Mandan News

Dan Ulmer: Hats off to Harmon Lake


Okay, so first I gotta say thanks to my sister Bee and her friends Sandy and Mac for inviting me to test out the new bike trail at Harmon Lake with them. WOW! Thanks to Andy Mork and those on the Morton County Water Board who kept the dream alive, Harmon Lake has become a wonder-filled addition to our community… and if you’re willing to pursue this further feel free to read on.

Bee and I met at grandaughter Camryn Lilly’s third birthday party at Snoopers. Bee invited me to tag along on the aforementioned bike ride. Thanks to my fellow gym rat Jamie Wetsch I learned about this bike trail thing long before it became reality. Jamie’s one of those bicycle addicts and I guess I’d have to put myself in that category as well (either of my loyal readers will tell ya’ that back in the ’70s I used to ride my 10-speed bike to work and back every day… work was in Bismarck and I’ve always lived in Mandan).

I have a nice bike and can occasionally be seen riding through town. By the way – the upside of the trip is that I don’t have to peddle from my house all the way to Adventure Land Video… but the return home is one of those killer hills that starts at Sixth Avenue and ends up in the middle of Lohstreter Road… most of my family looks pretty worried when they see me huffin’ and puffin’ up our steep cul-de-sac, and I look at the whole trek as a stress test… but I digress.

So Bee and I head out to meet Sandy and Mac at Harmon Lake. When we arrived Mariner Construction was busy paving the roads (well worth the expense) and we had no clue where to start, so we asked two truckloads of bikers who were getting ready to hit the trail where the trail was. They looked at me and said if you don’t have a helmet then stay on the north side of the lake.

Of course Bee has a helmet and over the last forty years I might wear a hat to shed the sun or rain, but a helmet? I imagine I’ve ridden thousands of miles without a helmet and that’s my choice and although some will disagree I like having the choice. However, I did appreciate the fella warning me that there are some rough parts of the trail. Even so I wasn’t that worried because I’m one of those leisurely bikers who’s really not interested in seeing how much torture me and my bike can endure.  I’m into riding, not racing.

I’m not sure if you’ve heard of the Maah Daa Hey trail, but it’s over 100 miles of fairly primitive bike trails that wind through the Badlands. It’s not only known as one of the most beautiful but more challenging trails in America. Well, let me tell you that America may head to the Badlands but we locals should quietly head to Harmon Lake. The trail is limited to bikers and hikers, no horses (because they trash the trail for bikers) and it’s 10 miles long.

As one of those folks who have biked a few of these types of trails before Harmon Lake is one of the nicest and prettiest I’ve ever been on… my hats off to the folks that designed it as well as the folks who funded it… most of all hats off to the folks that did all the work like Jamie and his bike club volunteers.

I can’t adequately describe how pretty Harmon Lake is. The trail was fairly easy; yes, there were times I had to get off my bike and push, but the area is beyond gorgeous as the trail wends its way along the edge of the hills, through woods, across creeks, up hills with prairie on one side and cliff edges on the other, all coupled with breathtaking views of the lake throughout the entire trek. The creeks that feed Harmon (Otter Creek) have huge draws that the trail winds around so the ride takes you to creek bottoms and back up to the edge of the hills that surround the lake. It’s a primitive area in the sense that if you had a flat tire on your bike it would be a real pain in the butt to get out of there. But if you’re walking with just a backpack and such the hike would be well worth the effort… and at a minimum I suggest you drive up Collins until you see a sign that says Harmon Lake to the left and see for yourself…

In the meantime trust me, Harmon Lake will be a treasured addition to our community for many generations to come… so thanks to all of the folks that made it happen.