Here's a nice scenery shot showing the snow.
We drove around Custer State Park, and on the east side, our altitude decreased below the snow line. So we looked for hiking trails and came upon the French Creek Natural Area. Here I am departing:
The trail is not marked and I immediately took a wrong turn. This is the correct path that I didn't take:
Instead, I went up a very steep and slightly muddy trail. The mud wasn't too slippery but it caked onto my tires. There was a cool bird overhead:
Here is the muddy road I took. oops.
Here is my front tire from above:
from the side
and the rear tire:
I stopped once to remove the mud. It actually came off pretty easily because of the grass stuck in it. I also removed mud from my shoes with my knife. Good thing I brought the knife. It was a very steep climb made more difficult by the mud, quite the aerobic workout. The view from the top was very nice.
The ride down was a lot of fun too. Then I met up with Marilyn who confirmed that I took the wrong turn. She let me go the right way for another 20 minutes. Here I go.
Here's looking back at Marilyn:
These stream crossings were kind of fun. The first two I walked, and then I got the hang of it and was able to go over the rocks:
This was a nice narrow single-track trail, but I had to turn around after 10 minutes. Oh well.
Okay, then this afternoon, after realizing we couldn't make it all the way up needles highway due to snow, I got permission to do another ride. I thought this would be an easy 3 mile loop. No, this was the hardest ride I've ever done! The uphills were way beyond my technical ability so I walked a lot. It was both very steep and very rocky. There are no such things as switchbacks here. I can handle one at a time (at least some of the time) but not both. The rocks were boulders strewn all along the steep trail. At one point I just ricocheted right off a boulder to the ground at left--in view of the only 2 other people on the trail of course--it didn't hurt, just bruised my arm. Thank goodness these nice people were on the trail because I felt better knowing they were there. I was planning to turn around at the top of the first hill because this was way beyond my ability but then it looked so pretty, I just wanted to see what was up there, so I walked up there and then it looked so pretty I went back and got my bike and said, I'll just go a little farther. So then I went downhill some, and finally caught up with the nice hikers, only because they were stopping a lot to look for birds. Then I went down a steep hill with boulders, half walking and got to this fence where you could only squeeze your body through. The nice hikers helped me lift the bike over the fence.
Then I hobbled down another steep hill and got to a stream crossing:
The board is only 6" wide or so. Well, I sure didn't want to go back up that hill and throw my bike over the fence, so no problem, I'll do this. The worse that can happen is I get my feet wet. So I walked over this with my bike. And took a picture of the stream. It was a beautiful ride, and I was able to appreciate it even though I thought it was the craziest trail I'd ever been on.
Here's some more scenery:
At the top, you are on the plains. It's kind of different. You'd expect this at the bottom.
Oh God, another fence! This one's even taller (about 6 feet?) and I'm all alone now. Once again, I sure don't want to turn around so I lift the bike over. I did a good job actually--got it sideways on top, then lifted over the pedals gingerly, lifted over the wheel centers where the stick out, put my arm through the fence to tip the bike, then let it drop and bounce and fall over. It was an easy fall for the bike.
another stream crossing! okay, just step on the boulders and drag the bike along.
Then just a few more steep drops, some ridden, some hobbled, a nice little ride on flat stuff, then the car is in view, oh there's Marilyn right in front of me, oh, just gotta cross this dry river bed again, oh, there's a nice boulder, oh another ricochet off the boulder onto the ground. Fortunately Marilyn was reading a book so didn't see it. I just cracked up laughing at that point. I hobbled over the crick and was glad to be back at the car. After telling my saga to Marilyn she said, "Would you do it again?" I said, oh yeah!
We also saw lots of wildlife today: