By Jay Bartlett
Many small towns, especially those having rough times economically, are turning to mountain biking to give them a boost. I have read many articles about mining towns that fell on hard times due to the mine closing down, and surprisingly, building some mountain bike trails turned out to be just the shot in the arm, financially, to keep the place from drying up and blowing away. Bikes save the day again!
Other places might just be far enough off the beaten path that they have to be creative to draw people there to spend their time and money. Let’s face it, if St. George never had another event (i.e. race or festival), we would be just fine. St. George is now a big city, and our trail networks are literally known worldwide; people would still come here to ride their bikes. But there are places that don’t yet have that identity and are working towards it.
Ely, Nevada, for instance, has come onto the radar of trail fans in no small part due to the efforts of the Fears, Tears, And Beers enduro race and my favorite event, Race The Rails (racing a steam train back into town…what could be better?).
Just recently, I ventured over to Caliente, Nevada, to check out their first ever Bike Fest. Now, I had ridden some of the trails in Barnes Canyon a couple of years ago just after they were built, but they were quite new at the time and some were very loose. It was nothing that a winter or two and some tires on the ground couldn’t fix, and I could see the potential was there. I was intrigued to go back and check things out when I saw Dixie Mountain Bike Trails Association post an ad for the fest online. Also, there was the promise of new trails, both in Barnes Canyon and Kershaw Ryan State Park. How could I say no to sating my bike greed on some never-ridden-by-me trails?
I was so excited to give them a try as I drove into Nevada, wondering if I might be the only non-local there. After all, it was the Bike Fest’s first year, and we are talking about Caliente—a somewhat unknown place when it comes to the mountain bike community. I was happy to find I wasn’t the only person to have his curiosity peaked about what turned out to be a very cool town with very nice people and really fun trails!
I met people from St. George and Hurricane and a nice kid from Caliente who was riding for his high school team. I took a shuttle with a couple who had traveled from California to sample the Caliente “goods.” There were food trucks and free donuts at the impressive bike park in town where registration was held and the shuttles to the trailhead departed. The evening had festivities that included live music, dinner, and games! I only had limited time that weekend, so I missed out on that part of the fun, but I really enjoyed riding the trails with the dozens of riders that shared the stoke.
The Kershaw Ryan loop is about six and a half miles long and is rideable in both directions. Barnes Canyon boasts thirteen miles (I really enjoyed the new Back 40 trail), so there is quite a lot to explore. A ten-mile connector between the two trailheads is in the works for extended adventures.
These out-of-the-way places have realized that there are worse people than a bunch of happy-to-ride-here mountain bikers to visit their town, and they have welcomed us in a neighborly way. Maybe it’s time to get on your bike and visit your neighbors!