Climbing and Biking around the Black Hills
After a big farmhouse breakfast at Circle View Ranch, we blazed out of the Badlands, through Rapid City, and into Custer State Park. I had heard that the Black Hills were gorgeous from multiple reliable sources, so I wanted to see for myself. We thought that a good way to get an introduction to the park was from up high. Kerry’s former boss had just been to the park and hiked to Harney Peak and was raving about the hike and the amazing views at the top. We looped around the park, did the obligatory drive by of Mount Rushmore, and then tackled the hike to the 7,244 foot summit.
The forest where we began the hike, was decimated. We found out later that they had to clear-cut huge swaths of the forest because of pine beetle infestation and all of the damage it has done. They had to cut down the trees to try to kill the larva to stop the spread. There were piles of trees and branches stacked all throughout Custer and in various areas in the beginning of our hike. It was really a beautiful landscape, somehow, despite the devastation. The trail itself was dotted with mica, which make it twinkle in the sunlight. There were wildflowers growing everywhere and the air was fragrant and sweet.
It was a challenging hike up the mountain almost 3,000 feet, with twists and turns. The last couple miles of the hike were in the Black Elk Wilderness and we had to register before continuing. We were both really surprised at how many families and older folks we saw at this part of the hike. At one really tough part of the hike, the sight of a couple probably twenty years older than us, inspired us and kept us moving upward. This part of the hike was seriously strenuous as we climbed the rocky path to the granite lookout tower with 360 degree views. The wind was intense and the spectacular view, even more so.
We worked up quite an appetite on that 8 mile hike so were praying that we could find better food in Hill City or near our B&B, the Coyote Blues Village. We were greeted by our VERY charming Swiss hosts, Christine and Hans, who showed us to our rooms and directed us to a nearby restaurant called Bistro on the Terrace. After a body-and-soul-reviving shower, we scooted over to the Bistro. It was a perfect temperature, the deck was twinkling with lights, and the wine list was very reasonable and was filled with very solid options. We ordered a refreshing bottle of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and took in the lush, pine-covered hills around us. After a delicious Mediterranean Platter, excellent salads with real mixed greens (as opposed to iceberg), freshly-baked bread, and a shared roasted chicken dinner with rosemary potatoes and broccoli rabe with pancetta, we both let out a big sigh of relief that we had found a pocket of culinary sophistication in the Black Hills.
We slept so soundly that night after a dip in our private hot tub at the B&B. We were both wishing that we had more time to stay in this wonderful inn with their filling and delicious European breakfasts and soft, bamboo sheets. Wistfully, we headed off to Deadwood.
A friendly local told us about the Mickelson Trail, 110 miles of bike paths, made from converted railtracks, that snaked around the Black Hills. One of the path heads is in Deadwood, so we headed there to check out the historic city from the back end. We road the path leading from Deadwood and biked towards Hill City a few miles. The path followed along a running picturesque stream and up a hill flanked by a steep slope laden with slate pieces. So tempted by the idea of a cheese platter made from Deadwood slate, so we picked out a good one, and tucked a good piece in the back of Kerry’s shorts as we biked, with dusty legs, back to the car. We headed from there to Billings.