Learning the Black Hills

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Dysco, Jun 14, 2011.

  1. Dysco

    Dysco Diaper slinger

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    My grandma lives in Rapid City, SD and I visit at least once a year to consume way too much choke cherry syrup and apricot jelly, do some fishing, and otherwise kick around the Black Hills. I've had a bike up here a total of two times. Once I did nearly every paved road in the hills on my F650GS. Last year I had my WR250R, but riding got hailed out. This year I've resolved to hit the dirt roads and trails that criss-cross the hills with great vengeance and furious anger.

    I have only one obligation, and that's to study for the nursing license exam which I'll take on June 23rd. I just graduated with a nursing degree from CU after three-and-a-half years of busting hump. This will be the first summer in four years that I'll have more than a week off from work or school.

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    The mission: fish and ride the Black Hills as much as I can while still passing the exam.

    It begins!
    #1
  2. Dysco

    Dysco Diaper slinger

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    This won't be a typical ride report. My main goal is to learn the cool unpaved routes to get to and from the places I want to go without dealing with tons of tourist traffic. I also want to share the information I find. This year the streams are really high due to a late winter and heavy spring rains so the good stream fishing is still a dry week away, whenever that comes. I also need to help my grandma and her husband out with chores and stuff in exchange for room and board. Most of what I get to do is half-day trips. If I'm late for dinner, I never hear the end of it. :lol3

    My bike with tools and a little fishing gear, fresh from the trail:
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    #2
  3. Dysco

    Dysco Diaper slinger

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    The first dirt of my trip: Victoria Lake Road off of Sheridan Lake Road, one of three main routes from Rapid City into the hills.
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    A nice stream, a big mosquito hatch, but no fish. I'm sure I'll find a lot of streams like this that look great, but are too low in the dry season to support many fish. There was a larger stream lower down that had potential.
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    #3
  4. Dysco

    Dysco Diaper slinger

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    This is a reduced-width trail, part of the Black Hills National Forest motorized vehicle plan. The biggest vehicles they want on here are side-by-sides. Parts were overgrown, and it looks like the wet spring has sprouted seeds in the tracks. It didn't look like this particular trail got a lot of use.
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    A few of the forest roads southwest of Pactola reservior.
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    #4
  5. Dysco

    Dysco Diaper slinger

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    After riding this trail, I got back on the road and headed towards the Pactola NF information station. That's where I learned that while the MVUM maps are free, the permit to ride those trails is not. :lol3 I shelled out $25 for the fork sticker, good for anywhere in the Black Hill National Forest, and carried on. With all the tourist traffic they get here, they weren't generating enough funds from the motorized crowd to actually maintain trails. I get how that's a problem, and I don't think $25 is unreasonable to help keep them signed and in decent shape.

    I got the name of the NF contact for motorcycle use only trails, but then I decided to check some out solo just to gauge difficulty. There is a clump of singletrack due north of Johnson Siding. I went up the first one I hit, which was less heavily traveled than the other trail it connected to.

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    Steep and loose to a series of roots and ledges.
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    If I hadn't stopped to take the picture, I might have had enough momentum to clear it. Luckily, a rock broke the fall of my right kidney when I came off the back. :lol2
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    Breathing hard from lifting the bike and getting it through the slot, these rocks were a welcome break at the top.
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    The trail leading out. The problem with the hills is the granite that sticks up from the ground randomly. This leads to many "gotcha moments" and this stretch is no different. I was in third and sailing along when I hit the rocks in the trees a few hundred yards from the road. No problems, just a little wake-up.
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    Looking back.
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    I finished the day on Sheridan lake, trolling for trout on a pontoon. It was good afternoon for a boat ride.
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    #5
  6. rokklym

    rokklym one man wolfpack

    Joined:
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    Looking good!
    #6
  7. sealsam

    sealsam Sam...I am.

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    CONGRATS! CONGRATS! CONGRATS!

    That's big. Nice job.

    I know, I lived it. My wife that is. After having 2 boys, she decides to go to nursing school. Took awhile, but she got her RN. Has been working PEDS(kids) for 10+yrs. She loves it.

    This past year she decides to do the Walden online thing for her Masters. So at almost 48, shes back at it.

    Congratulations again. Enjoy your well deserved summer!

    ...and keep posting those great pics.
    #7
  8. Dysco

    Dysco Diaper slinger

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    Thanks, and that's awesome! I don't know how my classmates with children did it... nor do I know how my wife stuck with me. :lol3

    It was sometime around my 30th birthday when I decided to go down this road for real. I'm a high school dropout and had a relatively good, but totally boring, career in telecom for almost ten years. I had a few surgeries on my back about five years ago that got me thinking I'd rather do something with people than machines. In a goofy twist, I've fallen in love with the operating room and hope to find a job in one.
    #8
  9. Sly-one

    Sly-one Deskbound Adventurer

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    SW Florida
    Great report and please keep more of it coming! That sure is some pretty country!
    #9
  10. Klay

    Klay dreaming adventurer

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    Location:
    right here on my thermarest
    What a great place to go exploring! :lurk
    #10
  11. Dysco

    Dysco Diaper slinger

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    I intended to have a really big day today with some fishing but only ended up with about 50 miles of trail. It was plenty. I packed my new Tenkara rod and my trusty 6 piece 4wt, a turkey sandwich grandma made, and a rain jacket and headed back to the singletrack near Johnson Siding hoping to get a faster route north to 385. I ended up following a lot of circles and dead end and even figured out the range of "Extreme difficulty" on the Forest Service signs.

    Another view of the start of 6310. It doesn't get much traffic, is not technical, and is overgrown which adds an element of awesome.
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    The (other) end at a central dirt road.The gate 50 yards away is open but it marked unmotorized on the same trail marked with a motorcycle here. :dunno
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    #11
  12. Dysco

    Dysco Diaper slinger

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    Once I connected to the main dirt road, I attempted to find an offshoot that would take my to Hwy 385. My fist guess landed me on 6312.It had a little red sticker that said "Extreme Difficulty". Sweet! I went off to check it out, finding several intersections and some fun, but small, rocky and ledgy climbs and descents.
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    I saw iris blooming in the trail.
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    I saw sweet twotrack flanked by soft pine boughs.
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    Then... Holy crap, what the duece? That's the trail. There you go, trials guys and rock crawlers. It's all yours. :lol3
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    #12
  13. Dysco

    Dysco Diaper slinger

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    After seeing that trail, I was a little leery of those red stickers. Unfortunately I ran out of options as the trails without them were dead ends or loops. I came to this intersection. After looking at my map, I knew it was my way out.
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    I went uphill, figuring I could go down more things than I could get up. It was moderately technical, steep in places and loose. A lot like the Colorado trails I ride a frequently. Definitley not a bunch of boulders.

    I also got the sense that the topography made the trails here fundamentally different from Colorado. In particular, the water bars. A water bar is a berm of dirt built up to keep the water from running down the trail and washing it out or just standing on the trail. In Colorado, most are very steep and (going uphill) you typically land at an uphill angle. Sometimes you get to land to flat, but not as often. I swear I was hitting water bars today that were built like tabletops, where I had a good sight line and could jump to a downward facing ramp on the other side. It was like having a little track feature built into the trail. :clap
    #13
  14. Dysco

    Dysco Diaper slinger

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    The Central Region guys clued me in to the Centennial Trail, a portion of which is open to motorized. That's really why I went back to the same trail system. I headed a mile or two north of where the FS road let out and I was at the Pilot Knob trailhead. Little did I know I was in for a big treat... and a tiny bit of drama.
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    It has been raining pretty regularly so the puddles were deep and everywhere. Some were avoidable, some weren't. After a while, I just plowed since I was already soaked. The beginning has a nice climb with small water bars holding puddles on the back side. I was able to carry enough speed to jump them which kept me giggling for a while.
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    A moderately technical climb. There were a few medium-sized ledges, but nothing you couldn't get over with enough momentum.
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    In under 30 minutes, I came to a gate just above Box Elder Creek.
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    It's a bit muddy, but looking really close to good.
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    #14
  15. Dysco

    Dysco Diaper slinger

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    The Box Elder trailhead is the halfway point of the motorized section. I have a condition when I ride dirt that I call "Hamburguesa." Basically my blood sugar tanks and I start to get stupid and I feel like I could eat everything. Time to pull over and eat grandma's sandwich and the cookies she slipped in with it.

    What's that? A rise in the bubble line? Game on! I watched a few small fish rise as I ate.
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    Hamburguesa over, I rigged up my Tenkara rod (a really long fly rod with no reel) and threw on a caddis pattern. I could see one species of caddis flying around.
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    3rd cast. I snagged a weed on the bank and it snapped like it was nothing. Yesterday I was catching bluegill with this rod with no issues. Today, it's busted. Replacement parts are relatively cheap, but it was a letdown. No fish, no strikes.
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    (Edit: Tenkara is replacing the rod!)

    A giant black caddis wishes me better luck next time.
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    A parting shot.
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    #15
  16. Dysco

    Dysco Diaper slinger

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    Back onto the trail!
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    The trail got pretty technical after crossing Nemo Road. I was pretty tired and I should have called it a day and headed off to use my other flyrod on another stream, but I didn't. The trail got rough- like it had just been cut with a bulldozer. It wasn't too bad, just rocky enough to keep me on my toes.... and that was the problem. I cut a corner too tight and hit a rock with my right foot. Somehow it got jammmed between the rock and my peg. I know my whole leg got turned out, but I suspect a lot of this bending was done by my boot.
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    I stopped about 30 feet later and killed the motor. I fought off waves of nausea and tried to keep the bike upright and breathe. The pain got better, but I knew I wasn't going to shake this one off. I also knew I might have broken my foot.

    I didn't turn around. There was new trail ahead, and I might as well finish it out. The following mile of trail was excellent. Pretty technical steep, loose climbs, ledges, the works. My tires stuck like glue and the bike tractored right up. Unfortunately, I didn't enjoy it as much as I would have otherwise.

    One of the few vistas you get up here. A big change from Colorado.
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    Keep on going, it can only get easier, right?
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    I fell over here when I couldn't put my right foot down. I rolled down the bank a ways before stopping on an aspen. These nice folks picked up the bike for me and got me back on it. They also rolled the ATV trying to back it up to make some room. They were the only people I met on the trail in two days of riding.
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    Short, but possibly rough, or long but possibly rough? Short all the way. I think it cut off 2 miles.
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    Last bit of fun stuff.
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    #16
  17. Dysco

    Dysco Diaper slinger

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    Location:
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    At the north end of the motorized section is Dalton Lake, a small impoundment of Little Elk Creek. The creek is nice. I spooked a fish here.
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    These blue moth things were all over the place by the water. I have no idea what they are.
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    A parting shot of a place I'll go back and fish.
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    Once I got home, I got my boot off and there's no bruising, just a lot of swelling. Apparently puddle water is no substitute for ice and elevation. Who knew? Tomorrow it looks like another boat ride and a lot more studying. I also need to beat my footpeg back. :lol3
    #17
  18. Tallboy

    Tallboy hiding in the tallgrass

    Joined:
    May 31, 2005
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    :clap


    Awesome way to study. Hope the foot heals up right and proper.
    #18
  19. Charla

    Charla Tamalamian

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Colorado
    Nice Mike! :thumb
    #19
  20. tatterhood

    tatterhood Sturdy Girl

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    small slice of heaven, CO
    Your peg does look like a roaring dinosaur.
    Sorry about the toe babe....good luck studying and keep the pictures coming. Next time I'll be on the trail with you.
    #20