Back From 'Maah Daah Hey' Trail

The blisters on my hands are still raw. My wife yesterday went to work with a tweezers to pick cactus quills out of my arm. Gear from the trip is a dusty mess, a pile in my garage needing to be cleaned. Thus are the after effects of the Maah Daah Hey Trail, a 97-mile horse track that snakes through North Dakota’s remote western Badlands area.

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Endless remote expanse: North Dakota’s western Badlands; photo by T.C. Worley

This week a crew of seven GearJunkie people converged on Medora, N.D., to grab a shuttle ride to the north end of the trail. We began at mile 97 and at the CCC Camp, and we pedaled south, the miles ticking down, for two days with little rest.

We’d come to the Maah Daah Hey to film. As the third episode in our new “Off The Map” series, we were in search of an off the beaten path adventure setting, and the Maah Daah Hey did not disappoint. Over two long days of riding we saw not another soul on the trail. We carried food and a filter from Platypus, cleaning our water from rare streams that nudge through the arid land.

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Devils Pass feature on the Maah Daah Hey; photo by T.C. Worley

We slept in the dirt, no sleeping pads or tents. Bikes broke down. We crashed, bodies flying over handlebars to land in grass or cactus bush. It was late April in North Dakota, but the sun beat and beat as intense as an August day.

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Quick break in patch of rare shade on the trail; photo by T.C. Worley

In the end, six of the seven in our group made it through. A bike breakdown forced one man out, hitchhiking back on the lonely oil field roads. The remaining six of us — myself, cameraman T.C. Worley, Andrei Karpov, Parker Roenfanz, and Chelsey and Jason Magness of the YogaSlackers — pedaled wearily to the south end of the trail, the seasonal ghost town of Medora offering a quiet finish line as the sun set on our second day.

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Biker’s eye view: Endless uphills on the trail; photo by T.C. Worley

Stay tuned for more on the Maah Daah Hey. The route through the Badlands is a bonafide adventure, a physical, mental, and navigational feat to finish with its endless desert hills, its wash-outs, and a rutted track that persists, often vaguely, through terrain few people will ever see. There are lizards and petrified logs here, and the buffalos still roam. We got it all on film, the human drama and trail hardship, too. Watch for our “Off The Map” video on the Maah Daah Hey, coming in June.

—Stephen Regenold is editor of GearJunkie. See “Off The Map” episode No. 1, “The Lost Coast,” on our new micro-site.

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Riding into the sunset on the Maah Daah Hey; photo by T.C. Worley

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