My riding buddy, Jens, had told me about Blue Diamond in August, 2011 while we were riding near his house in southern Utah. Blue Diamond is a small town 18-miles from the Las Vegas Strip where ... the mountain biking was good and ... wild horses and burros walked right through the middle of town. This was definitely something we had to check out.
Las Vegas is normally a 5 1/2 hour drive from San Diego, but not on the Friday preceding Spring Break. Cindy and I had set out after the conclusion of my baseball practice, stopped at Bob's Big Boy in Norco for a burger, and then gotten caught up in several traffic jams. Although it took 8 hours to get to Las Vegas and we didn't get checked into our hotel until 2 am, the following day in Blue Diamond made it all worth while.
Wikipedia says the population of Blue Diamond was 290 at the 2010 census. I think about 280 of them were out and about when we pulled into town. As we cruised around looking for burros (which we didn't see) we came across bunches of people out walking, looking at yard sales, and at a large flea market next to a small craft show right in the middle of town. Across the road from the craft show stood what looked like an old Indian Trading Post ... but turned out to be McGhie's Blue Diamond Bike Outpost. I parked next to a booth and headed over to check out this adobe looking structure.
I entered to find at least a half-dozen customers in front of me. The shop was packed, mostly due to dozens of bikes hanging from the ceiling, jammed racks and stacks of clothing, outdoor accessories, snacks and us seven customers.
After wiggling my way to the small counter I managed to get the attention of one of the two employees ... a fellow I later learned was called Cosmo (not to be confused with "Cosmic Ray" and his book of Arizona Trails).
I asked Cosmo about the best trails to ride. He told me about an 8-mile trail (called Landmine) that looped around the mountain behind the town. He said this was the one they usually recommended for visitors. I asked if he had any longer rides. He said to wait and ask Chris, who was putting a new shifter on a bike for a local rider.
While I waited Cosmo sold me an "excellent" map of the area, then began helping other customers. Chris was multi-tasking ... not only was he installing the shifter ... he was also dealing with customers wanting to rent bikes. Most acted like they had never ridden before. At one point Chris patiently told one couple, "Yes, you do need a helmet," and, "You do need to be careful." The male renter responded with, "What do you mean," to which Chris clarified, "I have seen a lot of bad things happen to people on mountain bikes ... there are many hazards on the trail." I thought I could have piped-in that I had broken my neck on a mountain bike ... but I chose to be silent, hoping to be served sooner. After about 5 minutes it was my turn.
"Chris the Tumafish" Tuma, with his small Mohawk and pony tail, turned out to be the manager of the Outpost. I told Chris I had a website and wanted to do a review of his best ride. He started to tell me about the same trail Cosmo had told me about. I interrupted him saying, "What is your favorite ride up here ... which one do you personally like the most? He then told me about the Mustang trail and insisted I step behind the counter to look at his computer.
We looked at as many as 30 photos of the trail in the span of less than one minute. In a rapid fire monologue Chris gave me directions on when to turn right, left, go straight, what scenery I would see, where to be careful, and told me at least 10 times that the general rule-of-thumb was to stay on the "white" trails, "White means well traveled, brown means seldom used ... " I felt I might have a chance of following this "white trail" approach until Chris said, "Except for this turn. Here you want to take the brown trail." I tried to make some marks on my "excellent" map, thanked him for his advice, and started to walk out of McGhie's Blue Diamond Bike Outpost.
At that point it occurred to me I wanted a photo of these two guys. I snapped a picture of Chris (the Tumafish) and Cosmo right under the Outpost sign, and then headed to the car to get ready.
Before I got to the car I noticed a most unusual mountain bike, a stationary bike undoubtedly made in the mountains ... and thought, "Maybe this truly is the first Mountain Bike."
I ducked into the local general store to change into my riding clothes, got all my cameras ready, said goodbye to Cindy, and then headed across town to the trailhead.
Once there I encountered 3 riders preparing to ride. A father (Todd), his son (Chris), and Todd's brother, Carlton (sp?). With a little more probing I learned Todd and Chris lived locally while Carlton was there from Boston. Both Todd and Chris told me Carlton was a Boston mountain biker and not used to the desert. Todd also informed me of the best trail in the Las Vegas area, called, "Bear's Best," and tried several times to give me directions from Blue Diamond. I told him I would only be able to ride it after my visit to Utah ... so I would be coming back south on Interstate 15. He then instructed me to get off the 215 on Flamingo and go right. I didn't mention to Todd I had no idea where Highway 215 was, but figured I could find the directions on the internet (which I later did).
I left these three as they were still getting ready and rode up the hill far enough to take a picture of the town. As I was taking my photo Chris (the boy) came up the trail toward me. He stopped and again said hello. While I was putting my camera away I noticed Todd coming up the trail. Looking off toward town I saw no sign of Carlton. I hoped Carlton had not met up with some desert tragedy. I finally got tired of waiting and once again said goodbye and set off quickly down the trail.
To help visualize the landmarks I talk about in the rest of this story, or to aid in your own ride at Blue Diamond, please enjoy this interactive, trail map. Click on Blue Diamond for Directions to this ride. Click the icons for info on land- marks, both general and personal to this ride.
Have you ridden in Blue Diamond before? What did you think of it? Share your story with us and other visitors to this page here.
I gained speed rapidly as the trail was smooth, straight, and slightly downhill. I felt great as the increased speed cooled my entire body. After I had travelled a couple hundred yards something about the brownish trail seemed unusual. It seemed as if my eyes were playing tricks on me ... the brown trail ahead seemed to be shifting around.
As I rapidly approached this anomaly I kept blinking, hoping that would clear out whatever had caused the confusion. Eventually my brain finally started to separate out an unusual image from the trail with which it blended. At about 50 yards I clearly made out the shape of a large mountain goat, with huge spiraling horns, standing right on the trail, facing my direction. I slammed on my brakes in shock, not sure what to do. As I fumbled around, trying to get my camera from its pouch, the big ram bolted up the hill, disappearing behind the brush. I hoped my video camera (mounted on my chest) had caught him, for he had escaped the shutter of my still-camera. In all the years of off-roading with my parents I had never seen a mountain goat, and here I almost ran into one!
Watch the video below to see what footage my chest mounted camera captured. To watch the video on a full screen click the icon in the lower right corner just to the right of the YouTube emblem.
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That's me, Joe Unden, your guide on this site. Since 2005 my favorite activity has been mountain biking. In 2011 I decided I wanted to share my biking experiences with others online, to make it easier for people to learn about the trails I love.
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