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August 29 — More Endurance Activities

Eagle Cliff Trails

A late morning brought me to Eagle Cliff Trails by 9 a.m. I planned an elaborate loop around the perimeter of these trails, but that was quickly thrown out as soon as I hit the tracks. They were once again overgrown, steep, and above my riding ability. It was not until much later that I learned these trails were mostly used for cross country skiing. I carried my bike up the first slope, before getting to Bratwurst, which looked more like a forest road and was easy to ride. Here I also discovered I started at the wrong trailhead. I departed from the first one I saw and assumed it was the first trailhead on my map. I really left from the middle one though, and completely missed the first one.

Meadow in the Eagle Cliff Trails

I started a loop through the Eagle Cliff trails, but after passing a cattle gate the trail disappeared on me. I wandered through the forest following game trail as well as making my own before stumbling back onto a path. After more riding I missed a fairly obvious split, which I only noticed when my path dead ended in a cow pasture, forcing me to turn around and find the right way. I rode more along easy trails and long descents in the northern portion of the area. I had to walk my bike up the steep “wipeout” hill before coasting on the highway back to my car.

This ride was the last for this trip, so I scrubbed my bike down well, to ensure no extra gifts from bovines that got splattered onto my bike would bake in my car for a week while I hiked the CT. Unfortunately mountain bike riding was a bust this trip. The Black Hills has good trails, but I did not find them and mostly slogged through overgrown bush or walked trails above my abilities.

Homestake Mine

With one of my strenuous activity types completed, I went to the town of Lead. Lead had been a company town, with Homestake Mine having built most of it. A museum had interesting artifacts from the town’s mining past. Adjacent to the visitor center was the old open pit mine — a gigantic hole in the ground. While the hole was big on the surface, it descended an even more amazing depth into the earth.

Homestake Mine’s open pit

Homestake Mine’s open pit

I next took a topside tour of Homestake Mine. The trolley went around town, explaining and pointing out historical sights and former workings of the mine. We went into buildings for a firsthand look at the gigantic equipment used to extract ore. Enormous motors and cables raised and lowered supplies, men, and ore from the mine through deep shafts. The mining operation was vast, and brought in many different disciplines to make the place work.

All this was the past though, as mining work had been completely and permanently shutdown. A university moved into some of the vacant space underground though and would be conducting subatomic particle research deep with the earth.

Terry Peak

Route I ran

Route I ran

With my wealth of knowledge expanded, I countered balanced that by doing something dumb, namely running up a tall mountain. I scaled Terry Peak, a popular ski slope in winter, starting from Highway 85 and running along Terry Peak Summit Rd. The street rose in front of me, climbing about 800 feet in three miles. The slopes were never outrageous, and I did not go very fast, but I ran the entire way. I finished up a service road, finally scaling stairs to the top of an old fire watch tower at the peak. It took about 34 minutes for me to reach there.

The tower had been repurposed for radio equipment, which unfortunately obstructed the view from the top. The highest point in the area succumbed to the demands of modern communication, making it a very popular hangout for large antennas. The top also had the end of the dormant ski lifts, a much easier way to reach the summit.

On my knee pounding decent, I detoured through Avalanche Loop, some clever developers name for the next batch of urban sprawl high in the hills. I made it the rest of the way down successfully, and after recovering repacked my gear to be ready to enter the backcountry the next evening. My legs were fatigued with all the hard two a days I had been doing on vacation. At least they would have a chance to rest, as I was not packing lots of miles on them soon or anything.