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Ridge approaches final ride Saturday

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A 30-year-old event could see its finale this weekend, as the 31st annual Ride the Ridge on June 18 may be the last. Ride the Ridge was started in 1991 to showcase the Pine Ridge area of Nebraska and introduce the Pine Ridge Trail to local and surrounding area riders.

Bill Riggs, who has been involved with the event for several years, said it was begun to utilize some of the area trails. He noted this year the ride will be completely on Fort Robinson State Park lands, though previous years have incorporated private land as well. Going across private property has never been an issue, he said, as arrangements are made beforehand and the riders have always been “what you would call good neighbors. We’ve had no problems whatsoever, and appreciate everyone who let us do that.”

The average number of riders is about 150, and Riggs expects there will be 80-100 for this ride. Riggs has seen riders from toddlers, nestled in the front of the saddle with parents, on up through people in their 80’s. People have come from all over Nebraska, as well as Iowa, Colorado and other areas.

Riders must have their own animals, Riggs noted. “Basically, what we do is provide guides and give the history and what’s happening.”

The full ride is about 12 miles, with a morning and afternoon ride scheduled. Each ride is expected to take 2.5-3 hours.

One of the memorable events that comes to Riggs’ mind, looking back on the 30 years of the rides, is when they rode to the top of the buttes at Fort Robinson for a breakfast provided by the fort’s camp cooks.

“We’ve had so many things,” he said, “but that’s one of the most interesting. We’ve had a lot of different talents that come through.” Musicians have come on the ride, for instance, playing for the groups at meal times. “There’s a lot of effort that goes into that, but it’s great to see those kind of things.”

As for this possibly being the last ride, Riggs would like to see it continue. “There’s so much beauty that you don’t see from the roads. You get a chance, by going on these rides, to really look at the area around you. A lot of it is what like our forefathers saw.”

There has been some interest in continuing the annual ride, Riggs said, but nothing that’s set for sure. “It’s a good family activity,” he said, “and it’s a good way to see our lands. Especially with the rains we’ve had, it’s beautiful.”

Don Huls and Marvin Liewer will serve as trail bosses. Huls, a former Dawes County Extension Agent, and Liewer, a former Nebraska National Forest District Ranger, started Ride the Ridge to highlight the Forest Service’s work on trail development taking place at the time.

A state park permit is required, but the ride itself is free. There will be door prizes for riders, Riggs noted.

Registration for Ride the Ridge will be June 18, beginning at 8 a.m., with the morning trail ride scheduled to start at 9 a.m. Signs will be posted at the park to direct riders to the registration point. Riders will break for lunch on their own and can choose to take another trail ride in the afternoon at 1 p.m. or enjoy watching the Cowboy Mounted Shooters at the Fort Robinson arena. Pre-registration for riders overnighting at the park will be offered June 17 from 5-7 p.m. at the Mare Barns. For more information, follow Ride the Ridge on Facebook or contact Don at 308-432-3841 or Tom at 308-430-5333.

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