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Monday, February 19, 2024

Bikepacking the DED Dirt Ride

Tucked within the thickly forested, rugged remoteness of the Black Hills of South Dakota lies a treasure trove of seldom traveled single track trails, dirt paths, logging roads, gravel roads, and pavement. A walloping number of public roads and acres of public land create practically unlimited opportunities to explore. 

Among all those possibilities, two iconic off-road trails span much of the North-South length of the Black Hills. The oldest is the 111 mile single track Centennial Trail (Trail 89), built by the Boy Scouts as a hiking trail in 1989 to commemorate 100 years of South Dakota statehood. Running roughly parallel to the West is the Mickelson Trail, a 109 mile crushed limestone path on a 19th Century railroad bed. A person traversing these two trails would experience a large dose of the best of the Black Hills. 

The DED Dirt Ride. Deadwood to Edgemont to Deadwood, 
via the Centennial Trail, the Mickelson Trail, and primarily gravel connectors.
330 miles of iconic Black Hills trails.

Somewhere in the midst of a long bike ride over 10 years ago, I formed the concept of riding the length of the Centennial Trail and the length of the Mickelson Trail, connected by primarily gravel roads, in one continuous loop. I shared the idea with a handful of family and friends, who didn't seem to react to this any differently than others I toss into the air. In fact, one regular cycling partner, Shaun Arritola, seemed downright excited to start riding it as soon as possible. Several other locals enthusiastically asked of details and options to ride for a day here or there. When I invited some old friends, my college roommate Rob Sorge committed to fly in from Houston for the occasion. Before I knew it, I had a ride for 2014.

Over the course of that winter, the details changed, but the concept endured. Eventually, I called it the DED Dirt Ride to reflect the overall route from Deadwood to Edgemont to Deadwood, mostly on dirt.

Although originally envisioned as a continuous, self-supported bikepacking ride, we did not have suitable bikes, gear, or experience for such an endeavor in 2014. So, we caught a ride to Deadwood from my wife Colleen, a ride from the finish from Shaun's sister Dachia, and self-shuttled overnight gear and supplies every day with Shaun's vehicles. That is, we rode the route on a series of consecutive day rides. 

But we rode it. 5 days. 330 miles. Pretty evenly split between single track, rail-to-trail, and gravel. 2014 DED Dirt Ride (Epilogue).

Shaun Arritola, Craig Groseth & Rob Sorge at the finish of our 2014 DED Dirt Ride.
(image by Dachia Arritola)

Now, 10 years and many bikepacking miles later, it's time for me to ride the DED Dirt Ride as originally envisioned. Self-supported bikepacking. 

Summer of 2024. 

DED Dirt Ride in 4 files.
Deadwood to Bear Butte, Centennial Trail, Centennial Trail to Edgemont, Mickelson Trail.

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