TRAILS-OASIS VALLEY, Beatty, Nevada: Ringing in 2016
(For photo album, scroll down to the bottom of this ride synopsis)
The first thing you notice about Dave Spicer when you meet him is his smile. It’s real, beaming a great joy of living, and it is contagious. Dave is a rancher first and foremost, raising beef cattle, alfalfa and horses out of the normally hardscrabble ground of western Nevada, but not so on Dave’s ranch. Fed by numerous springs, Dave’s ranch is an oasis of water and greenery, a perfect description for the area in which Dave’s other passion is taking shape: Oasis Valley. In addition to ranching, quarrying and mining, Dave’s other passion is pedaling a bike. And in bicycling—mountain biking specifically, Dave sees a way forward for Beatty, Nevada, a town that has fallen on hard times since the closure of the nearby Bullfrog gold mine in the late 1990s. The list of US towns benefitting from mountain biking is growing: Moab and Hurricane, UT; Cortez, Durango, and Telluride, CO; and Asheville, NC, to name a few. Dave has a vision that has Beatty serving as the “hub” of a system of about 500 miles of single track once his vision is fully realized. At 49 miles and counting, he is off to a good start.
Dave set up the “STORM-OV (Saving Toads thru Off-road racing, Ranching and Mining in Oasis Valley)” non-profit, of which “Trails-OV” is a subsidiary, whose mission is to “… to provide a diverse mix of recreational opportunities and business endeavors that will enhance the quality of life, support health and well-being, and promote sustainable business and tourism throughout the county.” Land that Dave is preserving serves as critical habitat for the endangered Amargosa Toad. He has been smart in creating a coalition of partners to help realize his vision. Supporters include Barrick Mining, Nye County officials and Town of Beatty council members. He has gotten BLM on board, and hopefully the permitting process will go smoothly for trail development off of ranch property. Dave has also established a relationship with Death Valley National Park officials in an effort to develop some synergy for both locations. As vast and as perfect for mountain biking that Death Valley is, there is not a stitch of single track in the park. What Dave proposes is not a consolation prize. It’s the real deal. Soon there will be a map showing some great rides from Beatty on the old historic Tonopah and Tidewater railroad grade and associated routes along with NPS support of Mountain Biking.
Michelle, Tim and I met on Dave’s ranch on January 1, 2016. What better way to start the New Year right than camping and mountain biking with friends old and new? Dave has set up a great camping area where we settled in, and we weren’t there long before Dave came up to meet us. His enthusiasm for the future was evident from the start. He told us of the two previous “Tough Mudder” competitions on his ranch garnering more than five thousand people at each competition, and of the annual Boy Scout Rendezvous that attracts more than two thousand to his ranch annually. Such events are not only great for raising visibility for what Dave is accomplishing, but great for the town of Beatty as well. In Dave’s eyes, it’s a win-win. It’s easy to see why. Dave’s events fill hotel rooms in town, fill the few remaining restaurants and bars, bringing in badly-needed revenue to a town determined to hold on, determined not to dry up and blow away in the Nevada wind like so many other towns before it. And as a true “gateway” to Death Valley, Beatty and Dave’s ranch will serve as an ideal hub for a mountain bike trail system built for the true enthusiast, for challenging mountain bike race competitions, and for avid bikepackers, a growing sport not lost on Dave.
On the morning of January 2, 2016, we geared up and headed out to the trails around 9:30. We started up the STORM Trail, and connected to the Canteen Trail. Canteen drops into and climbs out of numerous small drainages, contouring nicely around the slopes, following in places well-developed trail hewn in by the wild burros that inhabit this place. After about four miles on the Canteen Trail, we dropped into Beatty Wash proper for a two-mile pedal-fest through loose sand and gravel. Dave, Michelle and Tim seemed to levitate above the alluvium; I felt like I was sinking to the tops of my rims in the stuff (and at times, being the heaviest person in the group, I was). The master plan lifts this portion of trail out of the drainage and up along the cliff edges that surround the wash. That will be a welcome change. Along the way, we passed by the old Silica Mine, active in the early 20th century to provide high temperature ceramics for the WWI effort. Across from the Silica Mine are the remnants of an old mining cabin and small adit, a hint at bigger dreams of gold never realized. This made for a good stopping place for lunch. Michelle had made chicken and green chili wraps for us prior to the ride, and food has seldom tasted so good than that wrap after my sand-slog.
Soon thereafter we left the wash onto Brad’s Screamer, a trail that would be a screamer going in the opposite direction as we took. For us, the Screamer was a climb of more than 400 feet in no more than a mile. Dave and Tim conquered the climb. Michelle and I pushed our bikes uphill much of the way, and I more than Michelle. Finally atop the ridge, we were rewarded with expansive views of the old Transvaal mining district, Bare Mountain and the Fluorspar Hills, the Bullfrog Hills, and in the distance, Death Valley mountain ranges beyond. Brad’s Screamer connected us to the Plutonium Ridge Trail for some more grand views and ups and downs, connecting us to the newly-christened “Dominatrix Trail.” What a cross-country downhill funhouse! The descent to Windmill Road was worth all of the effort climbing Brad’s Screamer. I think the Dominatrix will become a fast favorite, quite literally and figuratively.
We followed Windmill Road for about a mile before picking up the Spicer Ranch Trail. For those familiar with Escondido Trail in McDowell Mountain Park outside of Phoenix, you will most definitely appreciate the layout and work that went in to building this trail. Benched into the mountainside, the Spicer Ranch Trail offers exposure, sweeping views of the ranch, and the Bullfrog hills to the west. South Pond Trail and Dynamite Trail are equally well-constructed and benched into the mountainside, each with its own set of challenging switchbacks, exposure and more of those grand views. We finished our ride back where we started at camp.
So…what are the trails like? They vary from gentle to moderate climbs contouring across the crenulated landscape, with occasional grunt climbs except for Brad’s Screamer, a climb that will test the mettle of any mountain biker who makes the atempt (no shame in walking). Presently, Dynamite Trail is marked “Most Difficult,” owing to its climbing and exposure challenges. Generally, the trails are ideal for the cross-country rider, not too technical, but will definitely keep you on your toes. Down below, the trails cross a varied mix of hard-pack dirt, exposed volcanic bedrock, and loose sand and gravel. Up on top of the ridges, the trails are hard-pack, fast, fun and swoopy, with good flow and thoughtful layout. Some of the trails currently follow short sections of well graded dirt road. Signage for existing trails is nearly complete, made of standard carsonite slats and clearly marked as to trail name and difficulty. If I had to compare “Trails-Oasis Valley” to something local to Phoenix, I would have to compare it to McDowell Mountain Regional Park, but better, with bigger views and well worth the drive to ride for a couple days, either camping on the ranch or staying in a motel room in Beatty (I have found the Exchange Club to be “bike-friendly” and dog-friendly).
It was a great day to be on the bike, made all the better for Dave’s generosity of time, spirit and enthusiasm. Put Beatty, Nevada on your riding destination list. You will be rewarded with challenging and fun trails, sweeping views, and the satisfaction of knowing that any contribution you can make is going toward saving endangered species, funding the building of more trail, and helping to breathe life back into the town of Beatty, Nevada. And if you happen to meet Dave, your trip will be all the better for it. Visit www.trails-ov.org for maps, trail progress and more information.
Getting there: From Phoenix, take I-17 N to SR-74 W (Carefree Highway), to US-60 W (a right turn from SR-74). Follow US-60 to the traffic circle and follow to US-93 N. Follow US-93 N to I-40 W, and follow through Kingman. Exit I-40 W and follow signs on US-93 N to Las Vegas/Hoover Dam. Past Hoover Dam, US-93 N becomes I-515 N. Follow signs remaining on I-515 N & US-95 N. Once past Las Vegas Boulevard, take the exit for US-95 N to Tonopah. Follow US-95 N to Beatty, NV. Once in Beatty, turn right at the 4-way stop sign, keeping on US-95 N, and drive approximately 6 miles. Look for the yellow mountain bikes and signage on your right. Turn right, and follow signage to trailhead and map kiosk. There you are. Go ride and have a blast!
Food, beverages, and other: though I encourage you to keep your money local in Beatty, groceries and beer choices are somewhat limited in Beatty. You may want to stock up on some of these items in Las Vegas. Charcoal, firewood, and various sundries are available at Lou’s Hardware in Beatty. There is no bike shop in Beatty…yet.