My intention was for this to be the last installment reviewing this trail, having ridden the Edgemont to Custer section of the Mickelson Trail in 2014. My plans were start at Deadwood and ride quickly to Custer along Highway 385, and then return to Deadwood by way of the trail before nightfall. However, a loose crank bolt in the first six miles of the ride compromised these plans significantly. Not wanting to push my luck over 112 miles with an uncertain mechanical and few useful tools, I explored my options to salvage the day.
(Starting at the Deadwood Trailhead, 8:00 a.m. sharp!)
(Reviewing my options along Highway 385… …feeling ‘Closed for the Season’)
Fortunately, the map I brought identified a nearby gravel road with a direct route to the Mickelson Trail. In fact, the distance from Highway 385 and the Englewood Trailhead was a mere six miles along mostly smooth hardpack. Even by adopting a slower pace and stopping periodically to tighten the crank bolt, I arrived at the trailhead in less than 25 minutes.
(Smooth riding on this gravel road…)
(…passing directly by a gravel quarry, naturally)
Following a short pit stop at the trailhead, I learned there was a marathon being held from Rochford to Deadwood. This was another setback, for if I were to head south along the trail I would soon come in contact with heavy traffic. After a few minutes of mulling this new news, I decided to ride to Rochford anyway. As a multi-use trail, I certainly wouldn’t be the only cyclist the marathon participants would come in contact with. Tightening my crack bolt again, I headed south from Englewood along chipped limestone.
(More smooth riding... ...wide tires at low pressure rolled nicely over this variable surface)
The marathon appeared to be a veteran’s benefit, as there were numerous military personnel participating. I passed many in full fatigues with standard-issue boots, and even some with what appeared to be full backpacks. Running/walking 26+ miles in that gear was surely no easy task. Most impressive!
(Here come the marathoners!)
Riding in the opposite direction of the participants allowed me to find open trail quickly. As I approached Rochford I soaked up the changing colors of the trees under bright blue skies. The disappointment of my changed plans dissipated. It was a turning out to be a good day.
(One of many bridges crossed on the way to Rochford)
(Tunnel shortly before Rochford)
The Rochford Trailhead was a hotbed of activity, with cyclists arriving from Custer as part of the 2016 Mickelson Trail Trek. The trailhead was also the starting location for what appeared to be a Boy Scout bike ride. I quickly used the facilities, filled both water bottles, and pointed my bike north.
(A welcome spigot to refill bottles for the ride back to Deadwood)
Not wanting to ride in the same direction as the marathon participants, I opted to take Highway 17 out of Rochford. My hope was to pass most (if not all) the walkers prior to the Englewood Trailhead and then take the Mickelson Trail the rest of the way into Deadwood. Despite the absence of a shoulder, the highway was essentially devoid of traffic making for some enjoyable riding.
(They appeared peaceful enough from the highway)
My plan to leapfrog the walkers worked mostly. I passed less than 20 participants in the last 10 miles into Deadwood, making the final descent particularly enjoyable. Should I have the opportunity to ride the Mickelson Trail in its entire length in the future, I would want to experience this descent again. Perhaps someday…
(A slight rise to the trail before dropping into Deadwood)