The End of the Mickelson Trail
As someone with two functioning legs and a strong interest in outdoor activities, one might suppose I’ve walked a fair number of miles along the Mickelson Trail. One would be wrong.
But I am willing to bet that I’ve walked a certain piece of the Mickelson Trail that many high-mile walkers have not. At least that is my claim if the local bicyclist I met along a little hidden pathway near downtown Deadwood knows his trail history.
It may not be quite as ambitious an undertaking as walking or biking the Mick Trail’s entire 109-mile length, but I have vowed to walk all the in-town pathways around the Black Hills. And lucky for me, most of the time we are talking only a couple of miles, perhaps a half-mile, or sometimes just a quarter mile of bucolic strolling.
I loved the Spearfish walk, enthused about Keystone’s Old Town History Walk, spent a pleasant spring morning along the Hot Springs Freedom Trail; but I couldn’t even locate the Deadwood walk.
Of course, I have often sauntered up and down Deadwood’s historic Main Street, with a full scope of people-watching opportunities at every step, plus the wider downtown area is dotted with historic markers that make for interesting rest stops. And walking the steep inclines of Deadwood’s Victorian neighborhoods is a rigorous excursion made pleasurable by the fascinating streetscapes.
As many Mickelson Trail users know, a good number of races and trail events begin at the Deadwood Trailhead, with its somewhat disconcerting location off a parking area behind a number of buildings along Cliff Street. Dressed up with old-fashioned street lamps, this urban section of the trail meanders in a westerly direction along Whitewood Creek and past an assortment of backyards and vacant lots.
On it goes, slowly transforming into its scenic self as it stretches out into the valley leading to the Kirk Trailhead behind Lead and on into the beautiful forests and meadows of the northern Black Hills. Folks who participate year after year in the upcoming Mickelson Trail Trek know the territory I’m talking about.
Back in town, I decide that the in-town Mickelson Trail qualifies as Deadwood’s city path, and I have certainly often come across family groups taking a casual stroll.
But in the other direction, from the Deadwood Trailhead towards the center of town and beyond, lies the unknown – at least until I chance upon the little hidden pathway where I meet the bicyclist. It has all the markings of the Mickelson Trail – the old-fashioned lampposts, a wooden-planked bridge and Whitewood Creek babbling along on my left. It also starts in a parking lot, dropping down behind what is pretty much continuous parking along Lower Main Street and then rising again to cross Burnham Avenue, meander along a small landscaped section and then make a final turn into the Days of ’76 rodeo grounds.
In the interest of deepening my urban trail expertise – and despite the scorching sun – I take this little known, little advertised creek side stroll. Halfway through my walk, I stop to rest at a lone picnic table under the blessed shade of trees lining the bank. I hear the cars up above as folks pick a parking spot before heading for an evening of gaming fun in downtown Deadwood.
I conclude that I have found Deadwood’s true city pathway, and the rodeo grounds seems a good place to call it quits. The bicyclist had seemed pretty certain about its Mickelson Trail credentials, and who am I to disagree. And, more to the point, it is my proud belief that I belong to a possibly select group of dedicated hiking enthusiasts – those who have walked the final mile – or perhaps the final half-mile and maybe less – to the true end of the Mickelson Trail.