Everyone was refreshed from getting a good night’s sleep, and we decided to take one last stroll down to the lake. It was about 5:45 AM, and the sun was just rising above the eastern pinnacles. The lake’s glass-like surface reflected a perfect image of the granite spires overlooking its shore – just like the photo in the ad for Sylvan Lake :-).
Sadly, after only one night, we had to leave our recently remodeled lakeside cabin. This is definitely a place that I’d like to come back to again, maybe with my grandchildren. We decided to take a quick drive (only one mile) up to Needles Eye. Since it was so early, there were NO cars! We parked the truck and were able to take amazing photos of the slit in the rocks, which resembles the eye of a needle. Two days ago, on our first visit, it was cloudy and overcast; however, today the bright blue skies formed the perfect backdrop for the needle’s eye.
It took about an hour to drive down to the Minnekahta Trailhead where Ed and I would start our last 16.2 mile leg of the Mickelson Trail. During our ride, Mary & Jim visited Cascade Falls & Hot Springs and the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary. They saw a whole herd of mustangs painted in black, white, and brown.
Today’s ride was our second favorite. Most of it, with the exception of the climb into Sheep’s Canyon, was downhill, and the trail’s surface was hard packed :-).
Wildflowers, including yellow jasmine, Indian Hemp (or flowering dogbane), and phlox, lined both sides of the trail. Cattle and horse farms flourished in this rich pastureland.
When we encountered the hill leading up to Sheep’s Canyon, our legs seemed stronger and we were able to make the climb with only one rest stop. Probably the hard packed trail made the biggest difference. Although this canyon is historically known for sheep and rattlesnakes, we saw neither. In fact, other than cows and horses, the only animals we saw today were three cottontale rabbits.
Riding down out of the canyon was a breeze, and we averaged 15 mph. However, just like yesterday, the last 2-3 miles were flat with a slight headwind. As we approached Edgemont, the trail became the town streets as we passed over the Cheyenne River. A half mile from the end of the 109-mile trail, the road was blocked by two trains stopped on the railroad tracks. After waiting a few minutes, we asked some local folks how to navigate around the railroad crossing. We turned around and started pedaling back to the main road just as the trains began moving. Finally, after five days but with great satisfaction, we arrived at the southern terminus of the Mickelson Trail in Edgemont!
Mary & Jim arrived about the same time as we did, and we mapped out our drive to Lincoln, Nebraska where we have hotel reservations for the night. Mary wanted to stop at the Chimney Rock National Historic Site, and the quickest route included a 14-mile stretch on a dirt road!
After a brief stop at Carhenge, a Stonehenge replica built from old cars, we ate lunch in Alliance and drove out to Chimney Rock. This historic rock spire marked the beginning of the western frontier for wagon trains on the Oregon Trail.
Back on the road, we drove 5½ more hours across Nebraska, crossing back into Central Time (losing an hour), to Lincoln. Tomorrow, we plan to drive to Little Rock, Arkansas and then back home to Atlanta on Sunday.
Wild Flowers & Pastures
Leaving Sheep Canyon