United Tribes NewsBadlands Outing on Mountain Bikes
ON THE TRAIL OF A HEALTHY LIFESTYLE
19 July 2007
MEDORA (UTN) – To Lonnie Tallman the choppy buttes of the Little Missouri River valley aren't much different than the hills at his grandma's place near Allen, South Dakota on the Oglala Reservation. Especially when it comes to riding mountain bikes.
Tallman was familiar with riding bike across prairie trails, up and down ravines, and through creeks and washouts. Add a blazing sun and soaring temperatures and that's what he and five other United Tribes students did June 23 in the badlands of western North Dakota.
"It's pretty interesting to be out here," said Tallman, who began studying Construction Technology at UTTC in January. "It's good to get out. To see nature."
The one-day trip was organized by the United Tribes Strengthening Lifestyles Program, part of the college's department of Community Wellness Services. The riders were outfitted with the popular TREK brand of mountain bikes that were purchased by the program as part of its mission to challenge students with regular activities that promote fitness.
"I've checked out a bike and ridden on the paved bike trails in and around Bismarck and they're nothing like this," said Gilbert Perkins, a student in Small Business Management from New Town, ND. "I didn't really know what this part of North Dakota looked like."
The eroded, uneven landscape with its scrubby vegetation made for "bad lands" for travelers to cross, hence the name. One said it looked like "hell with the fire put out."
To pursue an adventure in that environment UTTC called on Dakota Cyclery, a Medora, ND business that caters to mountain bikers who want to challenge the terrain on "two-wheeled ponies." Co-owner Jennifer Morlock, a strong, experienced mountain biker, served as leader and guide for a 10 mile ride. The route, from Buffalo Gap to Medora, is an offshoot of the Maah Daah Hey Trail, the popular 96-mile recreational trail that attracts adventurers from all over for biking, hiking, and horseback riding.
According to a trail information guide, Maah Daah Hey is from the Mandan language for "Grandfather" or "long-lasting," as in things that have been around for a long time and deserve respect. Paths throughout the region were worn into the earth by the steady passing of wildlife, cattle and buffalo, and are said to have been routes used by American Indians.
On riding day the trail from Buffalo Gap deserved respect, especially because of the weather. Temperatures registered in the mid 90s when the group struck out in early afternoon – not the most ideal time to ride on a hot day – setting up the possibility of heat exhaustion or worse. Each bike carried at least one water bottle and Morlock and two others carried additional water in backpacks. Morlock insisted that all riders wear helmets. Her motto, "Leave No One Behind," suggested there is reason for caution on a badlands ride.
The Buffalo Gap Trail is considered easy in terms of incline. It floated across prairies blossoming from recent rains, skirted the sides of mud clay buttes, dipped through gullies, and switched back here and there to climb the edge of a break or crest the top of a hill.
The UTTC riders stopped regularly for rest and water. Only a few dust-raising spills were taken. No one was hurt but there were a number of stretches where bikes were walked and not ridden. Weather was not a factor.
"No, the heat wasn't a big problem," said Perkins. "But you really have to have endurance to keep pedaling."
Perhaps the fittest rider, Duane Jackson, had no trouble with the heat or keeping pace with Morlock, even where the trail presented a challenging upward climb.
"It's a good way to release that cooped up energy," said Jackson, a student from Spirit Lake who studies Automotive Service Technology. "I'd do it everyday if I could."
He credited his endurance to daily two mile runs and weight lifting in the UTTC wellness center.
"These guys were such animals," said Morlock, complimenting their endurance.
The group covered the distance in two-and-one-half hours. All of the water bottles were empty when they arrived in Medora. The outing appears to have strengthened interest in this two-wheeled kind of healthy lifestyle activity.
"Oh, I'd love to do it again," said Perkins with a smile. "It should be a weekly routine."
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