Sunday, October 08, 2017

South Dakota

From Medora, we headed south through many miles of grassland in search of the Black Hills National Forest.  We stopped for groceries in Spearfish, SD, where cyclists on the tour divide route stop for food and showers.  Then moved on south where we found these guys.

Pretty impressive and not very crowded.  We walked around and read the history. 

The tools and man power used were pretty impressive.

Then we went in search of trail and found the horsethief trail which would lead us to the centennial trail.

The trail started smooth with some minor rocky patches.

 Shey went that way.

 This area looks great for climbing!

Found him.

We got in a great hike before the sun set and camped at the edge of this lake.  We met a guy who was traveling with his two dogs to see several national parks and he gave us some of his Insta-fire to start our campfire.  He told us a friend of his patented it and it could be found at Home Depot.  It worked pretty well and our fire was roaring in no time.

We like renting the Doge Caravan because it has enough room for our gear, sleeping pads and bike boxes.  The seats fold down into the floor and we are super comfy with plenty of storage space.

Loaded up and ready to go the next morning.

 As we were leaving our camp site a bikepacker turned down the road we were on and we were so caught off guard that we didn't notice if he had a kLite or not.  We decided to turn around and head back to the trail head and see who else would come through.  Within a few minutes, this guy showed up and said he was in second place.  He was lively and full of positive energy.  He had been passed while having breakfast and was in great spirits and happy to be riding the route.  I told him we didn't want to hold him up, but he said "nah, this is what it's all about" and we discussed equipment and terrain, then he asked for a "high five" and he was on his way.

We drove on and found a place to park in a campground, then hopped on the George S. Mickelson Trail.

It's an amazing 109 mile path through the Black Hills of South Dakota.

 It was smooth and fast and the scenery was amazing!!

There were remnants of the railroad that previously laid on this route.

Beautiful blue skies and the smell of warm pine in the air.

Lots of these little guys sunning themselves.

 The profile of Crazy Horse.  They were actively building that day with large equipment.

This sign is on the path and gives some information on the memorial.

We rode longer than we had planned, but it felt good and it was a wonderful day.  We drove on west into Wyoming and it started raining and the temperature dropped.  We were sad to leave the blue skies, but this did happen: 

We found a KOA in Casper, WY and grabbed hot showers, did some laundry and slurped up our hot ramen noodles.

Monday, October 02, 2017

North Dakota

The sky was clear in the morning and it looked like it was going to be a great day for riding.

Shey rode from the motel and met me as I parked the van in the alley behind Dakota Cyclery.  We took off from there and the mild climb on the road to the trail head was a very good warm-up.

Immediately we started a easy climb to hit plateaus and ridges, one after another, with amazing views of the badlands.

 The singletrack was well maintained and the easy riding was perfect for vacation.  Continuous rolling hills meant a good steady workout for us both.


 Gravel base kept the trail well drained with only minor sections of sticky mud.

We couldn't ask for a better day of clear weather riding.

After a couple hours I told Shey I wanted to head back and stick closer to the van in case my neck/back started to bother me.  It was getting very tight and I was stressing about it.  He didn't want me to go by myself, but I knew I would be re-riding sections if I felt good and I wanted him to have the opportunity to ride the full south section, so he agreed and I turned back.  I kept my eyes peeled for a mountain lion stalking this lone snack and noted the road crossings, just in case.

I rode and rerode the first part of the south section and had a blast.  I felt more comfortable knowing if my back went out, I would be less than 20 miles from the van for transport.  So, I was more relaxed.  The new 27.5 Giant rode like a dream and as long as I stayed relaxed, by back never got too tight.

We had passed many oil drilling rigs.  Some in action, some sleeping.

There was an unusual golf course tucked into the badlands.

I jumped on the road and checked out a couple trail heads that were close to the Maah Daah Hey.  Finally, I decided to go back to our original trail head and ride north until I hit mud.

The wind had really picked up and I was ducking my shoulder into it and leaning my bike into it to stay on the single track.  I hit the last ridge before my final decent into the trail head, when a gust caught me and the bike slid sideways into the bank of the singletrack and I fell straight onto a cluster of cactus.  Damn!  I told myself to suck it up butter cup as I stood up and another gust caught me and blew me and the bike down an embankment.  This left me in a place that was blocked by the wind and I got out my pliers and started to remove the spines in my right arm, lower leg, back of thigh, hip and rump.

I pulled out everything the pliers would catch, then descended to the trail head and hit the road back to town in search of tweezers.  The wind caught me again and again on the road and finally blew the bike out from under me and I landed hard on my left side.  A truck stopped and asked if I wanted  a ride.  Nope, getting a ride means defeat.  So, "no" but it was a kind offer.  I was thankful it was the side opposite where the left over spines were and got back on the saddle and tucked my shoulders down and far as possible and thought heavy body thoughts that the wind couldn't get through.

A campground right outside of  town had tweezers and I took them to the park in town and continued to remove what spines weren't broken off.  Then contemplated finishing my ride north...or doing laundry.  Hmmm, I had wasted too much time removing spines and we didn't have any clean clothes, so laundry won out.  I stopped again at the campground and used their laundry facilites, while reading a book and watching a young man ride his unicycle as he directed elderly people with jumbo RVs where to park.  When I finished the clothes I drove out to the trail head where Shey was waiting for me and we took $1 hot showers at the state park, then scarfed down hamburgers at Boots bar and grill.

We both had awesome rides and were glad we didn't hit the mud on the north section, though we were bummed to not get the whole trail checked off our list.   We can always return in hopes of finding dry trail.

We decided to camp at Cottonwood Campground in hopes of waking up to bison on the other side of the river.  Shey helped get out spines I had not been able to reach.  We slept well, but there were no bison to be found in the morning.  Only a ton of these guys!

We jumped on the highway and headed south.  South Dakota here we come!

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Montana in September

We had planned a two week hike/bike trip that would hit the Maah Daah Hey, Glacier National Park and Bannf in September.   About two weeks before travel time, the forest fires had reach the western part of Glacier and they didn't think they would slow until snow fell.  

So, we had to make a quick change of plans, but not to worry, I had plenty of help.

Serena helped me reroute our hikes to hit the Tetons and Yellowstone.

Aidan helped me ship out the bikes to Medora, ND, even though it had been raining and we weren't sure if the trail would be rideable.

And Jaydee snuggled........

Our new plan was to fly into Bozeman, Montana then make a circle heading east to ND, south to SD, west to WY, then back to Montana.  

Everett agreed to house/animal sit for us while were were gone and he also shuttled us to the airport.  

When we reached the Bozeman airport is was cozy and quiet and we were sure we were in Montana. 

We rented a Dodge Caravan which has a ton of room and the seats fold down into the floor, and drove out to our first trail head.   The view on the Bangtail trail was breathtaking.  Easy switchbacks has us gaining elevation quickly and we were in the soupy snow drain-off in no time at all.  

After that sweet hike, we headed back into Bozeman and listened to some music at a concert on the lawn in front of the library before grabbing burgers and driving back out to near the trail head where we pulled over to sleep.
 Rolling out of our sleeping bags the next morning, we decided to go for a trail run/hike before breakfast.  There was a trail head (college trail) less than a mile down the road.

The trail sign said "difficult" or "easy" so I headed straight up the difficult climb to the peak with Shey shaking his head behind me.  That was possibly the slowest mile we have ever hiked.  (there was no running)

The trail was very cool and the views were amazing. Just like the day before, we saw so many dogs on the trail.  In town the evening before, we saw dogs everywhere.  Most people had some sort of cattle dog or other outdoor breed of dog with them in their truck/car or running behind their bike as they commuted. It seemed like a pretty cool community.

After our morning hike, we grabbed coffee and pastries at a local cafe then hit the road east toward Medora, ND.

The drive was fun, but we wanted to get in another run or hike before the sun went down, so we stopped at the Makoshika State Park in Glendive, MT.  The description didn't sound like there were many miles of trails, but we thought we could run on the road if needed.  Pit toilets and camp sites right across from a great gravel path to run on.  Perfect!!  And it turns out there are more trails here, than expected, so we can get in a nice run or hike in the morning, too.

FAST miles on a flat gravel path.

Gourmet dinner of Ramen noodles and Rainier beer.  Walt would be proud!

 Sumo was our campsite neighbor and we were told he was grumpy from sitting in the car for 11 hours.  He was happy to waddle around the campground and stretch his legs.  (He was obviously a wizard, so I'm not sure why he didn't just magically whiz he and his person to their destination, but he was probably trying to blend with the muggles.)

Another good night's sleep in the van and up at dawn for a fun hike.  

The change in scenery on the Hungry Joe and Gunner's Ridge trail were pretty interesting.

 We started on the road then jumped on single track that climbed and twisted until we hit the plateau.

 Then we started trekkin across dragon scales and soon there was no trail to follow.

This made for a fun sort of game where we would split up in different directions looking for a trail sign or hoodoo and one of us would yell when we found it.

 It was like a scavenger hunt for the trail and we had a blast.

The terrain changed periodically.

 Soon, some motorcyle tracks (dirt bike) came onto the trail from a side jeep track.  That made it much easier to follow the trail and we marveled at how these guys had made it up some the steep climbs.   I had seen the three young guys on the bikes during my run the last evening and they were totally wide eyed when they finished.  Now I knew why!

We stopped in Glendive for coffee, but the little drive through shop was closed, so we found a cafe by the side of the highway to grab breakfast before finishing our drive on to Medora.

Once we arrived at Dakota Cyclery in Medora, we saw our bikes in the center of the cozy shop.  The lady that runs the shuttle was not there, but had told her husband and son, who were both working there, that she would be back in 20 minutes.  So, we hung out and waited and built the bikes.  When Jenny arrived, she let us know that the original north section was unrideable but we could start from the south terminus where there is more gravel and see how it went.  Shuttling sounded complicated, so we changed our plan and decided on an out and back of the south section.  If it was too wet, we would move down the road.

Dinner at Boots cafe.  Shey was jealous of my bigger beer.  The son who was working at the bike shop, was also bartending at the cafe.  We thanked him again for his help that day.

 It was cold and raining that night, so we got a basic, but clean and nice motel room in Medora and loaded up our bikes.  We were not going to rush to hit the trail in the morning, but we are both early risers, so we wanted to be ready to roll.