A colleague’s wedding in the Black Hills over the Memorial Day weekend provided an opportunity to finally complete my ride of the George S. Mickelson Trail. As reviewed previously, I biked the Edgemont to Custer section in 2014 and the Deadwood to Rochford section in 2016, leaving approximately the middle third of the trail between Custer and Rochford yet to be ridden.
Under overcast skies, temperatures in the low 40s, and a light headwind, I biked north out of downtown Custer on May 26th shortly after dawn. It felt good to start the final section of the trail where I ended in 2014.
(Returning to the same sign, nearly three years later)
The moderate climb out of Custer felt good with the cool morning temperatures. I wasn’t long before I was comfortably warm, stopping briefly near the Mountain Trailhead to snag a photo of the Crazy Horse Memorial to the east of the trail.
(Profile barely visible from the trail)
I arrived at Hill City 15 miles into the ride hoping a small bakery might be open for a light snack and coffee. A quick detour on the main road through town yielded a couple options, but neither were open so I continued north.
The Black Hills are composed of some of the oldest exposed rocks in the world, estimated at more than two billion years old. The Mickelson Trail cuts directly through this geological formation (known as the Harney Peak Granite Batholith) on the way to Deadwood. At four places along the trail, the ‘cutting’ is literal, in that the trail passes through short tunnels bored through the hard granite. Three of the tunnels (referred to as A, B, and C) occur in rapid succession between the Mystic and Rochford Trailheads.
Shortly before arriving at the Rochford Trailhead I enjoyed a first… …a mountain lion sighting! Though it was only a glimpse, the body size and unmistakable dark brown tip on its tail confirmed that it was indeed a lion. The cat ran ahead of me on the trail, approximately 30 yards out, before darting into a ravine. Being a cat person, I briefly considered stopping to cajole the large feline out of the ravine for a little mid-ride laptime. With a schedule to keep for activities later in the day, I opted to gear down and move quickly through the area.
The turnaround at the Rochford Trailhead was brief, stopping only to use the facilities, strip off a wool undershirt, and fill my water bottles. The temperature had increased considerably, so I was thankful for the hydrant near the shelter.
Though my trek north was a solo journey, multiple groups of riders were out during the return leg. Everyone seemed to be enjoying the excellent weather and trail conditions.
(Heading south near Mystic Trailhead)
As I entered Hill City, incoming clouds beckoned rain, so I opted to continue on Highway 385 to save time. The decision was questionable, as the busy four lane highway made for some nerve-wracking riding. I was glad to return to the trail at the Crazy Horse Memorial turnoff for the final downhill stretch to Custer.
(Back on the trail with rain in the distance)
The Koga-Miyata performed well throughout the ride. Aside from limestone getting stuck in the cogs (no fault of the bike), I had no problems during 80+ miles of riding. Its comfort and reliability make it a good – albeit somewhat heavy – randonneur bike. As of this month, I’ve been riding the Koga-Miyata for 20 years!