Friday, July 02, 2010

Turning Badass in the Badlands: Mountain Bike Trip on the Maah Daah Hey with Western Spirit

I was inspired to mountain bike in North Dakota after a random encounter with a woman with hot pink hair, a pierced tongue and great attitude. I bumped into Gnat Harris, an acquaintance I hadn't seen for a year, at Sea Otter Classic in Monterey, California in May. She told me she was going on a guided fat tire trip in North Dakota with Western Spirit in June and suggested I sign up too. So I did.
Karen Kefauver is ready to ride!
Photo credit: Jereme Rauckman
  Western Spirit guide Emily leads the way on the Maah Daah Hey Trail; Jereme follows.
Photo credit: Karen Kefauver

Three other factors inspired my North Dakota trip this summer:
1. Western Spirit - The 5-day, 4-night camping and mountain bike tour in North Dakota was organized and led by Western Spirit, a Moab-Utah based company I like and trust. I had toured with them once before on Colorado Trail singletrack. (Here's the story I wrote on that epic trip for Singletrack Magazine). The only drawback, potentially, of rejoining this company was pigging out; the guides are famous for being fantastic cooks and this trip was no exception!
2. Badlands - I loved the name "Badlands" so I had to see for myself what the terrain was like. I was pleasantly surprised: it was more beautiful than I had expected. I loved the lush green grass of the flat meadows *but not the mud* and the rock formations were colorful and spectacular. With five full days of riding, I felt like I was doing interval training: there were short, steep uphills frequently. Maybe just one day with a significant sustained climb. Rolling terrain is the best way to describe it!
3. Good story potential: I had never visited North Dakota, and was curious to see what I would find in America's "friendliest state." It is also one of the least populated states. I often write about my sports and travel adventures (here is my website) and was further inspired to go on this trip because it's off the beaten track for many mountain bikers - and travelers in general.

My North Dakota Photos: Here are my shots from the Maah Daah Hey Trail, which is more than 100 miles long and connects the northern and southern units of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Part of the Missouri River Plateau, the Badlands of North Dakota were formed by thousands of small streams working their way through hundreds of feet of sediment over millions of years. The trail travels through the grasslands, on top of the mesas and then dips in and out of the canyons. 

 Western Spirit Guide Simon Stewart points out the trail to cyclists Kathy of New York City, Rich of Chicago, Illinois, Nate of Eau Claire, Wisconsin and Gnat of Redwood City, California. 
Photo Credit, above, and below: Karen Kefauver

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