The Dakotas – Day 1

After a whole day of driving from Colorado to North Dakota and camping at the Cottonwood campground on the south side of Theodore Roosevelt National Park we awoke to clear skies and the sun rising. Our goal for the day…ride the Maah Daah Hey trail! This trail is 96 miles in length and the longest continuous singletrack mountain biking trail in America. Maah Daah Hey is an Indian phrase meaning “an area that has been or will be around for a long time.”

We drove some fun 4-wheel drive roads to reach the trail-head that we wanted to ride from and camp at. Brief instructions on how to get there: from Hwy 94 take exit 23 it turns into County Rd 730. Then a right on County Rd 726 and then a left heading to Wannagan Camp. It’s a trail-head and campground and probably took about 30 min to get there.

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We started riding north on the trail where the it immediately starts to climb. We hit some of the switchbacks and some of the turns were a little to tight for me to manage so I did the ol’ hike-a-bike. I’d get back on and ride a short bit just to encounter a really steep section where I just couldn’t get up it so once again, hike-a-bike. Some sections were a bit more technical with ruts and rocks and yes back to hike-a-bike. I started joking with hubby that I should have just left my bike at the truck cause it would have been a lot easier to hike without having to push a bike uphill.

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After we reached the top and it flattened out it was much easier to ride and I could stay on my bike, whew. The views opened up and it was beautiful. We could see a storm brewing in the distance though and kept ours eyes on it. In the Dakotas they have this mud/clay stuff that when it rains it becomes slick and sticky at the same time. They call it gumbo. The trail was mostly made of this gumbo but currently it was in the dry form and we were really hoping that it didn’t start raining.

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We started to descend into this green grassy area on only a tiny singletrack. The speed combined with the easier riding made this stretch my favorite. Hubby was way in front and I could no longer see him. It was very quiet on the trail and we saw no one else the entire day. I caught up to hubby, well, actually he stopped to wait for me, and then I caught up to him.

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We started to climb back out of the cooler grassy area and back to the dry rock area. We eventually found a nice overlook to stop and have lunch at. Our lunches while doing any activities like this are always sandwiches. Basically, whole pepperoni or salami from Whole Foods and block cheese, sliced and layered on either a bagel or a hard roll. It’s easy to transport, doesn’t matter if it gets squished and doesn’t need to be refrigerated. Perfect back-country food! After eating it started to rain ever so slightly. We knew that we needed to start heading back because the trail was going to go to shit turning into gumbo. As we were riding, you could tell that the “mud” was getting slicker and slicker. Then the gumbo started sticking to our tires. Instantly I was riding with an extra 5 lbs of mud stuck to my wheels.

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And if that wasn’t bad enough we now had to tackle some of those awesome descents that we rode earlier but in the opposite direction…up. There were areas where we both had to push our bikes up the inclines. The gumbo was now sticking to the bottom of our cycling shoes and clogging up our cleats. Eventually it got so bad that we couldn’t clip back in to our clip-less pedals. The rain kept falling and the trail rapidly deteriorated. We made the decision about half way back to jump out onto the 4-wheel drive road to finish our ride back. Best decision ever. We got some speed up and watched the mud fly off our tires like crazy! I was finally able to clip one shoe in. Yay!

We got back to camp covered in mud and tired but happy with our ride. We, of course, celebrated with a couple of ice cold brews. We started with Summer Honey Ale from Big Sky Brewing since it’s a good daytime beer. Later we moved on to Stone Brewing Old Guardian a Barleywine which was for me and for hubby, he went with Crazy Mountain Snow Cat Coffee Stout.

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We sat in our chairs taking bets on whether anyone else would show up at the camp site that night. It was the Friday of Memorial weekend. In Colorado, you wouldn’t have been able to even find camping yet alone have an entire campground to yourself but this was North Dakota and we were curious to see. No one else showed up at all. We couldn’t believe it. If you want solitude over the holiday weekend North Dakota is where you want to be!

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~ by willtriforbeer on May 31, 2013.

One Response to “The Dakotas – Day 1”

  1. Sorry it’s taken me so long to catch up, just got the internets back! The pictures remind me of why I love the western US so much! Unfortunately, it’s not 9:30 AM and I’m craving a beer.

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