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TSDAT/DAKAL - Post-Pandemic Unfinished Business - 2020-2021

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Orangecicle, May 30, 2021.

  1. Orangecicle

    Orangecicle On a "Quest" Supporter

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    Oz woke a bit under the weather this morning, so he suggested that I should ride the first bit of trail by myself. I created a gravel route from Custer to a point of the DAKAL where things looked squiggly on the track and potentially interesting. The gravel south was fun and fast, the kind that has the effect of putting my in my imitation Dakar racer mode. I picked up the trail and headed north. The route was really nice and pretty much what you would expect — basically a two-track through either woods or grasslands. For the most part, it’s not super challenging. There were two small sections, one of which had you riding up about a 45° slope with large loose rock with tight switchbacks. I was riding by myself, so this was quite sketchy to be doing alone. But for the most part, this is right up my alley.

    E5467B98-0030-413B-AC6E-0D89D6DF3EBE-26425-00000BCA64E1854B.jpg

    Based on the grass, ima say that few people come this way.

    0986326B-B4C9-40F9-9EC3-47DA326CF0C7-26425-00000BCA614EDA1F.jpg
    #21
  2. Orangecicle

    Orangecicle On a "Quest" Supporter

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    Old shacks, or at least what is left of them.

    ECEBD9CE-E7CC-44A0-B6CD-A8194B2947FE-26425-00000BCA5D8139EC.jpg

    772C1937-F547-472B-ADDD-56B97868D0D4-26425-00000BCA5AC7BDF2.jpg
    #22
  3. Orangecicle

    Orangecicle On a "Quest" Supporter

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    This is why I carry a small saw. This is broken, and only I can fix it.

    C8235E66-1F7A-49C1-9DDB-FF257C57D06D-26425-00000BCA57B6EF19.jpg

    BEA49A1C-152D-4795-8F53-9A23373A5D7A-26425-00000BCA51302236.jpg
    #23
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  4. Orangecicle

    Orangecicle On a "Quest" Supporter

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    1684EBEB-DA18-4260-AA21-EA8F5F6910EE-26425-00000BCA4D03F1B2.jpg

    The route has you leave a perfectly good gravel road just south of Hwy. 16 to climb this. This wasn’t the most difficult climb and much easier than the one from a bit earlier. Still, it was steep and rocky.

    After this hill, I was a little bushed and out of water. I jumped on 16 to go back and see how Mark was doing.
    #24
  5. wbbnm

    wbbnm Long timer

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    Great report. Thanks. I am new to the upper midwest and this ride is one I have been considering doing. This report goes a long way to make me want to.

    We did the DAKAL a few years ago. We had planned to back and just do the core in the Black Hills with some new stuff to complete loops as dirt bike day rides out of Hill City.
    But Covid got in the way. Planning to try again later this summer.
    #25
  6. Orangecicle

    Orangecicle On a "Quest" Supporter

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    Last ride of the day. We rode the Dakal tracks north of Custer today. Much fun was had. This shot was from Copper Ridge.
    C418700F-91E7-4866-85F6-2416D25FEDC2-28714-00000C3FEDFD1BFB.jpg

    I’m told that this is a wild iris. You see them mostly at higher elevations.
    1E488642-FC9B-406C-962A-F808C839930D-28714-00000C3FE739ED87.jpg

    We were pretty sure that these are Aspens, which I didn’t expect to see here. But, Custer is just about a mile high in elevation, which makes sense that they are here and in the Colorado mountains.
    55A693F5-0236-4801-A5DE-D2AC757354C8-28714-00000C3FEAD5DF23.jpg
    #26
  7. Orangecicle

    Orangecicle On a "Quest" Supporter

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    June 7, 2021:

    Today we did a loop from Custer up to Hill City and then back via the Needles Highway.

    Bear Mountain fire lookout:
    0EE062CD-7B9F-4B33-B907-511ADD0EC033-32958-00000CFDAD890677.jpg

    The track going east from the lookout is closed because of the @#$%^ wide-by-sides that have torn up the track. We had to circle around and pick up the track again where it intersected with Bobcat Road. For anyone traveling through hoping to do the Dakal in this area, know that you have to work around this closing. The Forest Service sign says that it is closed indefinitely.

    The route after the closed bit is mostly really nice gravel that takes you through some scenic areas.

    DC0EB166-8BB4-45E5-8495-BAD865D57680-32958-00000CFDA4D2809B.jpg

    574BAFD8-F867-4695-A8CB-2309C06DB871-32958-00000CFDB38C594A.jpg

    The gravel runs out right after Reno:
    71EB8497-0D49-4A70-B740-0FF5F57D2FB2-32958-00000CFDA1F2552A.jpg
    #27
  8. Orangecicle

    Orangecicle On a "Quest" Supporter

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    June 7, 2021:

    We had a late lunch in Hill City. To say that this is a tourist town is an understatement.

    Smokey:
    D285746F-DBDB-4E89-8119-9E49EBF86D74-32958-00000CFD9AAA8EE8.jpg

    Found him!
    B74D9C40-6ED1-4490-BA80-4ED46ACE63A7-32958-00000CFD9EF98CBF.jpg

    After lunch we were bushed, so we headed back via the Needles Highway. Wooooow that’s cool, and when you see a turn marked 10 mph on Needles, it’s not a suggestion or aspiration, it’s pretty much a maximum.
    #28
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  9. RoundOz

    RoundOz Plenty of seasoning

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    Well I thought I should chime in to be less of a silent partner. So far this has been one of the best extended bike trips I have ever been on. I think we both agree that South Dakotans (South Dakotatians? South Da-Kotters?) are spoiled for choices when it comes to motorcycle roads surrounded by amazing scenery. As Orange may have said, this trip is as much about one as the other, and he has come armed for photography with tools from antiquity to (almost) the future.
    20210603_193355.jpg
    Usually the photographers in a riding group are either annoying the "riders" by stopping too frequently, or feeling too rushed by them to enjoy themselves making images. So, in short, this particular mobile studio works pretty well - we both realize it can sometimes take more than 3 seconds and a selfy-stick to make a good image.
    That being said, on the road I can only post phone images and Orange is shooting a lot of stuff that needs a little post-production, including film (and left the portable dark room at home) so stay tuned for more as this progresses. 20210604_110035.jpg
    #29
  10. sledrydr

    sledrydr Been here awhile

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    Location:
    Iowa
    Great stuff. Such a fine part of the country to ride.
    #30
  11. RoundOz

    RoundOz Plenty of seasoning

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    As for the riding - just superb. We are both mounted on 690's set up for travel, with mine a lot less modified. Obviously with full camping gear these are still a handful, but much less so than the 990 Safari Supertanker I used to think I needed.
    I had only around 600 miles on my 690 when we left and this has been a learning and adapting experience for me, but the machine is so well suited to this kind of riding I get to enjoy the scenery and the challenging sections so much more.
    Some advice on travel in this area. June to early September is probably the only relatively safe window to aim for if your planning a long way ahead and traveling far. Avoid traveling alone and/or carry a Spot/Inreach type beacon. Cell service is as you would expect in an area this hilly. Some places see very little traffic and are a ways from rescue... But....most of the gravel road areas are vacation, residential and farmland, so just because you've been traveling a beautiful deserted road for a half hour doesn't mean an aforementioned side-by-side, half ton truck or one ton open range bull won't be around the next blind corner.
    Lastly, Dakal roads i have seen so far are hugely varied surfaces, from high quality tourist grade oil, through loose gravel and rocky potholed sections to lightly used two track. While I'm amazed at how well much of it is graded and maintained, we've found sketchy deep gravel to keep us on our toes but almost no mud. Note that we have been using a lot of gravel roads to divide the route up into smaller chunks as it suits our needs.
    I'm sure melting snow and sudden storms would make a lot of this a whole nuther challenge.
    We've been keeping up what I rate as a pretty good pace, keeping all the above in mind, with a lot less stops than you are probably thinking, and I think 5 days for the average Dakal rider is pretty optimistic. Maybe with lighter bikes and younger butts than ours.
    I hope this doesn't all sound too negative...again, this is one of the most fun trips I've ever taken.
    #31
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  12. Orangecicle

    Orangecicle On a "Quest" Supporter

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    We’ve truly enjoyed the Custer area. Great riding, good people — just nothing bad to be said about the place. Also, the Chalet Motel is owned and run by an ADVer! Check it out if you get the chance.

    IMG_6465.jpg
    #32
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  13. squirrelstyle

    squirrelstyle Adventurer

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    It’s just gotta be South Da-Kotters. I simply won’t accept any other opinions. I’ve done some riding near Nemo and near Lead but preferred the Custer area. Could have been the company and experience but that’s where I had the most fun. I like that the DakAL is mostly not technical just very scenic gravel until that gets a bit boring and then it heads into some two track. And then bam, technical, but for terribly long. And then into a grassy area where you can hardly see the track. Loved your picture of the random rocky hill when you could have just continued on pavement.
    THANKS FOR THE RR!
    #33
  14. GF-kam

    GF-kam Long timer

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    Great photos and thanks for sharing ride report.
    #34
  15. Orangecicle

    Orangecicle On a "Quest" Supporter

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    Today we finally had to leave the Chalet Motel and head north.

    CCF0787D-626D-4A4E-9F2F-016AF687F07F-38382-00000E0BA2721DA9.jpg

    We took the roads up to Hill City and then jumped on the trail from there. Most of what we found was a lot of fun. It’s a mix of dirt, gravel with some imbedded rock throughout — pretty much what you would expect in a mountainous area. And old mining shacks.

    6B79A4BC-BAB2-4A5A-80C6-850DF3E07B99-38382-00000E0B9E6B6F2F.jpg

    We made our way over to the trail that goes to Castle Peak.

    9A39E2B9-312C-40C8-B5FD-EE6D54991B12-38382-00000E0B98E8C647.jpg

    The route has you riding along a stream for miles. The road was a little rocky at times, but not too bad.

    75B2CD24-A173-41FB-83F9-16A28C51E544-38382-00000E0B9323B2F6.jpg

    EF3FA834-1A21-428F-8E72-B8B94652CFCF-38382-00000E0B8C2C8AD4.jpg

    As you head north, the route takes you from motorized trail to the next. The trail that had us concerned was the one that leads to White Tail Peak (County Road 190). Going west as we were, we faced large and deep mud puddles and rocky hill climbs. About 20 feet short of the peak, which is a fact I didn’t know at the time, I tried to pull off to the side to just catch my breath and dropped the bike — the first drop of the entire trip. Anyway, it was not our favorite road.

    DF1C5DD8-EF27-4177-B18D-94C3E796761B-38382-00000E0B80D09880.jpg

    We eventually made it on to good gravel and then over to Trailshead Lodge for a very late lunch. We thought about jumping off on Hwy. 85 and getting over to Spearfish Canyon and then Spearfish for the night, but we eventually decided to stay on the trail. The roads after the lodge were a mess. I at first thought the damage was done by wide-by-sides, but I assumed later that the damages was done by logging trucks. These are some trails I won’t miss at all. It wasn’t that they were incredibly difficult. Rather, you just had to keep 100% focus at all times to do it safely.

    5125AC70-03F8-4FA6-9623-F1C0BC238533-38382-00000E0B7CD6CECB.jpg

    We skipped a bit of the route that takes you to a fire lookout near Spearfish Canyon because (a) we both had been there before, and (2) we were pretty exhausted. The scenery around the canyon is just stunning.

    3C129394-BBD1-469D-89B0-2516AAD11838-38382-00000E0B791DFFD8.jpg

    We made it to Spearfish, were we are camping in a Travelodge for the night; it’s 93°F, so I nixed the camping.
    #35
  16. RoundOz

    RoundOz Plenty of seasoning

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    There was a lot of miles like this today, but that won't be the road surface we remember. As I'm sure OC will/ has explain/ed: 20210609_125958.jpg
    #36
  17. Orangecicle

    Orangecicle On a "Quest" Supporter

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    June 9, 2021:

    We left Spearfish at about 10:00 this morning after doing a little repair work on Oz’s bike. He lost the breather hose and cap off of his underseat tank. That gave me an opportunity to tell the story of building by bike. The parts all came in labeled bags like you see in a bike shop, but this bike shop is in Switzerland. The bag that had a breather hose in it was labeled “Breeder Hoe.”. Something was obviously lost in translation there.

    Anyway, we stopped by a bike shop that had no decent solutions for us, although they tried. So, we came up with our own solution with stuff we both carry on the bikes. Mark was not 100% pleased. The hose isn’t orange.

    BAC487C4-5F07-49C7-B67C-BD5B4DE20AA4-43615-00000F0EB41693F3.jpg

    We headed north on the route, which turns to gravel right outside of Spearfish. The first event of the day was me losing Mark. At the end of the first gravel road, I saw his headlight in the distance and knew he had the GPX file, so I turned right to the next turnoff and waited there. He never showed. The intersection I drove to was closed because of a bridge being out. Apparently, Mark had the corrected route, and he was on the right path.

    All of that violated one of the basic rules of riding in a group — you never leave an intersection until you know the person is behind you and following you. I blew it, so don’t do the same! Always wait for the next in line.

    We met up again at Belle Fourche, which is apparently prenounced “Bell Foosh”. I don’t know why. From there the route gives you a brief bit of tarmac followed by miles and miles and miles of gravel. Like, miles.

    942AE6B3-20FF-4DF4-A1FD-0994FD535868-43615-00000F0EB1874482.jpg

    If you like fast gravel roads, this is your jam. That is as long as you like nothing else, as there’s nothing else here. I just about jumped off the bike at the first old farmhouse I saw because (a) I wanted off the bike, and (2) I was desperate to take a picture of something.

    5F68EECF-9CA5-47FA-AF23-CC378D0F909B-43615-00000F0EAEE38C8B.jpg

    After about 118 miles on the day, we reached Camp Crook. There’s a little sorta diner there. It was closed.
    D492F8E5-B7AE-42C1-94C2-3F9FFB141712-43615-00000F0EAC1C3EA2.jpg

    We then took the route over to the South Cave Hills. Again, more gravel.
    9476B923-85AC-462C-8D44-2FC2FB3E8B1D-43615-00000F0EA7C9EC6D.jpg

    4B013668-9BB8-42F2-934F-E4043DBCBC76-43615-00000F0EA4E39547.jpg

    The South Cave Hills starts as a simple little ride up to a bluff. What a view you get there.
    479C87DB-65EA-4C9F-A06C-79CDF3E30A7D-43615-00000F0EA1CE9A1B.jpg

    There are two routes laid out in the South Hills. One is a loop and the other is a straight-ish route through the place. We did part up the loop until we came upon a reasonably steep downhill that was muddy. I noped out on that one.

    70958335-B07F-45A0-ABA1-1B84B4DAC4E8-43615-00000F0E9EABEC24.jpg

    So, we circled back to the path that goes through thinking it would be much easier. Nope. And, I almost got bit by a rattlesnake laying in the path that was not at all pleased with our presence.

    So, we turned on the path through this place, and it was . . . basically all that we could do to get through it on loaded bikes. The path is rutted, sometimes rocky, and sometimes unmarked. This picture is of Mark going down what we thought was the route, but the route actually turned left through the bushes. We got through it, but man were we bushed.
    8EA337F7-D0B0-45B8-B737-A1EE34608B6B-43615-00000F0E9A0F7F47.jpg

    We contemplated getting a motel room in Buffalo, SD for the night, but at the intersection to go there, I suggested that we check out the campgrounds in the North Cave Hills. I’m glad Oz had sunglasses on because I’m pretty sure that he gave me the stink eye over the suggestion. Well, we made it here. It’s a pretty sweet little camping spot.
    618FA097-AB02-4353-8226-B1E321617EE0-43615-00000F0E91B88D4D.jpg

    And, there’s reception, so you guys get to see it in near real time!

    Rarely have I been this tired from a day or riding. We did about 180 miles total, but that last bit through the South Cave Hills path was enough for an entire day. Time to take a cat nap before trying some astrophotography with Oz.
    #37
  18. Orangecicle

    Orangecicle On a "Quest" Supporter

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    Campsite stars:

    7B55EB5F-8FA6-4617-BBB6-3CA4DF715DB6-43615-00000F34E98A1392.jpg
    #38
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  19. RoundOz

    RoundOz Plenty of seasoning

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    As hard getting out of South Cave Hills was, where my camp machete/knife/hammer was almost needed, and as exhausted as I was, the result of OC's Persuasive Speaking 101 training (talking me into "just taking a look" at the North Cave Hills campground) was well worth the effort...though at the time I felt the last drips of enthusiasm were being wrung from an almost dry rag.
    This place is an incredible combination of layback peaceful and stunning!
    Orange wanted me to post a sunset pic from my phone, and although you can see the HDR has a few issues in low light, the visual is there to accompany the flowery words: 20210609_202815.jpg
    I wandered around with a real camera this morning while he sleeps off a late-nighter with the astro gear. We are surrounded on three sides by escarpment dropping off into a truly green valley. And dropping off in every sense, as the rocks you stand on are pretty much cracked all the way though and ready to take a tumble...tomorrow hopefully. I'm sure not jumping up and down on them to find out!
    Here's a couple of sunrise pics: 20210610_061744.jpg 20210610_062242.jpg
    #39
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  20. RoundOz

    RoundOz Plenty of seasoning

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    Location:
    West Nebraska
    20210610_093809.jpg
    #40
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