mark Hoffman cook a quick breakfast and get to packing their bikes. And Tour Divide veteran Lane Bergen efficiently goes about his business and then patiently waits for the rest of us. 

After yesterday's extended ride in the heat, everyone looks forward to today's start. The first 15 miles flow down Black Fox Camp Road (233), one of my favorite dirt roads anywhere, and then picturesque South Rapid Creek Road (231). On several rides in the past, I've seen elk grazing and beaver working along these streams. Today the wildlife lay low, as we joyously rollick along a narrow canyon that opens to a lush valley.

Mark Hoffman, Jeff Bloom, Craig Groseth warming up on South Rapid Creek Road.
Early on Day 2 of the 2021 Black Hills Bounty.

At an intersection with Low Standard Road 191, we re-group. For some reason, Ben's GPS device beeps to turn south on this steep, rough, meandering dirt road that boasts substantial standing water from last night's rain. I've ridden 191 and admittedly included it in an early draft of Day 2. However, I later removed it due to its relatively lower reward/work assessment and the overall length of the rest of the day. It's a fun road to ride, but the standard for inclusion in the Black Hills Bounty is high.

Ben's GPX file for Day 2 must have been one of those early drafts. This does not inspire confidence with the troops in the accuracy of the other GPX maps that I sent out. I really don't know, as I only use hard copy maps. And the hard copy maps clearly do not take 191 here.

No audible here. We continue down South Rapid Creek Road.

Paul Brasby and Ben Cooper flying down Castle Peak Road.
 Day 2 of the 2021 Black Hills Bounty.

After 15 miles of primarily downhill, we grind about 3 miles up South Rochford Road (17) and a short pitch up a rough road. But then, the next 11 miles drop down narrow, winding Castle Peak Road 181, often right beside Castle Creek. This stretch is a Black Hills treasure, especially when mud-soaked and littered with water-filled potholes. 

Not today. Too bad. I had hoped for an immoderate amount of standing water here, just for the group's edification.

Popping out of Castle Peak Road, we coast down Mystic Road (318) the final 2 miles to the Mystic Trailhead of the Mickelson Trail. Here we find cold water, bathrooms, a shelter with picnic tables, and a steady stream of cyclists enjoying the well maintained, rails-to-trails Mickelson Trail. That first 31 miles sure passed quickly.

Lane Bergen busts down Castle Peak Road.
Day 2 of the 2021 Black Hills Bounty.

At the Mystic Trailhead, Jeff, Mark and Paul surprisingly greet a cyclist friend from Kansas, Jackie Hattle-Gregory, who is leading her own group of friends on a multiple day ride of the Mickelson Trail. What a small world. And cycling trails like the Mickelson Trail help make it smaller.

Our loaded bikes draw attention and questions from several others at the Trailhead, but eventually we return to pedaling. Breaking from all the remote back roads, we ourselves turn onto the Mickelson Trail for a steady five mile climb to cross a large trestle and ride through two hard rock tunnels. Although uphill, this gentle grade on a solid surface is downright relaxing.

The only water hole in the entire 11 mile Castle Peak Road. Sigh.
Day 2 of the 2021 Black Hills Bounty.

Once clear of the tunnels, we turn back onto the rough stuff on Horse Creek Road (530) for a short uphill  pitch and a bouncy descent to Slate Creek. Then, for the first time all day, we drop to our lowest gears, and often wish for a lower one, to climb about 3 miles up unnamed Low Standard Road 530.1A. After all these idyllic downhill miles and rail-to-trails miles to start the day, we actually have to work a bit here. How rude.

We also run into a little ATV/UTV traffic here, which provides an occasional break. These vehicles are popular out here, but relatively few venture as remote as we ride. Those folks are generally courteous and one even cheers me on as I grunt up a steep. We're all just out there, enjoying the Black Hills.

Engineer Ben Cooper shows Mark Hoffman how to negotiate a train tunnel.
Day 2 on the 2021 Black Hills Bounty. 

Cresting a final pitch up to a ridgeline, we are rewarded with views of Harney Peak and a short downhill to Low Standard Road 389.1D. Now, we're rocking down rough two track toward the historic Gold Mountain Mine. It's heating up and time for a break.

The Gold Mountain Mine is no longer an operating gold mine, but has been structurally restored as part of this historic site, with interpretive signs along walkways passing by the various structures. We casually stroll about, soaking in the history and moving some muscles in ways different from pedaling.

Main gold processing unit at the historic Gold Mountain Mine.
Day 2 of the 2021 Black Hills Bounty.

From the Gold Mountain Mine, we quickly drop down Burnt Fork Road (389) to intersect with both Deerfield Road (306) and the Mickelson Trail. Looking at the remaining mileage, elevation gain, and time,  as well as the building heat, I call our first audible of the day.

The plan calls for a right turn (northwest) on the Mickelson Trail for 1.5 miles to access Battle Axe Road (386), a USFS Secondary Road that winds about 5 miles south. It's a fun gravel road showcased on several Black Hills Gravel Series routes. However, to shorten this day a bit and to add a few miles on the popular Mickelson Trail for these out-of-state cyclists, we instead turn left (south) on the Mickelson Trail. We'll take it the remaining 20 miles to Custer.

Bikers invade a convenience store in Hill City.
Day 2 of the 2021 Black Hills Bounty.

The 5 downhill miles to Hill City roll quickly and we re-group at a convenience store at the south end of town. This is the first convenience store we've encountered on the entire trip and this gravel savvy crew takes full advantage. Pop, chips, candy bars, chocolate milk, ice cream. All the essential nutrients to fuel the remaining miles on a long, hot day. 

We spin up the final 10 mile climb to Crazy Horse Memorial and coast 5 miles down to Custer. This is a sweet finish to a full day of riding. We check into our rented tipis at the Fort WeLikIt Campground in Custer, clean up bikes and bodies, and look for the biggest burgers in town. Before burgers, however, Lucas Haan, Mr. himself, shows up with smiles, enthusiasm, and microbrews for everyone. He even brings replacements for Paul's cantankerous pedals. A great way to end a great Day 2.

Riding to our accommodations for the night.
Tipis at the Fort WeLikIt Campground in Custer.
End of Day 2 of the 2021 Black Hills Bounty.

After a series of signature Secondary and Low Standard roads, the popular Mickelson Trail, and just one audible, we end Day 2 in Custer after 62 miles and 3,700 feet of elevation gain.

Here's a link to the map I created for Day 2 of the 2021 Black Hills Bounty, as ridden by Ben, Craig, Jeff, Lane, Mark and Paul. 2021 Black Hills Bounty - Day 2.

For my prior posts on the 2021 Black Hills Bounty, go to Day 0 - Come Together and Day 1 - Start Of Something Good.

Nothing Else Matters, Metallica (2007)

1 comment:

  1. I need to spend some more time up in that area. Grew up hunting up there and it has been years.