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The 20th Annual Mickelson Trail Trek - Part Three
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Mile marker 109 in Deadwood.
Mile marker 109 in Deadwood.
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Mid-September weather in the Black Hills can be variable. The morning of Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017 saw a hard frost in Rochford, elevation 5302' above sea level. The George S. Mickelson Trail ascends from Rochford to the Dumont trailhead ten miles north.

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Larry and I had a little bit of a late start on Saturday, Day Two. On Day Three, we were on the second bus to leave Deadwood for Rochford. 7:00 am. The landscape is bright with alpen glow but the sun had yet to rise above the hills. We ride the rented school bus for about half an hour before reaching Rochford.

At Rochford, riders retrieve their bikes from the big parking lot about a quarter of a mile from the village. Plastic sacks provided by Trail Trek staff the night before kept the frost away from saddles and helmets but not handlebars. It's cold but it's not that cold and there's a hint of a tailwind.

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As the sun rises and the day gets warmer, bicyclists tend to pass one another in leapfrog. Someone passes you when you stop to take off a jacket. A little later, you pass them while they shed excess clothing. You begin to recognize the bikes, jackets and other gear of the people sharing the trail with you. Small sheets of tyvek fabric pinned onto jerseys or saddles or bags display numbers, first names, and hometowns. The crowd is mostly friendly, mostly courteous, and mostly trail-wise.

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All along the trail between Rochford and the Dumont trailhead, there reminders of the area's mining past and agricultural present. Old, played-out pit mines are obvious in the earth beside the trail. There are cattle grazing on tall grass in well-fenced pastures. Some of the ranch buildings have the same weathered look as the Wyoming cow palaces so often featured on the covers of catalogues offering extremely expensive shearling jackets, jeweled cowboy boots, artisan silver and that sort of thing. It's a nice look, even without the Tetons in the background.

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The last break of the Trail Trek is at the Dumont trailhead. Fruit, trail mix, beef jerkey, water, and so on. After another mile pedaling up the grade, it's pretty much all downhill into Deadwood where lunch is waiting. I'm looking forward to it, but I'd also like to have another day or two on the trail. Maybe in the third weekend of September, 2018. We'll see. - Brian Gevik

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Beautiful morning, early start, layer clothing, and it's 10 miles uphill and 16 down. The frost on the handlebars surprised me a little, I hadn't seen 29 degrees yet this fall back in Beresford. And like Brian says, it wasn't that cold, not even at several miles per hour and those being uphill, you warm up quickly.

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After a few switchbacks along the creek and canyon out of Rochford, you break open in the high country pasture. Cool and crisp, but vibrant colors from the tree and foilage set against the bright blue sky. I was clicking off the mile markers again knowing that "93" would be Dumont and down hill shortly after that. When I caught up with Brian at the Dumont break, I made the comment that in another mile the ride would be over because the remainder was down hill. That must have been my legs talking. Instead of 10 to fifteen mintues at the trail head break. I stayed a half hour, watched more riders come in, and maybe a little reluctant to know it would end in an hour or so.

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The ride was not over. The downhill from Dumont, by the south side of Lead, and into Deadwood is fast, but a completely new set of views, trees, a long view from above and 5 miles away to the Homestake mine. Then 10 minutes later, riding by a thousand feet below the mine.

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I found myself taking more pictures in the last few miles, the trail improves in the final two miles with lighting, then asphalt, then mile marker "108", and signs to keep it under 10mph through the park areas in southeast Deadwood. Around the corner to marker "109" and the same banner we started under was reset to welcome up to the end.

I'm not a physical therapy expert, but when I've stretched my body before, I'm numb after the first day, sore and exhausted after the second, and by the third, my body says, "okay, i'll give you a little extra since you seem to want to see this through". Or it could have been less uphill grade oout of Rochford. Whatever, it was work, but it was a nice ride. And now it was time to pack the bike and layers for the trip back across the state. But first, to the Deadwood Rec center for some Famous Daves chicken and beef, and "Mickelson Trek 20th Anniversary" cake.

The ride is addictive. The trail and the scenes are outstanding, it's well organized, and the other 599 riders are very nice and have a great time. On the ride back east on 90, I don't feel like the new guy and more. Maybe I'll see you on the trail for the 21st annual? - Larry Rohrer

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