Saturday, July 30, 2011

Short Way Down III, Part I

For this year's trip on the Mickelson, lovingly referred to as the Short Way Down III which is obviously a play on the Charlie Boorman/Ewan McGregor documentary titles, we had big aspirations.  The last two years we had done the "Mick" by starting in Deadwood, rolling the first 50 miles to Hill City for the night, then finishing out the remaining 60 the next day riding to Edgemont.  This year we wanted to do more.  We were going to go for 5 days, riding the initial two like we always had, but staying in Edgemont and riding back to Custer to camp, then to Rochford/Deerfield and ending back in Deadwood.

Big aspirations turned into panic as I looked at the calendar for possible weekends to pull this off.  It was mid-July already and I didn't want to go the next weekend.  Not enough time to prepare.  The following weekend was out as it was my turn to work a Saturday and the Boy had theater camp.  The next TWO weekends were out as they bookended the Sturgis Rally so finding a campsite would be as rare as stepping in a unicorn turd.  I suppose we could have done it the weekend after that, but it is our anniversary, so I'm doubting that saying to my lovely that the Boy and I are going camping/riding would go over too well.  So, we decided to get all crazy and cram a whole bunch of shit into one week to get ready to go.  All that coupled with the fact that the Boy's theater camp was starting on Tuesday meant that we were NOT going to be able to go down and back.  After some deliberation, we decided to go down and half way back to Hill City.

Getting ready to take flight.
So, we went to Deadwood on Friday evening for a night of camping before hitting the trail, just like last year.  The BIGGEST reason the Boy loves the trip is for the camping.  Heck, he'd probably go bikepacking for weeks just to go camping if he could.  We set up camp and hit the sack as the sun went down, just as good campers should.

About 1:30 in the morning I got up to take a whizz (why is it when I'm at home I can sleep through the night and NEVER get up piss but when I'm camping I almost ALWAYS have to get up to go during the night?) I notice that about 4 sites over they've got a bonfire reminiscent of the Springfield tire fire and I notice some lightning in the sky.  About 2 hours later, I'm feeling raindrops through the screen of the tent.  I get up to close the rainfly and hope our stuff doesn't get too wet.

No luck.  I awoke to an overcast sky and our stuff was wet.  Great.  Without going into minutia, we packed up our stuff, took the picture you saw above and hit the trail by 7:00 am.  I got the Boy on the trail at 7:00.  Impressive.

At least he had a long sleeve shirt on...
On the Mickelson there are nice concrete mileposts telling you what mile you're on, with 109 starting in Deadwood and finishing with 0 at the end in Edgemont.  Last year we started ringing our bells at each milepost to note the passing of another mile.  We continued that tradition this year while watching the temperature on my Garmin hover in the 55-59 degree range for the morning.  The Boy kept saying he was chilly and I put off getting his jacket out as we climbed from Deadwood to Dumont, which is all up hill for 15 or so miles.  As we hit the Englewood trailhead, the last one before Dumont, we had ascended into the clouds and it was drizzling to the point of our legs being covered with a fine mist/dirt mud as was the front of Barney (our tandem).  Not wanting to be a bad parent, the jackets came out at this point.

As we finished the climb to Dumont, the drizzle got heavier, to the point of being almost rain.  Again, I looked at the temperature to see 57 degrees.  I thought to myself if this keeps up all the way to Hill City, I am going to pull the plug on this adventure.  The last thing I want to do is ride in the rain, set up wet stuff and try to stay dry/warm all night long with home being no more than 50 miles away.

We begin the descent to Rochford for our first real break of the day.  As we start picking up steam, something doesn't feel right.  Son-of-a-bitch...we've got a flat.  I must have pissed off the flat-tire-gods as I have had a rash of them this year.  And  to make matters worse, this flat is the rear tire which is obviously under all the gear/panniers/weight of the bike.  Super.  We pull over, I unhook the brakes, undo the quick release for the wheel and hoist the rear end up so the Boy can yank the wheel out.  As I start repairing the tire, three horses in the adjacent field come to the fence to see what the commotion was all about.  The larger of the three horses, a black one, puts his head over the fence and seems to be enamored with the Boy.  It stared at him for quite a while before I tell him to go over and pet them while I finish.  He goes over, gingerly puts his hand up and gently touches its nose.  The horse leans in for a nuzzle and they become fast friends.  The Boy did pet the other horses and while they got tired of it and left, the black one stayed.  He ended up feeding it the tall grasses and petting it for quite a while. He thought that was about the coolest thing he'd ever encountered and I have to agree that it was pretty special.  I guess the flat happened for a reason.

Back on the bike, we continued on to Rochford, the Moonshine Gulch Saloon and the gastronomical treats therein.  We rolled up to the saloon, took off some gear and headed in for some lunch, which consisted of a burger and fries for me and a corn dog and fries for the Boy.  If you've never encountered the Moonshine Gulch, I HIGHLY recommend it, but make sure your stomach is strong.  Not that the food is gross, far from it, but the place is really indescribable.  There was a live deer in the kitchen at one time for god-sakes.  That should say it all.

Bellies full, we struck out from Rochford onward to Mystic, the last "real" trailhead before Hill City, which means our last chance for water before a lengthy climb and a nice descent into our first day's destination.  The weather was breaking, with the sun coming out and the temperature on the rise.  As we reach Mystic, I'm about out of water, so now it is all I can think about.  Why the hell does that happen? 

Still happy after all those miles.
We reach Mystic, fill up and answer some bikepacking/tandem/riding with a kid questions for the Mickelson "daytrippers" that one encounters near major trailheads, especially Mystic.  The Mystic TH is highly popular as people will ride the 7 miles up to Rochford, stop at the Moonshine or the Rochford "Mall" for a snack/lunch and coast back to Mystic.  It really is a beautiful part of the Black Hills that not many roads lead to, so it is easy to see why people ride it.  We saddle up and hit the trail for the last leg of the day.  I look down to see the temperature now is a balmy 94 degrees!  What the hell?  You might just recount that it was 57 degrees out just a couple hours and about 15 miles ago.  Nice.  Now it is muggy, sweaty and somewhat miserable.  Obviously, the jackets that came out a little while ago, went back in to their storage space.
We roll into Hill City  in decent time, stopping at the health food store for a snack and the bike shop for a tube before heading the 3 miles uphill to the campground.  While in town, the Boy decides that he'd like to have dinner with Mom, so we call her and arrange it and head off to camp. 

The yellow and grey barrier between us and West Nile Virus.
At the campground we find a nice spot next to the mosquito breeding grounds...I mean the creek and set up camp.  After showering and changing clothes, we're ready to have dinner.  All that riding made us a bit ravenous.  Mom shows up and whisks us off to the Bumpin' Buffalo for dinner.  It was good as usual, but I could have eaten just about anything and been happy.  After dinner, we walk down Main Street, get the Boy some ice cream and head back to camp after procuring some Super-Ultra-Deep Woods OFF to combat the mosquitos. 

Once at camp, we visit for a little more and decide as the sun was setting we were ready for bed.  My lovely drove off and the Boy and I slipped quietly into our sleeping bags.  About 3.7 seconds later we were asleep and dreaming about the next day.  Dreaming until I had to get up to take a damn piss in the middle of the night. 

1 comment:

  1. We've been wanting to do the Mickelson for a few months and you've inspired me to drag my family up there next summer.