Mountain bikers, mostly from Henderson, Las Vegas, and St. George came for the second annual Gravel Grinder Mountain Bike trail ride June 21 at Beaver Dam State Park.
The 35-mile ride went through scenic country from Beaver Dam to the community of Barclay and included the old 49er trail that prospectors used during the gold rush going to and from San Francisco, hence the name “49er Gravel Grinder.”
Neil Cheeney, park aid with Cathedral Gorge State Park, said the historic one-room schoolhouse at Barclay was open for visitors to see. Riders also went through old historic homesteads, such as the original Mathews’ homestead, in what used to be called Joseco, where an old post office is that used to deliver mail to the trains by hanging it up on the line for them to grab with a pole as the train rode by, and the Hamblin ranch, and up over the Mathews Dam.
About 20 miles into the ride a lunch break was held with food provided by the park service, of cold sandwiches, finger foods, fruit, water and Gatorade, and tossed salad. Some extra items were donated by Great Basin Foods, Cheeney said.
The ride is a big loop, starting and ending at Beaver Dam, “with the most scenic areas we could get,” he said.
17 riders signed up, all men, including one from Caliente, but Cheeney said the ride was over fairly easy terrain, so beginning riders could do it as well as the more advanced riders. Only 12 riders participated.
The event was expanded from 12 miles to 35 miles this year Cheeney explained, with the intention of getting more riders to come. And all who did were quite impressed. “Everyone loved it,” he said. “The three St. George boys that were there wanted us to make it an 80-mile ride. They really loved it. They enjoyed the scenic views and said they intended to return in the future.”
The Gravel Grinder is not affiliated with the International Mountain Bike Association that is planning on building trails in Lincoln County, but Cheeney said the riders were really excited about what is being planned for Lincoln County. “They talked about how much potential it has, how great it can be and how many more people and mountain bike enthusiasts we will get out here. The whole event went really well and all of us enjoyed being out there helping.”
About half the riders camped overnight at Beaver Dam, which is a main reason the parks hold the event. State Parks Interpreter Dawn Andone said, “the whole reason we do this is to get people familiar with Beaver Dam and Lincoln County. Yes, we’re three hours away, but we have lots to offer.”
She noted many of the riders said they never knew this [Beaver Dam] was here, and will plan on staying overnight camping next year. For many tourists, Andone said, they don’t know there are pine, juniper and streams here. Although most should be prepared for the 20+ miles of dirt road to the park.
Andone said they received lots of good feedback so next year, they can modify more track.
Brad Newby of Newby Buick in St. George, and said, “You have a gem of a ride here. It could really get big.”
Before their next big bike riding event, the state parks will host the annual Dutch Oven cookoff Sept. 20, and are making it an official sesquicentennial event. State Parks invited the Lt. Governor Brian Krolicki to be a judge.
The next riding event is the annual Park-to-Park Pedal planned for October 11, weather permitting. Last year, there were around 200 riders. Andone says they’re hoping to “hit the cap at 250,” the most allowed on the bike ride.
Andone also thanked the many volunteers that help with these events. Ken and Joanne Dixon from Search and Rescue, Great Basin Foods, and all the other volunteers who deserve a lot of credit for their help. “It takes a lot of effort to put this kind of event on, and we really appreciate their help. We couldn’t have done it without them,” she said. And she noted also, although the marked trails might not be up any more, bikers are welcome on the dirt roads any day.