to the Sandbox
As a child of
the sixties, I played all summer long in sand with a fleet of Tonka
Toys. Most men my age likely did the same. My parent's yard was mostly
a sandy soil. Holes were permitted. Some of which could hide a truck.
Later on, I discovered motorized toys. First go-karts and mini-bikes,
then came the dirt bikes and the ATV. Mom and Dad's (and the neighbor's)
property took a beating, so we figured we'd move on to gravel pits
and rural roads. Sadly, this childhood opportunity has largely disappeared
for most kids. Too
much trouble to get into today. Over forty years have since passed.
My sandbox days are long past, or so I thought. On a beautiful October
weekend, I recently took an opportunity to revisit my bygone days,
big kid style. Andy, my seventeen year old son coerced me and his friend
Tyler to take a trip to St. Anthony Idaho to ride their sand dunes
on four-wheelers. Yes, there are massive sand dunes in Idaho, and I
was crazy enough to go there.
in our area has experienced some ATV riding. Challenges like rough
terrain and mud are what make these machines fun. At least for those
who are young at heart. Imagine a 50 something, overweight dad from
the flatlands of the Midwest. Now put him in the middle of a four hundred-foot
pile of sugar sand on a high-powered sport quad. I call it a revival.
Man, was that fun!
The St. Anthony
dunes are located just west of the Grand Teton mountains in extreme
northeastern Idaho. A mere 18 hours from home! Trust me. I'd do it
again. The ride is worth it. As you arrive, you notice this area is
largely flat and dominated by potato farming and cattle. Aside from
the distant mountain ranges, one might think they were in Becker Minnesota.
A little geologic surprise lies northwest of the town of St. Anthony.
Roughly 10 miles of bumpy back roads leads you to a wonderland
of dunes. Not just little hills. I am talking of peaks of sand rising
more than twice as high as many of our area ski hills. These dunes
roughly cover 30 square miles. Riding strictly off-road machines is
permitted by the state. You will see dune buggies, sand rails, dirt
bikes, three-wheelers and quads of every vintage. Horsepower and paddle
tires are king here.
are very simple rules and expectations of the visitors to the dunes.
No glass containers. No trucks designed for the road. No littering.
Stay only on the sand areas. Each machine must display a brightly colored
flag on a 6-foot whip or mast. Each machine must be currently registered
in accordance with the state from which the machine originated. The
best thing of all is the absence of a speed limit. Being from a rather
controlling state like Minnesota, the freedom and liberty afforded
to the recreational enthusiast in Idaho is mind-bending. You are allowed
to have fun! More amazing is the absence of outward environmental abuse
that an ecologically influenced mind might envision. We saw very little
presence of litter and abandoned junk. The beauty and vistas of the
dunes are forever etched in my memory. Aside from the purr of a distant
machines, the solitude and quite is refreshing. The place was not run
over with maniacs. “Respect the Dunes” is a sign you will commonly
see posted throughout the access areas on the perimeters.
experienced this trip of a lifetime, my inner child begs for another
trip soon. A typical Minnesotan would probably say that there’s plenty
of fun here at home. Why take such a long trip? I would respond by
saying the environmentalism, and left-sided political viewpoints have
created a stranglehold on recreational opportunity for those of us
who enjoy motorized off-roading. Our Minnesota statutes prevent riding
in anything that resembles a wetland. And that includes the wetlands
some of us privately own. We can’t run our ATVS in the road ditches
from April through August. We have to limit our speed to 50 MPH on
any public lands, roadways and waters. Even our fuels are being altered
by the state mandated blending of ethanol, which anyone with a small
engine knows ruins fuel systems and engine carburetors. For these,
and many other reasons, a lot of us choose to go somewhere else. Imagine
if we had dunes here. No way would the state let us ride them.
with my writing will expect me to throw in my political views. Take
’em or leave ’em, I’ll say this. We live in the state of NO. I enthusiastically
encourage those who still have some kid left in them to visit places
like St. Anthony Dunes. Take your family and friends. Time is running
out, because I can see the day coming where all the oversight committees
and natural resource officials will kneel at the foot of the environmental
causes. Entire industries and family traditions stand a good chance
of falling to the lobbying efforts of urban conservation interests.
Millions of people, with far different ideologies are taking away our
with a nice buck for the 2010 season