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Stepping out of my car in the abandoned mining site of Mystic, South Dakota was much like stepping back in time. The now century-old site hosting a handful of single story buildings constructed from weather-worn timbers spoke of a different age, one where railroads and the promise of gold drove men to explore deep into the Black Hills. Yet, the remote nature and total lack of industry, housing, and amenities in Mystic does little to deter people from passing through, which becomes immediately apparent as a pair of cyclists pass by within two minutes of my arrival, and with a wave, continue North on the dirt path towards Deadwood. This is, of course, the same trail that I have come to ride, the George Mickelson Trail that winds over 100 miles through the Black Hills of South Dakota from Edgemont to Deadwood.
With my kit donned and bicycle ready, I started pedaling South through the Black Hills on the groomed gravel path and am immediately struck by the beauty and the silence of the mountains surrounding me. The lush and gentle green peaks that flank the trail provide such fantastic scenery, I catch myself riding along for minutes at a time without actually looking at the trail.
After pedaling a few short miles, I roll up to the first of nearly 100 wooden bridges that make up the George Mickelson Trail. These bridges, many of which used to service the railroad, are in good repair and grant amazing views to the babbling creek below. Yet, my awe of the bridges is cut short by the next feature, and 40 foot-long tunnel blasted through the mountain side, creating a wonderful keyhole shape through which I pedal onward.
An hour of beautiful sights and pedaling later, I came to my turnaround point, another trailhead along the George Mickelson Trail. There are 14 trailheads along the route, granting easy access to any aspect of the trail, allowing riders to do sections independently or access support if they are riding the full length. These trailheads also serve as great trail markers. I take a moment to top off my water and catch my breath, then turn my bike around and start pedaling North, once again captured by the beauty and serene hills surrounding me.