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PIERRE - Bicyclists from 22 states and two foreign countries were in attendance at the 6th Annual Mickelson Trail Trek held Sept. 19-21. The three-day ride attracted more than 300 bicyclists for an up-close-and-personal experience of the Black Hillsís109-mile Mickelson Trail.

"The Trail Trek began as a celebration of the trailís completion in 1998," said Harley Noem, West River regional supervisor for the Division of Parks and Recreation. "Today, the ride continues as a celebration of the trail, but also introduces new riders to the trail and welcomes long-standing supporters."

The just-more-than 300 bicyclists gathered for the annual ride beginning Friday, Sept. 19. More than half of the riders were from South Dakota, although riders from Colorado, Wyoming, Virginia, Iowa, Arizona, Florida and Texas, to name a few, joined family and friends to explore the Mickelson trail by bicycle. This yearís Trail Trek also attracted international riders. A couple from Scotland and a couple from England traveled over-seas to take part in the scenic ride.

"We had hoped to step up the Trek each year," said Noem. "With attendance up nearly 70 riders from the previous year," he added, "I think this is just the beginning."

Riders familiar with the trail were delighted with the improvements made since last year, including benches, interpretive signs and fences.

"All the new little touches are awesome," said Pat Eidsness from Hudson, S.D., who was taking part in her fifth Trail Trek. "The benches are in just the right places."

"I most enjoy the intelligent, little posters along the way," said Russ Viermann, St. Louis, MO. Viermann, the oldest rider on the Trek at 86, has attended every Trail Trek since the inaugural ride in 1998. "Every year itís an improvement, and it is so encouraging," he said. "You just have to stop to see the beauty."

About half of the riders were first-timers to the event, such as Sterling Taylor of Maple Grove, MN. "This is my first time, but it wonít be my last," said Taylor. "Itís like a shot of adrenaline. Iím already making plans for next year."

The supported ride began Friday, Sept. 19, with riders starting at the Custer trailhead. The 44.5-mile southern portion of the trail took Trekkers through scenic Sheep Canyon, a site not easily accessible by road, on the way to Edgemont to end the dayís ride.

Day two on Saturday took riders on the 37.9-mile route from Custer north to Rochford. Along the way, Trekkers rode past Crazy Horse Mountain, through Hill City and across the Freedom Bridge south of Mystic, which is dedicated to the victims of the attacks of 9/11.

On day three, riders set out from Rochford to complete the northern portion of the trail. The 24.6-mile, Sunday ride took riders to the final miles of the trail into Lead/Deadwood.

All three days, riders experienced pleasant weather. Brisk mornings warmed up to the mid-70s by noon, and sunshine accompanied riders along most of the trail.

Noem wanted to especially acknowledge and thank the volunteers and the townsí Chambers of Commerce, which greeted the trekkers with water, snacks, ice cream and meals along the way.

"The nice thing about the trail is that itís not just one individual town," said Noem. "It connects the whole Black Hills as a community."

The annual ride is typically held on the third weekend of September, with the 2004 Trail Trek scheduled for Sept. 17-19.

For additional information on the George S. Mickelson Trail, visit or contact the Lead Trails office at (605) 584-3896.





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