Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Mickelson Trail

Summer 2010,  Swimming off the trail
The history of the Mickelson Trail starts back in 1889 when the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad was established. In the 110 miles the rail travels through the Black Hills from Deadwood to Edgemont there are 100 bridges and 4 tunnels. For nearly 100 years the rail ran, until in 1983 it was finally abandoned.

In 1989 it was submitted to be the first rail-to-trails project in South Dakota. Thanks to the SD Game, Fish and Parks and the US Forest Service,  SDDOT and (unexpectedly) the SD Corrections Dept.
the transformation from railroad to trail was completed in 1998. It was named in honor of the late Gov. George Mickelson who'd helped plan it's development.

Today, the trail is open to the general public for hiking, bicycling, horse-back riding, skiing and snowshoeing and even some snowmobiling. Josh and I have hiked around Deadwood, Lead and Englewood but never further south. For the most part it surface is crushed limestone but there are a few places where you have to cross grassy fields.

Sturgis 2010, Walking on the trail out of Deadwood
The scenery along the Mickelson is typical Black Hills scenery. High, jagged peaks with Jack pines that line the valley walls and the open forest beneath them that's carpeted with long, golden prairie grasses. Streams meander next to the trail. Each bow offers another breathtaking photo. So on and so forth.

The history here is young by the worlds terms but it is still very rich and alive. Not too long ago this was untamed country. It was the Paha Sapa of the Souix, a sacred place and that feeling still lingers. Then in 1876 miners flooded these hills in search for gold. Some found it. Along the trail there are the remnants of their abandoned mining towns that are left for us to explore. There is always something to see here.

Now, the reason that I've laid out all this background about the Mickelson is that Josh and I have decided that by 1 year from now we will have hiked, biked or snowshoed the entire 110 miles. Since we rode into town we have been talking about doing this. The time has finally come for us to get out on the trail. We are currently trying to map out which sections we'd like to hike, snowshoe or bike. We will be keeping track of our progress through blogs over the next few months.

And if you live nearby maybe you'd like to join us...

Trail starts in Deadwood & ends in Edgemont

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Mule Deer Down

This year seems to be stating off wonderfully. We are back In Deadwood, SD and were lucky enough to get back into the house that we'd moved out of. To help out with the cost we are living with our two close friends, Nathan and Dan Hayes. They're brothers. All that is great but....

1.1.11 Excitement after the shot
On the 1st day of the New Year, Josh took down his first Mule Deer with his bow. He and Nate were scoping in the bows when they saw a doe feeding on the hillside. Josh threw on his snow shoes and headed her way with Nate and his camcorder in tow.

They crept up on her until they were 17 yards away. The doe had watched them approach and just stayed there watching. She wasn't spooked at all .When Josh went to let loose the arrow she saw it coming.

The shot was a clean, through-and-through shot to the lungs. She took off and only made it about 20 yards. With the fresh snow the trail she left was blazing. The boys watched as she reacted, ran and then ultimately fell. And they got it all on tape!

Of course the fun was just beginning. The boys got it back to the house and dressed it. Nate fed the dogs some liver and it turns out that Wu doesn't really care for such things. Tahquitz loved it! The sun was setting at this point and they set it up so the doe would last through the night.

1.1.11 The first Mule
The next day when Josh and I set tot skinning it I realized it's been awhile since I had a hand in such things. It was fun learning all over again with Josh. The dogs cruised around us like sharks in water, getting bites now and again. Priscilla, our neighbors' dog even got in on the action. With two of us it went pretty quickly. The hardest part was getting our scotch tape to stick to the freezer paper. It's something to remember next time; always keep freezer tape on hand.

When all the work was done and everything was packaged and labeled we were exhausted, exhilarated and very happy that we had a freezer full of meat. Now our biggest decision is what cut to eat for dinner! Or is it what to hunt next...