Riding a dirt bike is like nothing else. Whether I’m on the track or on the trail, I’ve found that the power these machines wield creates a sense of freedom that I can’t find anywhere else. Since moving from the west side of the mountains and being taught to ride by my husband, my love for this sport has grown every year.

I’ve also come to realize that Yakima is the perfect hub for all types of dirt bike riders. For those who love to ride the track or want to hone their skills on sandy trails, Horn Rapids Motorsport Complex is just 66 miles away, in Richland. But for those who seek the freedom of the trail in the mountains, head west from Naches and you’ll find some of the most beautiful and well-maintained single-track trails in the state.

The Yakima area is also home to two top-end events that bring in riders from all over the world: The Rimrock Grand Prix and the Naches Poker Run. But before I get into what these events are about, it’s important to highlight the organization that’s behind the races and the trail maintenance that dirt bikers, mountain bikers, horse riders and hikers benefit from.

The Yakima Dust Dodgers Motorcycle and ATV Club is a nonprofit organization with a goal of keeping dirt biking and ATV riding alive. “We pride ourselves in ensuring that current and future generations can enjoy the natural beauty and solitude that comes from using these trails. Working with the Forest Service to open and maintain the trails, as well as stewardship and trail user education, is one way our club gives back to the community,” saidTim Hammermeister, president of the club.

A solid partnership with the Naches District Forest Service is crucial in creating and growing a community of respectful dirt bike and ATV riders, who see the importance of trail management firsthand.

The Dust Dodgers must get a new permit from the Forest Service every year in early May, to clear and fix up trails before they are opened to users in June. “Due to limited district staff, this partnership is extremely valuable in getting our trails open and safe for forest users. We couldn’t accomplish all this work without their help,” said Bill Zimmer, Naches District recreation manager. “They cut out and removed over 400 trees from across the trails. They are passionate, hardworking and are always willing to help us out.”

Now that you know the Dust Dodger’s mission and goals, let’s focus on their two big yearly events that are open to riders at any level, from all over the world.

When: First Sunday of October.

Where: Rimrock Lake (They race on the drained lake bed).

What: This is a Grand Prix-style cross country race (part of the NMA Off-Road Series) complete with rocks, sand, mud, and dust — on steep and varied terrain. It brings out riders from all over the world and boasts a nice cash payout for the professional class. Last year, there were 367 entries.

The loop is 10 miles, but the number of times you must complete the loop depends on what class you are in. For the short-course classes, most riders will do the loop four to five times, but for the long-course classes (the pros), riders will complete 11-12 laps. There’s a kids’ race that takes place before adults hit the course, so parents can help their kiddos get their race on with all the support they need.

Racers who find themselves on the podium in their class get some sweet prizes and gift cards. And all of the kids who race get a metal Rimrock Grand Prix race token just for finishing.

When: Sunday following Father’s Day weekend.

Where: Little Naches (off of Chinook Pass) — Run begins and ends at Long Meadow.

What: Riders can choose from a 25- or 38-mile loop. There is also a kids’ loop for riders who are under 12. Each loop has checkpoints along the way where riders receive their cards — and at checkpoint three, the club has free hot dogs and lemonade for all Poker Run riders!

This is a game of skill, starting out with riders throwing a dart at a dartboard covered in cards to get the first card in their hand. At the end of the run, riders with the top three hands get prizes, but all kids go home with a prize or memento.

There is also a 50/50 raffle at the Poker Run that is put on by the Off-Road Riders for Veterans Tracked Chair Charity, where 50 percent of the proceeds goes to the winner and the other 50 percent goes into a fund to pay for tracked chairs for veterans.

This year, Home Finance provided breakfast and lunch for all riders. The cost to enter the Poker Run is $30 for adults and $15 for kids.

If you are new to riding, or new to riding in our area, contact the Dust Dodgers for information on trails, riding etiquette and rules. The more that all types of users work together, the more our community can do to keep these trails open. Hopefully we’ll be able to create more trails for all of us to use in the future.