A Victorian Secret … Black Hills, South Dakota
I am calling this ride a “Victorian Secret” for a couple of reasons. First off, I learned of the parts of this ride on IMBA’s MTB Project site. The ride consisted of three trails … Victoria’s B-Cup, Victoria’s C-Cup, and the Victoria Lake Loop (I have found the C-Cup trail called Victoria’s Secret on other sites). So, you can see the ride must be Victorian!
Why call this trek a secret? Well, I came up with several reasons. First of all, these trails were not listed on several websites (including the Black Hills Mountain Biking Association). Secondly, all trail junctions were very difficult to find … almost like somebody didn’t want people to find them (no way). Thirdly, I think Victoria Lake must be hidden somewhere … for as much as I have looked … from the actual trail, on Google Maps, on Strava Maps … I have yet to find any feature labeled Victoria Lake.
Now to be fair, I had been thoroughly warned about lack of signs. Since I could find no GPX track for the entire trip I had to load all three of the trails (listed above) onto my GPS.
Below are the 3 tracks superimposed upon each other. I used. If you would like to do my ride copy the GPX in the Strava Box at the end of the post. Unfortunately, my Garmin 800 Edge won’t allow me to superimpose, so I followed the first track (B-Cup in Red) until it ended, turned it off, loaded and followed the second track (C-Cup in Purple), then the third (Victoria Lake in Blue).
- Below you will find a map for A Victorian Composition.
- Click the green or red balloons for driving directions to the trailheads.
- Click Tracks or Icons for Specific Info
I found some incredible trails yesterday, especially Victoria’s C-Cup. Riding along the edge of a cliff reminded me of the trails along the Virgin River in southern Utah or on the Mogollan Rim in Arizona.
I found a pleasing mixture of rocky trails, dirt trails, pine needle trails, meadow crossing trails, and trails crossing streams. I also loved the way the trail designers avoided any long, grueling climbs. I did a lot of climbing (3,105 vertical feet), but I don’t remember any long grinds. I had to do some walking at the beginning of the ride, but that was due to a climb with softball size stones as the tread. The other 23.5 miles were certainly ride-able.
I was surprised to see all the logging out there … clear cut logging. I admit I don’t know much about forest management but I thought we were taking out every other tree, or every third tree … not just mowing them down like blades of grass. Maybe all the trees in those areas had diseases?
Several times I came across huge piles of branches and occasionally observed piles of logs. Does the general public know all these trees are being mowed down … of is that another Victorian Secret?
I knew I was going to have trouble navigating back to the car near the end of the ride since my Victoria Loop track did not match up with my B-Cup segment on which I had begun (see map above, the P marks the location of the car). I came to a trail junction (I actually saw this one before riding past like all the others) and just didn’t know which way to go. I toggled back and forth between the Victoria Loop and B-Cup tracks on the GPS but couldn’t decide.
Then I tried looking at my Strava track on the phone to see if any of the trails were shown. I could see where I was and where I had started but nothing in between. As I was walking my bike down the trail to my right and studying my phone (to see how the cursor would move) a couple of young fellows (I later learned their names were Dirk and Ian) came along toward me.
They asked me if I needed help and after I explained where I was parked they told me, “You are going the wrong way. You should have taken the left turn.” They also informed me if I had continued to the right I would have ended up on the paved Sheridan Road (which could have taken me back to my car).
They said I could follow them on the left hand trail and they would tell me where to branch off to get to the car.
The left hand trail began with an immediate climb which did not slow the boys down a bit. By the time we reached the first downhill stretch they had disappeared and I was gassed.
The next segment of trail was a glorious downhill stretch. I caught a few glimpses of the guys as I weaved my way through a thick forest on a snaking thread of rock and soil, just barely staying under control, yet pedaling hard to go faster.
The guys were waiting for me at the beginning of the next climb. Just as I approached, gasping for air, they took off, pedals churning at an alarming pace. Not wanting to their anchor I pushed to keep up.
I can remember riding with people who struggled to stay up with me and I did the same thing to them. Each time they approached I would take off on the next sprint. I don’t think I realized that maybe they needed to catch their breath … that maybe I should wait until they said they were ready to proceed.
On the second climb I did a little better at keeping up. And by the time we hit the next downhill stretch I was only one switchback behind them. I seemed to be able to maintain that distance as we frantically attacked the course.
In the heat of the moment I actually performed a move I don’t remember having done. While moving at break speed I noticed an abrupt three foot high rock in the middle of the trail, flanked by a rock on each side … each about two feet tall. There was a slit between the middle rock and each side rock but neither wide enough for my pedals to clear. I knew I had no chance of stopping in time so I chose the rock on the right. As I approached I pushed my front end down and then lifted. I rode the side of that rock just for an instant and then managed to land back on the trail just past the center rock. I am pretty sure the boys would not have been real impressed but I felt good about the move.
You might be thinking, “He sounds like a 12 year old boy!” And you would be thinking pretty accurately. I am a Grandpa who often acts like a kid … especially when I am on a bike! Heaven knows I have enough mothers at home worrying about me, even at this age!
Just ahead I found Ian and Dirk waiting in the middle of a luscious green meadow. “This is where we part,” one of them said. They said they work at Black Hills Bicycles. We shook hands and exchanged names. When I heard the name “Dirk” I flashed back to my ride on M Hill the previous day … Dirk’s Draw was the name of the gnarliest run down that hill. “Dirk?” I said. “I just rode M Hill and that …” My voice faded out as I noticed Dirk nodding his head. “Yup, that is my run,” he concluded.
After a couple of short discussions on the lack of signage and bike tires we went our separate ways.
As I approached the car I thought back on my day. Boy was I glad I had met those two. I am sure I would have found my way back to the car, most likely on the pavement. But I would have missed meeting them and getting a chance to follow them along one of the best pieces of trail I’ve biked anywhere!
And … boy what a ride. I had just passed through more than twenty three miles of the best Mother Nature had to offer me. I had encountered only two other human beings (Dirk and Ian) and had the whole thing to myself for the remainder of the day.
Some riders get upset when people like me share their trails with the general public. My thoughts … these trails are here for all of us!
My goal has not changed … travel the world, ride my bike, and share what I find. I also hope what I do will get people excited about mountain biking. By showing them how much I enjoy the sport, I hope to encourage my visitors to branch out and explore other lands. Today I have shared a Victorian Secret.
During most visits I take many more photos than I can place on a page. To view every image I captured … 59 photos in all, please visit my Photo Gallery site.
My other rides in the Black Hills are listed below: