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"In the summer of 1874 an expedition led by Lt. Colonel George A. Custer discovered gold in
the Black Hills. Under the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie, however, this region belonged to  
the Plains Indians and white settlement was not allowed. Word of the discovery spread  
quickly, and a group of gold seekers from Sioux City, Iowa moved into the Black Hills the
following winter. Upon their arrival, the Gordon Party built a log fortress on the
bank of French Creek to protect themselves from a possible Lakota attack. "
~ from the Custer State Park brochure

The Gordon Party's stay was short lived -- within five months the U.S. Calvary made them leave the Black Hills because it was part of the Great Sioux Reservation.

Many other gold seekers flooded into the area, however. Within two years about 12,000 settlers illegally inhabited the Black Hills.

I'll give a little more history and show more photos of the replica of the Gordon Stockade later in this entry.


Although the weather was good in both the Black Hills and Rapid City yesterday, Jim and I needed a rest day after our moderately long bike ride (Jim) and hike (Sue) on Wednesday.

Today we were ready for another trip down to the Hills, where we both enjoyed bike rides in near-perfect weather -- sunny, mid-50s to mid-70s, and a little breezy. Some puffy white clouds formed as we were riding.

We got to Hill City about 8:45 AM after a 50-minute drive from Ellsworth AFB. I started my ride at the trailhead for the popular multi-use Mickelson Trail in the city park.

Our plan was for me to ride about 19 miles south on the bike path to Custer, then turn east on the spur trail to Stockade Lake and either stop at the parking lot there or ride around the lake if I had the energy. Jim would drive the truck to the lake and park it, then ride north to Hill City. Id pick him up there after I got done riding.

Here's a map of the area, with our cycling route highlighted in yellow:


Hill City is just off the top left of that map.

Jim met me after Id ridden only 12 miles south of Hill City. Because I was going more slowly than he was, he decided to turn around and ride back with me to Custer and around the lake instead of continuing north to Hill City.

I liked that because he could show me some things that he'd seen either this morning or two days ago. Jim pointed out a flock of turkeys along one creek north of Custer and we saw some more near the lake off US 16A. We also saw one deer along that road. 


I rode 22 miles and Jim did 19. He rode another 9 miles on base at Ellsworth later for a total of 28 miles today and 128 miles for the week, the most he's ridden in one week so far this year.

Elevations recorded on my GPS went from 5,023 feet in Hill City to 5,900 feet at Crazy Horse (between Hill City and Custer), then down to 5,205 feet at Stockade Lake. The three miles around the lake were a roller-coaster of ups and downs. The total elevation gain and loss was about 3,500 feet in my ride. 



The bike path is close to the road part of the 19-mile distance from Hill City to Custer but trees and shrubs with bright fall leaf color usually blocks the less-attractive views and road noise in those areas.

In the next two photos, for example, the path is very close to busy US 1385. It's not as distracting as it looks:


This antiques business near the Crazy Horse memorial has quite an eclectic mix of things to sell.

Most of the trail is farther removed from roads between Hill City and Custer. It goes past lots of scenic fields with horses and a few cows, as well as houses and several campgrounds:





There are covered waysides placed about every ten miles along the Mickelson Trail. The one in the next photo is on the site of a former railroad stop at Oreville. It's one of several reminders that much of the Mickelson Trail used to be a railway through the Hills:


Going southbound it was difficult to find a good place to zoom in on Crazy Horse. That would be easier going north with the monument ahead instead of behind.

The partially-sculpted monument is about a mile off US 385 but visible from the road and bike path. 


Lots more work to do on the monument; tiny figures below the nose
are people, to show the scale of this massive project.

When we reached the town of Custer we turned east for several miles on the spur trail to Stockade Lake. The bike path follows US 16A fairly closely but the views of rock formations and ranches are scenic:



Continued on the next page -- riding around Stockade Lake, touring the Gordon Stockade, and tasting wine at the Prairie Berry Winery.

Happy trails,

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, and Cody the ultra Lab

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2012 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil