We have an insane calling to be where we aren't

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The ghost town of Mystic

The Mickelson Trail

Imagine a path where the ghosts of Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane still roam; where bicyclists, hikers and horseback riders can explore spruce and ponderosa pine forests; and the very young, the very old and people of all abilities can enjoy.

The George S. Mickelson Trail is in the heart of the beautiful Black Hills. Its gentle slopes and easy access allow people to enjoy the beauty of the Black Hills. Much of the trail passes through National Forest Land, but there are parts of the trail that pass through privately owned land, where trail use is restricted to the trail only.
 
The trail is 109 miles long and contains more than 100 converted railroad bridges and 4 rock tunnels. The trail surface is primarily crushed limestone and gravel. There are 15 trailheads.
 
We had ridden part of the Mickelson Trail towards Crazy Horse the last time we were in Custer. Our neighbor from Florida was familiar with the Mickelson Trail because he had ridden the entire 109 mile trail in the past on his bike with the help of a shuttle. He mentioned that the most interesting section in his opinion was from Rockford south to Mystic.
Most of the Mickelson Trail is without shade. We decided to wait until a cold front came in and drove to the ghost town of Mystic. Mystic was established when gold was found. There were several active mines along the way.  It was down a dirt road with very little traffic or buildings. Since it is an old railroad track, the grades are not more than 3-5%.
 
There were trestles.
Three tunnels on our section
The old church that was part of the gold mining ghost town of Mystic.

 
Beautiful walls that had been blasted for the train tracks.
and a waterfall to keep our interest and our peddles turning.

We enjoy geocaching but some of our favorites are caches that are gadgets. This one was easy to find but took a bit to figure out how to get the combination for the lock so we could get the log out and sign it.  I think it is ok to post this since I am not identifying where this cache is or which one it is.
 
Below are the instructions.

This is no normal bird house though. This bird house has metal objects protruding from it. What do I do you ask? Well first let us look at a few FACTS:

FACT: This cache uses electricity.
FACT: Electricity WILL flow through your body in order to complete the circuit.
FACT: You have to make the choice of which two bolts to grab and squeeze! Being afraid to squeeze will result in no smiley!
FACT: DC voltage can be felt at as little as 5mA! How much will this cache produce?
FACT: Calling 911 will get you medical emergency help if needed.
PLEASE ATTEMPT THIS CACHE AT YOUR OWN RISK !
Before attempting this cache, ask yourself this! Is there enough electricity (voltage) in this cache to cause me pain! After completing the circuit, the cache will provide you with the necessary combination to the lock, as long as you are looking at the cache correctly! To complete the circuit, you will need to select two of the protruding metal objects and squeeze one with each hand. Continue to choose combinations of metal objects until the cache reveals the hidden code. The combination lock can be opened by entering the first 4 letters of the middle color the cache revealed when you completed the circuit.

No pain was felt and we did find the two bolts to grab that show the middle color to get the cache.


Friday, September 8, 2017

Hiking in the Black HIlls

Lots hills to climb

On our way back to Colorado, we didn't want to drive the entire way without a stop. The Black Hills was a good stopping point with so many hiking options. It was hard to decide where to begin. Every trail we took was a climb, hence the name Black Hills. We were staying a couple of miles outside of Custer, we started with a nearby trail.

Big Rock Park

In the town of Custer is Big Rock Park with Custer Skywalk. Trail with 55 steps to an overlook of the mountains and spires. Once we got to the top, we could only make out a shadow of the mountains because of the smoke. But it was still a good walk.



Once we reached the top, there were more stairs to climb. The smoke was still heavy from the Montana fires. 

The Willow Trail

The next day we drove north to hike the Black Elk National Forest and do some geocaching since there were 11 on this trail.

Mike had to climb for this geocache. My legs were a little (a lot) too short.








Sylvan Lake

It was a beautiful morning as we headed by Sylvan Lake to the Sunday Gulch Trail. It was Sunday after all. This trails had many boulders to climb over.

Sunday Gulch Trail








This trail was for walking under a boulder.


This narrow tunnel was for driving through one vehicle at a time. Our mirrors almost touched the edges.

The Cathedral Spires




Raspberries all along the trail were tasty.
 
We could hear the climber calling to each other while climbing the side of the giant rocks.



Heading to Harney Peak we made a wrong turn but managed to get back on track. Sometimes GPS and a map don't work.

The Black Hills are a real treasure. We could see ourselves returning since we missed many places we would like to explore.




Sunday, September 3, 2017

South Dakota's Badlands

The Badlands heating up

The thermometer hit 96 degrees our first day in the Badlands. We were able to get out and see some of the sights before it heated up too much but decided to get up and on the trail by 7 am the next morning. It was good to have the hiking boots back on.
  As we were heading out for our peaceful early morning hike, we came up on this big horn sheep. We gave him plenty of room. He didn't seem bothered by us as he dozed in the sunshine.
The air was nice and cool with a breeze in the morning.
 
Erosion began in the Badlands about 500,000 years ago when the Cheyenne River captured streams and rivers flowing from the Black Hills into the Badlands region causing erosion to start. Modern rivers cut down through the rock layers, carving fantastic shapes into what had once been a flat floodplain. The Badlands erode at the rapid rate of about one inch per year and will erode completely away in another 500,000 years, giving them a life span of just one million years. Not a long period of time from a geologic perspective.




 
 
This guy was still hanging around once we returned from our hike. We also saw small deer and prong horn antelope. Fortunately, no rattlesnakes.


The sea that covered this area drained away with the uplift of the Black Hills and Rocky Mountains, exposing the black ocean mud to air. Upper layers were weathered into a yellow soil, called Yellow Mounds. The mounds are an example of a fossil soil, or paleosol. Each of the colors and layers represent an era thousands of years in the making.


We ran across a huge herd of bighorn as we were leaving the park in the morning but were too far away for a good picture. There were plenty near the road and sometimes blocking our path.



This must be the way to the Notch.
After wandering through a canyon, this trail climbs a log ladder and follows a ledge to "the Notch" for a view of the White River Valley. We watched for drop-offs. Not recommended for anyone with a fear of heights. It could be treacherous during or after heavy rains.
Climbing down turned out to be a little more difficult. The top stairs were quite steep and long steps for short legs. As I was climbing down backwards and my knees bending up to my chest the lower I got, Mike told me to turn around and try going forward. It had leveled out enough that I just walked instead of practically bear crawling backwards.

 OK we will keep to the right since it looks like a person could easily slide on the gravel.


We tied several trails together and made a nice day of hiking. One trail had molds of  the fossils that had been found in the area and the history.  Alligator fossils indicate that a lush, subtropical forest covered the land. Most fossils found in this formation are from early mammals like the three-toed horse and the large titanothere. You can google that one if you are curious.
 
 We managed to pick up a few geocaches in the town just outside the park after our hike in the small town of Interior . They must be hardy people that live in Interior with hot summers and tough winters.


For eleven thousand years, American Indians have used this area for their hunting grounds. Archaeological records indicate that these people camped in secluded valleys where fresh water and game were available year round. Eroding out of the stream banks today are the rocks and charcoal of their campfires, as well as the arrowheads and tools they used to butcher bison, rabbits, and other game. From the top of the Badlands Wall, they could scan the area for enemies and wandering herds.
 
Toward the end of the 19th century as homesteaders to claim moved into South Dakota to claim their 160 acre homesteads. The U.S. government stripped American Indians of much of their territory and forced them to live on reservations.
We had driven by this area in the past when the temps were well over 105 degrees. This time, we were glad that we took the time to stop and visit the area and learn a little more.
The skies have been smoky due to the fires in Montana but makes a nice sunset as we head to the Black Hills.