6 hours of my 62nd birthday was spent trekking across the Sheyenne National Grasslands. Ryan (my training partner and friend) and I set out from the middle trailhead parking lot. Ryan went east and I headed west. Part of the reason for the westward journey was to finish a task that I began earlier in the summer on the North Country Trail that goes through the Grasslands. There are numerous wooden posts serving as visual guides for following the trail. 31 miles of the North Country Trail serpentine through the Grasslands. In order to make the posts more visible, both in daylight and nighttime, square, reflective logo bearing metal signs were affixed to each post. Each sign needed 4 nails to secure it. 2 signs per post. There are approximately 7 posts per mile of trail. Without boring you with math, let it be known that there are a lot of posts!
I thought I had the task completed in late fall, but one of the posts, mile post 9 (see picture) had been broken
by some bovine that graze the area during the season. Because of the lack of tress the cattle use whatever is available to rub against. Thanks to the work of Cory, who worked for the US Forest Service this past summer, the post was replaced. I wanted to complete the task before the end of 2016. Thus with sled in tow I made the 6+ mile trek over the ice and snow to place the final 2 signs on the post. I knew that I wouldn’t pull the sled over the railroad tracks nor did I want to carry the sled over the tracks that were about 1/3 mile from the post. Before that point was reached I came to a cattle gate that was frozen to the ground and wouldn’t open. The gates allow hikers/bikers, etc. to go from pasture to pasture and cattle to remain in their assigned areas. Free from the sled the final signs were nailed to the post with a thumping sound that echoed across the cold, still prairie.
The pulling of the sled was a good test of weight distribution of gear, how it tracked both on snow and ice, as well as how it handled going up and down hills. Along the way 18, white-tailed deer ran in front of me. No doubt responding to the sound of my breaking through the crusted snow periodically. The winds grew stronger as the day progressed. Ryan arrived on his fat tire bike, as the first gate he encountered on his eastern ride was frozen to the ground. A fine way to spend a portion of my birthday. The sounds of the prairie, a good friend, the stark beauty of winter, and wind swept snow. as mentioned previously, the ill effects of this birthday verses 151 rum and cola of years ago have no comparison. Both are aspects of my life, but for now I’m grateful to be able to enjoy sounds and rhythms of nature.
The following two pictures are of Ryan and his 9-Zero-7 bike. He will be riding this on Saturday, as he begins 160 miles at the Tuscobia Winter Ultra. The other picture is the sled that I’ll be pulling on the same distance. I begin at 6am on Friday. The event officially ends at 11pm on Sunday. There is more than physical preparation for this event. The mental/emotional aspect of an ultra, especially in the winter is more rigorous than the physical, in my opinion. Also, there are our respective wives who have time to themselves as we are training. Some things don’t get accomplished during a weekend because of the need to train. I extend my sincere gratitude to Rick Wager, friend, mentor and sled repair/fabricator extraordinaire. He adopted my used sled and refashioned it to be a viable companion for my winter adventures. We all make choices. I’m glad to have the opportunity to train and explore nature both outside and inside of myself with the support of others.
As I find being involved in outdoor and endurance activities to be meaningful, I also am involved in directing events in which others can participate. Most of this is done with Extreme North Dakota Racing (ENDracing). I encourage to take the link to their web site. Two events coming up for which I have primary responsibility are:
END-NORSE and END-SURE. The first is part of the Fargo area “Frostival” celebration. The second occurs in March in the Sheyenne National Grasslands. ENDracing provides reasonably priced, high quality events. My goal is also to provide hospitality that makes each event more than a run, but an opportunity to experience aspects of one’s self and the support of fellow participants within an atmosphere of respect, accomplishment, and celebration.
I’m looking forward to the adventures that lie ahead. I’m especially focused on the longest distance that I’ve ever undertaken. 160 miles in 65 hours will expose me many things; extraordinary, peculiar, peripheral and intimate. Who said that each year doesn’t bring learning and growth?