Powder, poker and the Boulder

Sweet Grass County snowmobile group raises funds to groom and maintain trails up the Boulder
By 
Elias Baer — Yellowstone Newspapers
Tuesday, March 10, 2020
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Garrett Todd snowmobiles to the ridge in the Million Dollar Basin south of the former mining town of Independence and south of Big Timber. 

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For nearly 50 years the Sweet Grass County Recreational Association (SGCRA) has hosted an annual Poker Run fundraiser, a snowmobile ride down the Main Boulder Road ending at Million Dollar Basin. 

In 1971 Vic and Judy Rue started SGCRA and began the annual Poker Run tradition with the goal of supplementing the cost of grooming and maintaining the Main Boulder Road trail. 

“Vic and Judy Rue pioneered the SGCRA and its mission. The rest of us are simply following a trail they blazed before us, literally and figuratively,” said Mickey van der Hagen, secretary and treasurer of SGCRA for the past 11 years. 

“The Poker Run’s been going on for as long as I can remember,” said Colter Todd, owner of Circle T Construction and avid snowmobiler. “Actually, this trail (to Million Dollar Basin) was the first trail I ever rode on.”

A lot of volunteer work goes in to making this annual ride happen. On Feb. 27, two days before the event, Terry van der Hagen and Chris Bue groomed the trail, hauled wood up to Million Dollar Basin and built the fire pit. Then on Feb. 28, Logan Todd and Lloyd Rue groomed the trail again. 

The exact location of the Poker Run varies a bit year to year due to changing road and trail conditions, van der Hagen explained. This year the ride began at Camp on the Boulder, about 11 miles from the final destination, but the final destination has been Million Dollar Basin since 1971. 

Money is raised by selling poker hands to the participants, raffling prizes donated by local companies and serving a plate of food at the Legion after the event. 

Those who purchase a poker hand draw a card at five different checkpoints along the way and the three people with the best hands receive a cash prize. 

“We sold over 200 hands and raised $2,900 this year,” van der Hagen said. “That’s about average. We sold 30 more hands this year than last year.”

This year Trevor Brandon took home first prize, $300, with four nines, Kendall Koss took home second, $200, with three queens and Tom Kobza took third, $100, with a straight. 

Mason Miller won an avalanche airbag in the first raffle, Joe Mueller won a pair of BCA link radios in the second and Mark Yarnell took home half of a pig in the third. 

“SGCRA promotes safe, healthy and fun motorized and non-motorized recreation for its membership and residents of Southwest Montana,” van der Hagen said. 

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To become a member or to find out more visit us on Facebook at Sweet Grass Recreational Association or email us at sgcraclub@gmail.com.

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