It’s crunch time for the 2017 running of the Extreme North Dakota Sandhills Ultra Run Experience. This is the 5th year that I have either been participating in or directing the event. As of Tuesday night, the number of registered participants (101) has far exceeded previous years. The weather forecast is favorable for everything from the 11pm Friday, 100 mile start to the 1pm Saturday beginnings of the 25k event.
This post will give basic descriptions of the various routes along with some pictures of what can be seen along the North Country Trail on which every runner will tread. In referring to the route, I encourage you to use the following link to see a well defined map of the Sheyenne National Grasslands.
The 100 Mile option begins at Jorgen’s Hollow Campground. The North County Trail (NCT) will be the initial route leaving the campground to the northeast. There will be an “out+back” where the NCT goes to the east boundary of the Grasslands. Upon returning participants will continue on the Oak Leaf Loop Trail and return to Jorgen’s Hollow. this will be a 6.5 mile venture. The NCT/Oak Leaf Loop will be done a second time without the out+back. Returning to Jorgen’s the runners go south on County Rd 23 and enter the Grasslands heading west on the NCT. This will be followed until the West Trailhead. There will be an Aid Station at the Middle Trailhead County Rd 53), self-service aid at the intersection of ND Highway 27, and drop bags with liquids and calories at the West trailhead. Runners return toward Jorgen’s Hollow until mile 23.5 where they will go left on double track road, looping back and turning north on a Forest Service Road. From this point the runners will be on gravel/dirt roads and see some great sites along the Sheyenne River until returning to the NCT west of Venlo, near mile marker 10. From this reentry onto the NCT they return to Jorgen’s Hollow Campground and finish their distance.
The 100k event begins at Jorgen’s Hollow at 8am. This is an easy route to describe. The same way northeast along the NCT going until the east boundary of the Grasslands. On the return, instead of going on the Oak Leaf Loop, runners will go right returning to the Campground the same way they came out. From the Campground they go on County Rd 23, enter the NCT and go to the West Trailhead. The same Aid Stations and drop bags will be available as for the 100 Mile runners. On the return to Jorgen’s Hollow there will be another Aid Station with hydration and calories hear mile 22.5.
The 50K runners will begin at the West Trailhead at 11am. The shuttle vans will leave from Jorgen’s Hollow shortly after 10am. If everyone is set prior to 11am, the race will begin when all are ready. This distance follows the NCT and has the self-service aid at ND Hwy 27 and a full Aid Station at County Road 53 at the Middle Trailhead Parking area. An added bonus this year is a “Figure 8” which begins at Mile 23.5. This will loop onto double track road and bring you back to the Aid Station that serves as the “Turn Around” point for the 25K. Aid will be available before you once again get on the NCT and end at Jorgen’s Hollow Campground.
Finally, the 25K runners will begin going northeast from Jorgen’s Hollow on the NCY/Oak Leaf Loop which gives them 4 miles. Onto County Rd 23 and the full glory of the NCT after a bit of gravel. The rolling hills, beautiful ridge scenery, and Iron Springs Creek await you. There will be an Aid Station where you turn around, returning to the finish at Jorgen’s Hollow.
The Trail should be in fine condition. However this spring the freeze and thaw, the latest deep freeze, and now above freezing temperatures with the bright sun will have the recent snow melting. Be prepared for a variety of conditions. Unless it stays above freezing at night there shouldn’t be too much deep water. If so, you should be able to make your way around it. Or when I completed my 100K, my feet where blistered and sore so I thought the cold water would feel good. I was right!
With the generosity of Hammer Nutrition, there will be gels, HEED, and other products available at the Aid Stations. The North Country Trail is a relatively new national scenic trail (think Pacific Coast and Appalachian) which goes from North Dakota to Vermont. The Trail is well kept not only by Federal Government employees in the Grasslands, but my numerous volunteers. The local NCT group is the Dakota Prairie Chapter of which I am a member. The NCT has very little trash on it and the grasslands are beautiful in all seasons. Please pack out what you bring in. There will be trash bags at the Aid Stations to use. If you see trash that isn’t yours you are encouraged to pick it up and deposit it in the trash or with a volunteer.
Also, the NCT in the Sheyenne National Grasslands is a multi-use Trail. Thus you may encounter fatbikes, hikers, and people riding horses. This event does not have exclusive use of the Grasslands. There should not be any motorized ATVs on the trail. If you approach horses or come from behind them, please talk or say something in a normal, friendly tone. Most trail horses won’t be bothered by other people as long as they aren’t startled. A group of hikers from the Dakota Prairie Chapter will be ending a hike at the Campground, coming in from the northeast. They should arrive at Jorgen’s around 3:15pm. Runners will be off this section by the time they arrive.
At the end of the distances there will be food and beverage available at the Campgrounds. Grilled meat and non-meat options will; be available along with other salty and sweet snacks, baked goods, etc. Please enjoy your accomplishments, visit with others, and enjoy the community that comes to be on the Trail.
Finally, it’s my desire to provide an opportunity for each participant to strive for and meet their particular goal. Even though the word “extreme” begins the name of this organization, my hope is that each person can discover something about self, go to the depths of physical, emotional, and spiritual being, and in the end find that the journey was an adventure worth undertaking. Welcome to the Sheyenne National Grasslands. Come back often.