Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Alkali Creek, Black Hills, SD

I just returned from a long weekend in the Black Hills of South Dakota.  I had family obligations but I had a few days to play also.  I intended to ride a handful of trails but it rained nearly everyday and I ended up doing a lot more hiking than biking.  It has been a wet winter and spring in the Hills and everything is lush and green, so the hiking was magnificent.  It even sleeted up in the high elevations... and on the first day of summer!

The only trail I had a chance to ride was Alkali Creek near Sturgis.  Alkali Creek is part of the Centennial Trail System and I was told it is the best single section of the entire system.  It was spectacular.  I started at the Black Hills National Cemetery TH and rode toward Elk Creek.  This route starts with a long grinding climb that takes you up out of the valley and away from the interstate and into the Hills.  After you reach the first summit, it's all up and down through the Hills on beautiful singletrack.

The trail is between 4 and 5 thousand feet and I could feel the effects of the elevation on the climbs.  I had to adjust my climbing style:  much more seated tempo riding.  I rode as far as I thought I should and then turned around and rode back to the same TH.  Upon turning around, I was surprised at how much I'd been gaining elevation on the way out as it seemed like the up-and-downs were much more down on the way back.  The final downhill back into the valley was incredible.  It was about 20 minutes of all downhill singletrack- just holding on and carving all the way down!

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