Monday, June 16, 2014

June 9, 2014. The Mickelson Trail

This day started out sunny, if a little chilly... it was 48 degrees when we got in the truck for the hour drive to Hill City. We have been hampered by the fact that our cell phones do not work here. The young woman at the park entrance looked up the bike shop that will shuttle bikes and riders to any point on the Mickelson Trail so at least I have their hours of operation.

We saw several buffalo and lots of prairie dogs on the drive. It is certainly beautiful country here.

When we got to the bike shop, they had a van ready and waiting! That was lucky! We got shuttled to the north end of the Mickelson Trail at Deadwood. It is our plan to ride back to Hill City today (50 miles) and finish from Hill City to Edgemont tomorrow (59 miles).

Mickelson is a crushed limestone trail, with lovely views of rivers, rocks and hills. We started at about 4200 feet elevation, and immediately began the first climb. By the time we got to 5000 feet Bill was having trouble breathing--I had forgotten that he had trouble at altitude since I was not with him when he hiked in the Grand Canyon. When we passed 5500 feet we had only biked 6 miles and it was noon (we had started at 11:00). I pointed out that if we continued at that pace we would not reach Hill City until midnight. Bill suggested I leave him and bike to Hill City and bring back the truck to get him. I would not leave him on the trail, so we stayed together until the 10 mile point, where there was a trailhead with shaded benches and water. I left him there and continued on the trail alone.
I rode through several tunnels on my solo adventure, and had another long climb right after I left Bill. I topped out at 6300 feet, and by then I was starting to breathe hard. This is not an easy trail!
I stopped for a very quick lunch at the Moonshine Gulch Saloon. The young woman who dropped us at the top of the trail said this was the only location where there was food close to the trail. By then I had 26 miles behind me.

There were several more tunnels and another long climb (7 miles long) before I finally reached Hill City. By then it was 5:20 PM and the bike shop was closed. I loaded my bike in the truck, ate a quick snack, and started back to get Bill. I took a wrong turn, but pulled over to look at the map and saw I could get to the trailhead where I left Bill, so I stayed on the back road. That was a bad move! First there was a long construction delay, and then I got onto a dirt road. I still could get there, but the cows were coming home so I had another delay.

Finally I reached Englewood Trailhead and Bill was not there! And he did not leave me a note!

I started looking back toward the head of the trail, by road of course. (he had promised not to get back on the trail). I drove into Deadwood (where we started) and looked around at restaurants to see if his bike was out front. I drove around until it started getting dark (about 8:30), then went to the Sheriff Department.  They have a particular protocol for people lost on the trail, so first they started asking me questions.... name, date of birth, height, weight, etc. Then: "does he have a gun?" and "was he depressed about anything or did anything bad happen lately?" and "does he gamble or drink?". Apparently they find a lot of lost folks in the casinos!
Finally they rallied Search and Rescue, and I met with them and answered many of the same questions and more: "is he sensible about the outdoors?" (yes, he's a boy scout leader) "would he go back on the trail to try to catch up to you?" (no, he knows he can't catch me on a bike) "where did you eat breakfast?" (at Angustura)... They started at Deadwood and searched 50 miles of trail by ATV (even though I told them he would not go back on the trail). The Sheriff Deputy told me I had to stop driving around and get a room because they could not reach me on my phone. So I got a room and waited. Finally around midnight they called and said they got a report that someone had seen him earlier on the road I should have taken to get back to the trailhead... then at 12:30 they called again to say they found him in Hill City in front of the bike shop. 
So the Pennington County Sheriff Deputy brought him to the county line where the Lawrence County deputy picked him up and delivered him to my hotel around 2 AM. We were awfully glad to see each other! When I was not back to the trailhead by 6:30 Bill worried that I had not made it off the trail, so he walked out to the main road and rode his bike down the hills and walked up the hills all the way to Hill City where we left the truck (40 miles)! If I had not made a wrong turn and taken the back way to the trailhead I would have seen him. If our cell phones had worked we never would have had a problem at all. A lot of "ifs". We are just incredibly glad to be back together where we belong!

1 comment:

Teri said...

Well, this was an interesting day for you and Bill. I'd be sweating bullets and other stuff. So glad there was a happy ending. Love all of your adventures. Hugs