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Thursday, July 1, 2021

2021 Black Hills Bounty (Day 1) - Start Of Something Good

I know that it's gonna take some time
I've got to admit that the thought has crossed my mind
That this might end up like it should
And I'm gonna say what I need to say
And hope to God that it don't scare you away
I don't want to be misunderstood
But I'm starting to believe
Oh, I'm starting to believe
That this could be the start of something good.

Start Of Something Good, Daughtry (2011)

Paul Brasby, Lane Bergen, Ben Cooper, Jeff Bloom, Craig Groseth, Mark Hoffman.
Day 1 at the start of the 2021 Black Hills Bounty.

Day 1 of the 2021 Black Hills Bounty breaks early and bright. Excited chatter and the smell of fresh brewed coffee fill the morning air at our campsite near the summit of Bear Mountain, the third highest peak in the Black Hills at 7,166 feet. As we finish breakfast, a herd of high altitude cattle waltz into the clearing like they own it. We're stomping to go, anyhow.

By 7:30, we eagerly hop onto the Low Standard Road I discovered as a re-route just two days ago. Charging down the first hill, I scan for a turn onto an even less developed road and miss seeing a rut. My front tire, however, finds it and sends me flying off the bike. In disbelief, I remount and then blow by the turn. Great. In less than a mile, I both crash and miss the first turn. The rest of the crew stands there, wondering what they've gotten into.

We're going where? Really? Are you sure? And we missed a turn already?
Less than 1 mile into Day 1 of the 2021 Black Hills Bounty.
Lane Bergen, Ben Cooper, Jeff Bloom, Paul Brasby, Mark Hoffman.

Dusting off, I head down the right road. Actually, it's about 3 miles of sketchy two track not even classified as a Low Standard road, followed by another 3 miles of an actual Low Standard road. But I rode this stretch when I found it just two days ago and it's sweet. Just stay on it.

Gentle downhill. Mellow two track. Forested, but not closed in. A couple of short pitches to wake up the legs. A corner even reveals a quick view of Crazy Horse Memorial. Nice.

Now, we're on track.

I often tell others to follow me, if you choose, but maybe not my line. 
After my early crash, it looks like these guys took that to heart.
Early on Day 1 of the 2021 Black Hills Bounty.

All too soon, we pop out onto Saginaw Road (285) and then Elliot Road (292) to traverse Limestone Hill and drop down Custer Limestone Road (284). These Primary roads roll fast and we simply blow by another turn. Missed turns and audibles may be the hallmarks of today's ride.

We steadily climb Low Standard Road 284.2F and then 284.2G along a hillside still showing results of the massive 2001 Jasper Fire. Without the typical thick stands of pine trees, we burst into bright sunshine, blue skies, and big views. The Black Hills Bounty reveals a few more gems.

Rolling out on Day 1 in search of Black Hills Bounty.
That's a good representation of a mellow Low Standard Road out here.

These Low Standard Roads can be rough, but so far are comfortably ridden, even on our loaded bikes. I created this route for a rider like Paul Brasby on a bike like his carbon Salsa CutThroat loaded for a multiple day bikepacking ride. That standard will be put to the test on this assortment of roads over the week. For not only is Paul here on a loaded CutThroat, but so are Ben, Lane and Mark. 

In contrast, Jeff powers his trusted fat bike up and over everything. That bike, and that engine, are certainly more than capable of handling the roughest of roads. But somehow Jeff also keeps up with those relatively skinny tired bikes on smooth gravel and even pavement. He's good for whatever the Bounty brings.

Jeff Bloom leads the way up another Low Standard Road
through some area burned during the 2001 Jasper fire.
Morning of Day 1 of the 2021 Black Hills Bounty.

Recognizing the time and energy expended already, and spotting a nice stretch of shade before emerging onto Mud Springs Road (282), Paul suggests a stop for an early lunch. Good call. Breaking out food and drinks, we relax in the quiet coolness of mid-morning. 

Between chomps of bars and swigs of water, we relish the roads ridden and anticipate the roads ahead. I pull out my hard copy map highlighting our planned route, snaking through bewildering spider webs of back roads, near-roads and wanna-B roads all around. This area, in particular, gave me fits trying to decide what to include on the Black Hills Bounty. It's an embarrassment of riches.

Early lunch along Low Standard Road 284.2G before climbing the exposed Antelope Ridge.
Day 1 of the 2021 Black Hills Bounty.

We emerge from the Low Standard Road to roll along Antelope Ridge Road (283), with big views to the west well into Wyoming. Fast and fun, these miles fly by despite regular stops for pictures. The CutThroats school on these Primary Roads, slipping downstream seemingly without effort.

Not so fast. Before long, we turn onto unnamed Low Standard Road 383, a featured part of my Black Hills BackBone route and a few Black Hills Gravel Series Black routes. This soft, occasionally rough two track steadily climbs along a narrow valley for about 5 miles. Speeds drop back to Low Standard Road levels.

Rolling along Antelope Ridge Road (USFS 283) with views stretching into Wyoming.
Day 1 of the 2021 Black Hills Bounty.

We drop into Gillette Canyon for our longest climb so far, about 6 miles up Gillette Canyon Road (296). Temperatures are rising, but winds are relatively calm and aspen groves offer some shade. Our group stretches out a bit, as each finds his own rhythm. Morning spills into afternoon.

Eventually climbing out of Gillette Canyon, we re-group at Ditch Creek Road (291). Now, it's hot, we need a longer break, and, more importantly, we need water. The planned route plods along rough, Low Standard Williams Draw Road (691) to Deerfield Lake, where water awaits at the USFS White Tail Campground almost 10 miles away. Time for another audible.

Crossing the fishing bridge at Deerfield Lake to hop onto the single track 40L trail.
Day 1 of the 2021 Black Hills Bounty.

So, rather than ride Williams Draw Road (691), we stay on Ditch Creek Road (291) for a fast, smooth, 4 mile descent to USFS Ditch Creek Campground. Within a few minutes, we're laying on soft grass in the shade, laughing, and dumping cold water on each other. It's probably the most popular audible so far.

It's amazing what cold water, shade, rest and some food can do. After a fun break, we're back on Ditch Creek Road cruising down toward Deerfield Lake. Spirits and speeds are high. The miles streak by.

The 40L trail, a short single track connector.
Day 1 of the 2021 Black Hills Bounty.

At Deerfield Road, I call another audible. With the group re-energized, I suggest forsaking the planned 3 mile climb on pavement to access the gravel road up Flag Mountain. Instead, let's cross a wooden fishing bridge to ride the single track 40L trail for a mile or so to a Low Standard gravel road that will get to Flag Mountain. Who's up for trading a paved climb for some single track and a rough road?

Not surprisingly, everyone. Oh, the single track demanded a couple of short steeps and the Low Standard road was almost all uphill. But this adventuresome group ate it up. Just ate it up.

Climbing up Flag Mountain Road toward ominous skies.
Day 1 of the 2021 Black Hills Bounty.

Turning on Flag Mountain Road (189) for the short climb up Flag Mountain, we confront an ominous storm cloud sitting directly above the summit. It's big, dark, heavy and simply sitting there. Surely, it will move on by the time we get up there. 

Nope. We summit, scramble up to the ruins of the lookout tower, take pictures, and consider our options. According to plan, Flag Mountain was to be our final destination for the day, but that threatening cloud lingers and occasionally rumbles. We call another audible and drop down the mountain to search for a less exposed campsite at a lower elevation. 

Dispersed campsite below Flag Mountain.
Day 1 of the 2021 Black Hills Bounty.

We descend the mile long, rocky spur back to Flag Mountain Road and roll another mile or so along the planned route for Day 2. Dispersed campsites for a party of 6 require some flat area, but the ground here slopes pretty consistently on both sides of the road. We pedal a bit further than we'd prefer that late in the day, but find a great spot near the intersection with a Low Standard Road. 

Hmmn. Those Low Standard Roads were constructed for logging operations over the years. It makes sense that loggers would create a clearing for equipment where a Low Standard Road connects with a Secondary Road. When looking for a large clearing to disperse camp in the future, I'll certainly keep an eye out for those intersections.

Briefing the troops in advance of Day 2 of the 2021 Black Hills Bounty.

Almost immediately, a campsite for six appears. Tents up. Bikes tweaked. Clothes changed. Dinner prepared. Pictures taken. Stories shared. Even phone calls made from a high point a bit above the tents.

With an early crash, a couple of missed turns, and five audibles, we end Day 1 with over 58 miles and 4,700 feet of elevation gain.

And the storm never materializes. But an awesome sunset does.

Day 1 of the 2021 Black Hills Bounty. This could be the start of something good.

We did not want this day to end.
Day 1 of the 2021 Black Hills Bounty.


Here's a link to the map I created for Day 1 of the 2021 Black Hills Bounty, as ridden by Ben, Craig, Jeff, Lane, Mark and Paul. 2021 Black Hills Bounty - Day 1.

For my prior post on the 2021 Black Hills Bounty, go to Day 0 - Come Together.

Start Of Something Good, Daughtry (2011)

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