Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Dakota Bike Tours Black Hills Monument Tour - Day 3 Crazy Horse Monument and the Mickelson Trail

Day 3 took us from Palmer Gulch in Hill City along the Mickelson Trail to the Crazy Horse Memorial. After a lunch stop at Custer we could do an optional out-and-back to Pringle and if we still had enough legs, we could make the final climb up to the Sylvan Lake Lodge. Laurel's up at day break for her pancake breakfast under the BigTop. Papa the pancake maker has a nifty machine that dispenses just the right amount of batter to make 4 rows of 10 pancakes on his large griddle - all you can eat for $2.50.We entered the Mickelson Trail at the Rafter J-Bar entrance south of Hwy 244 off US 16. The Mickelson Trail is a 109 mile packed gravel trail over the old railroad line from Edgemont to Deadwood. We comfortably rode on 35C tires, but I think going down to 30C would work as long as the trail was dry. Parts of the Trail ran along streams and there were a few bridge and tunnel crossings. Laurel brought along her Trek FX just to ride the trail.
I rode my Fuji Cross Comp Cyclocross bike and changed between 23C road tires and 35C tires for the trail. The Black Hills is a great place to mineral hunt. Over 40 types can be found here. Lots of shale containing quartz, mica, and shiny golden pyrite. Cut by beavers, stacked by woodchucks. Proof that woodchucks chuck wood. Off in the distance, The Crazy Horse Memorial looms 650 feet high. Unlike Mt. Rushmore, which is just sculpted on its face, Crazy Horse will be sculpted on all sides.
"Crazy Horse" on his iron horse "Fuji". The head of Crazy Horse is 87 feet high compared to the Rushmore presidents' heads which are 60 feet high. We were there at the right day and right time to see part of the mountain being blasted away. The crew used explosives placed strategically to sculpt the mountain. This is how the Monument should look if it is ever completed. The project started in 1948 and the face was completed in 1998.
After a leisurely 6 mile downhill along the Mickelson Trail, we arrived in Custer. Just in time for lunch at the Sage Creek Grill.
Painted buffalo sculptures with different themes were on almost every corner in Custer. This was my favorite. After lunch we continued south for another 10 miles on the Mickelson Trail to Pringle. I was disappointed to find out that there was no potato chip factory there. Laurel switched to her road bike and I changed my tires and we rode back north to Custer along US 385.
Fueling up with Rhubarb Strawberry pie at the Purple Pie Shop for our final climb up to Sylvan Lake - 940 feet over 6 miles with an average grade of 5%. Better add ice cream to that pie.
After 52 miles and 3270 feet of climbing, The Lakota Dining Room at The Sylvan Lake Lodge for Buffalo Ribeye Steak was a perfect way to end a perfect day.