From the October 2016 issue of Dirt Rider Magazine.

Picture yourself living in a city where you wake up super early in the morning just to minimize hectic traffic to get to a riding area that is surrounded by fences and gates to a one-way trail system that is completely whooped out by ATV traffic. I doubt this picture would really entice anyone to go ride.

Cow Tag collecting event to save trails
The cow tags were not always in clear view like this one. Some took a little searching to find.Photo by Joseph McKimmy

The Cow Tag Ride, in its second year running, is a one-day event held in Klim’s proving grounds of the Big Hole Mountain Caribou-Targhee National Forest of southeast Idaho. Klim teamed up with its local Idaho Falls Trails Machine Association and Sharetrails.org (a.k.a. the BlueRibbon Coalition) to raise money for trail advocacy. The idea is simple: Place a bunch of cow tags out on awesome riding trails, make a map showing all the cow tag loca­tions and indicating difficulty levels, allow riders to collect as many cow tags as they can in one day, exchange cow tags for points to be placed in drawing boxes for a raffle drawn by the master of ceremonies, Beta-sponsored Max Gerston, and win prizes from various companies while eating a delicious barbecue dinner at sunset.

Cow Tag collecting event to save trails
Here are 250 participants stuffing their faces after collecting cow tags all day riding amazing trails in the Idaho countryside.Photo by Joseph McKimmy

This is what it’s like for most of the Dirt Rider staff located around our Irvine, California, headquarters. You would think with the size of California, the state would have abundant places to ride. But when our right to ride public lands is constantly under attack, we find ourselves driving farther and farther to find good places to get some dirt under our knobbies. We also know it’s important for us to be involved in helping keep trails open no matter where they are. So when Klim offered to pick up our bike and fly us to Idaho to ride in its backyard near the beautiful Grand Teton National Park at its Cow Tag event, we jumped at the chance.

The unique format of the ride lets riders of any ability choose their own destinations and the pace they want to ride but still allow them to be competitive in collecting enough cow tags to win some good prizes donated by a lot of great companies—and doing it all without choking on the dust of 243 other riders. The entry fee goes toward the cause, or another way to contribute is to simply donate money to the BlueRibbon Coalition/Sharetrails.org campaign and have the chance to win the big prize, a 2016 Beta 300 RR Race Edition.

Cow Tag collecting event to save trails
We had some amazing views a top of carved out trails on the side of the mountains like this one. I'm just glad we were going down on this one.Photo by Joseph McKimmy

Even though my responsibility at the Cow Tag was to create awareness for the event by blasting it all over the internet and encouraging others to do the same, I found myself getting wrapped up in collecting tags and having a blast doing it. Eventually I got over the tag collecting, knowing I wasn’t going to actually turn them in, and just focused on enjoying the amazing single-track wrapped around the beautiful mountainsides.

Cow Tag collecting event to save trails
My trusty steed for the day, the Husqvarna TX 300.Photo by Joseph McKimmy

I picked the all-new 2017 Husqvarna TX 300 as my ride so I could put some more hours on our testbike. It proved to be a good choice for the rugged Idaho trails. After I got it properly jetted for the 9,000-foot elevation, the bike was great for climbing the long, twisty, steep hills, and the new counterbalancer anti-vibration system kept my hands from falling asleep from the long day in the saddle. With a range of about 40 miles for the tank, I used every bit of the fuel in the bike and myself.

Cow Tag collecting event to save trails
Lots of dusty smiles through the day even from the Klim employees working the trails.Photo by Joseph McKimmy

Let’s face it. When you hear the words “trail advocacy” it doesn’t really sound like fun, so I think it’s smart for a company like Klim to create an event like this and make it fun so others will get involved. I had the benefit of coming into the event after it was all set up and watching most of it from the outside, but I did notice how much of the Klim staff was involved in the ride from the first sign-up to the last chair at the basecamp being put away. I even came across some of the Klim employees out on the trails themselves. The Klim group is a bunch of true enthusiasts.

Cow Tag collecting event to save trails
Pretty amazing views from the top side overlooking the Teton Range.Photo by Joseph McKimmy

The Cow Tag was capped at 250 riders and raised roughly $37,000, boosting the total another $19,000 from last year’s event with the help of all the volunteers and donations from a lot of great companies. That’s not bad for an event in its second year running. We can only hope that this ride continues for a long time and also that anyone who enjoys their local riding trails will follow Klim’s lead and create similar events like this in their area— because there are a lot of trails that need savin’ out there, pardners.

Cow Tag collecting event to save trails
A friendly lunch break gas stop in the middle of nowhere.Photo by Joseph McKimmy