Today’s ride was the longest, in terms of distance. While mostly downhill, high winds from the SSW, combined with significant areas of loose sand dampened the speed and efficiency of the run. It began at Custer (MP 44.5) with a 2 1/2 mile uphill ride (called the Custer Climb), which I managed without too much difficulty, followed by a long 10-mile downhill run, another short uphill ride, 4 more miles downhill, another short uphill, and a mostly level ride into Edgemont, the last mile of which was on paved roads.
Old homesteads, a feed mill, rusted farm equipment, and a large mine were adjacent to the trail. Domestic horses and a herd of bison were also observed. The trail wound through a narrow and rugged Sheep Canyon, ultimately spreading into a beautiful wide valley. Many discount the scenery in this section, but I found it to be quite pleasant. The trail ended (it’s actually the beginning of the trail, MP 0.0) without fanfare or much signage in Edgemont, a disappointment.
Riding the Mickelson Trail was a “life list” item, and I chose to ride it in celebration of an upcoming 70th birthday. It was not a disappointment; in fact, I believe it to be the best Rail Trail I’ve ridden. Trail signage was absolutely the best of any trail I’ve been on, each of the trailheads had water, restrooms, and maps, and some had tool stations. No obnoxious cyclists were experienced. Other than unpreventable damage caused by record rainfall and runoff, the trail surface was the best of any of the major Rail Trails I’ve ridden. I highly recommend it!
I would be remiss if mention were not made of Craig Kjar, the Trail Patrol representative. He provided accurate and complete information, had a friendly demeanor, and represented South Dakota in an exceptional manner. He kept a careful eye for trail obstacles, trash, and vandalism. Our paths crossed several times along the trails; hopefully, we’ll meet again on another trail.