When Nick Ybarra tells the story of his first ride on the Maah Daah Hey Trail, his eyes twinkle as he describes rattling across the ridge that is Devil’s Pass. He recalls the experience as “feeling like I had found something I’d been looking for but didn’t know I needed my entire life.” At 18 years old, Nick was struck by the beauty of the terrain, especially near Devil’s Pass. He defines the area as “this incredibly beautiful landscape that just opens up and you have this almost Grand Canyon view of the Badlands.” That experience, and the passion it inspired, has never left.
Life took Nick in many directions since that day, but the Maah Daah Hey Trail kept calling him back. “So much of the reason that I wanted to move back to North Dakota was to be close to the Maah Daah Hey Trail,” Nick explains. He rode other trails and other races across the country, but he assures that “nothing moved me like the Maah Daah Hey did.” So when the US Forest Service started losing money and could no longer maintain the 144-mile singletrack trail as it had, he could not sit back and let nature reclaim the trail. He says “it would have been like losing a friend.”
Nick took up the mower, the shovel, the chainsaw and many more tools to literally blaze the trail again and again through the erosive Badlands environment. Nick and his wife, Lindsey, also coordinated to host a race both to share the experience of this amazing trail and to help raise funds for its maintenance. That first event, the Maah Daah Hey 100, is now the flagship race in the Badlands Race Series.
In Nick’s words: “The Badlands Race Series is a series of eight annual events that my wife and I host through four seasons throughout the entire year.” Inspired by him, others have joined the cause, investing more than 4,000 hours into trail maintenance over the last five years. Lindsey and Nick started the “Save the Maah Daah Hey” nonprofit to help organize these volunteers and to funnel the resources for the trail maintenance.