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"Gem of Nevada" Trail System Officially Opens

Elko, NV Lays Claim to Motorized Recreation
Capital of the West

Fairbanks Morse, in mine on Spruce Mountain Road.

By Del & Stacie Albright, BlueRibbon Coalition

The sweet smell of high desert sage drifted in the air as Stacie and I wheeled our Jeep along the flower-dotted dirt road headed towards the top of Merritt Mountain in northern Nevada.

Yellow sunflowers poked up to add color to a very green desert during this major event near Elko, Nevada, for the grand opening of the Gem of Nevada Trail System.

Read more here.

The “Gem of Nevada” Trail System Opens

Elko, Nevada Launches New Off-Highway Trails

You need to Explore Elko and see this trail system.  For years the folks in Elko and Elko County have been working hard to make Elko the motorized recreation capital of the West.
 On June 2nd, 2007, the ribbon was cut and the Gem of Nevada Trail System opened officially.  We were there on a media FAM tour and we can’t wait to go back and see more.

Elko County is amazing in the first place.  With three huge gold mines in full swing, Elko is the fourth largest gold producing area in the world.  Elko County is the fourth largest (by area) county in the United States with over 17,000 square miles of fun, adventure, cattle grazing and high desert scenery.   Hundreds of miles of dirt roads and trails offer the recreationist unlimited opportunity for exploring.

The Elko Convention and Visitors Authority (ECVA) orchestrated this media FAM (familiarization) tour to show off their motto of “Explore Elko.”  Members of the press, including Stacie and I were treated to a stay in local hotels, Basque dinner at the fabulous Star Restaurant, and tours of the Gem of Nevada Trail System.

Elko is a famous Spanish Basque area where you can see the culture of an honorable and fun-loving people.  The Gem trails take you through some Basque country as well.  Sheep herding and cattle grazing co-existed in this area, while gold mining put Elko on the map in the late 1800’s, as well as today.

The ribbon cutting ceremony was held about an hour north of town, near Wildhorse Reservoir, at Point of Rocks, near the base of Merritt Mountain.  Don Newman, Executive Director for the ECVA cut the ribbon. “Elko County has a heritage of patriotism, family, hard work and recreation,” said Don, “and we’re proud to open the Gem of Nevada Trail system to encourage folks to continue to explore Elko.”

Dave Huckabee, Chairman of the ECVA pointed out that all the trails were marked so folks would have no trouble staying on the right trails and roads.  “This is a significant event for Elko and we’re looking forward to folks coming to see our great county,” Dave added.

Part of the Gem trail takes you to the top of Merritt where you can see three states – the Santa Rosa Mountains in Oregon, the Owyhee Desert in Idaho, and miles of Nevada. 

Steve Thompson, Bangin’ Bones 4Wheel Drive Club and D & D Tire of Elko,  was our guide and he gave us a loop tour up Merritt Mountain and back down through Sunflower Flats to Point of Rocks staging area where a Dutch over dinner awaited us at the end of the day.

Price and Julie Nelson whipped up Dutch oven lasagna and enchiladas, as well as some deserts that made our mouths water.  Price is a champion oven cooker who proudly showed off his Boy Scouts of America special Dutch oven he had won in a Scout Master cook-off.  His cooking proved his point.  We all ate like cow-punchers after a long day on the trail.  It was marvelous.

On day two of the event, we explored the trail system near the Harrison Pass area of the Ruby Mountains.  Harrison Pass is the Overland Road that cuts through the Ruby’s to Ruby Valley on the Southern side of the mountain range.  

Ruby Valley played an important role in the history of the entire Great Basin area.  Shoshone tribes used this area as a winter home.  The Ruby Marshes dot this area with abundant water and wildlife today. The California Trail passed through here just to the north, and the Donner Party crossed the southern end of the valley in 1846.

We spoke with an old Buckaroo, Marv Churchfield (Double Dice RV Park), who grew up in the Elko area and started school in the Ruby Valley some 70 years ago.  “It was a lonely and isolated place in those days,” Marv said.  “We would stock up with supplies and food in early December, and not see people again until April when the snow melted and the roads were once again passable.”

The Gem trail system cuts off at the top of Harrison Pass and goes both directions to mountainous scenery and adventure.  There some old mines to explore and plenty of roads to enjoy. 
Stacie and I followed a convoy of ATV’s and dirt bikes carrying members of the press.  Chad Booth, host of the “At Your Leisure” TV show on ABC 4 based in Salt Lake City, was there filming our adventures. 

“Northern Nevada offers a lot of recreation, from four-wheeling to snowmobiling to hiking and everything in between,” Chad said, “and we like to showcase that on our program.  It’s truly a unique area.”
  Come to northern Nevada and Explore Elko and the Gem of Nevada Trail System. 

Start your trip with a visit to the Elko Convention and Visitors Authority.You won’t be disappointed.

We agree with Chad!!

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The BlueRibbon Coalition is a national recreation group that champions responsible use of public and private lands, and encourages individual environmental stewardship. It represents over 10,000 individual members and 1,100 organization and business members, for a combined total of over 600,000 recreationists nationwide.  Call 1-800-258-3742 and visit BRC online at  www.sharetrails.org.  

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