Bike-Packing the Michelson Trail

Adventure is in my veins. When I first met Bob, his lifestyle intrigued me, and I instantly latched on to the idea of bike-packing. Bob decided the 108 mile Michelson Trail in South Dakota would be a great introduction. He wanted me to experience bike-packing with fully loaded panniers before our bike tour in Costa Rica. My one week vacation in September of 2010 designated our travel time.

The rail trail proved to be a good introduction to bike-packing. The 19 miles between Deadwood and Dumont is the longest incline; starting with an elevation of 4,744 feet and ending at the highest elevation on the trail of 6,155 feet. The lowest elevation on the trail is at Edgemont, which is 3,428 feet.

From Deadwood to Edgemont, we followed the semi-hard packed trail, climbing hills and wondered how they calculated a four percent grade. Trains must have struggled on one or two of those hills.

A late start caused us to “take a rest” under the shelter in the ghost town of Mystic, one of the trail-heads. “Take a rest” is used instead of “camping” because camping is not allowed along the trail but we had to stop. A threat of a thunder shower closed in fast and we needed cover.

The few solid abandoned buildings at Mystic enticed us to explore for a short five minutes before hard rain set in. We pulled out our sleeping bags and used the picnic tables as beds.

The sun barely broke the horizon when Bob and I left Mystic. Early morning fresh air filled my lungs as I inhaled deeply. I guess you could say I was in a “rolling meditation” moment. Certainly, God’s presence surrounded us. From tree filled bluffs to open ranch land, Bob and I had to take care to re-latch each gate we encountered to prevent cattle from escaping.

We stopped for breakfast in Hill City. The waitress there was welcoming and provided great service.

Bob and I took one more overnight rest at Minnekahta Trailhead. Minnekahta, the original town’s name, is Lakota for “warm water.” In the late 1800s, the name got changed to Hot Springs. After encountering cold weather, it was a treat to utilize the warm spring water to wash up a bit.

We reached Edgemont early in the morning for breakfast. Lively conversation from locals made for an interesting time. Bob and I then headed back towards Deadwood, starting out on the highway. The hill climbs were longer and steeper but we made better time. About halfway back, we merged onto the trail.

Since Hill City is about the halfway point, Bob and I stopped at that same restaurant and was served by the same waitress. She greeted us with a huge smile when she saw us again, and was happy we were back.

Continuing on, we stayed on the trail and later spotted a public campground. Bob and I decided to camp there since it was getting late. We pitched our tent and then heard a woman and her young son invite us over to their campfire. Her son had a lot of questions about bike-packing.

Back at Deadwood the next morning, my adventurous spirit was filled with excitement. Bob asked me what I thought about my introductory bike-pack experience. My huge grin said it all.