When I first heard of the Bunkerville Choo-Choo, it immediately went on my bucket list of trails to ride. I wanted to know where it was and why it was there. I could not believe there was a steam engine out in the middle of the desert. I found someone who would lead me to it and enough friends to fill my four-place trailer. The adventure was on.
Bunkerville is on the south side of Mesquite, Nev. Taking the Bunkerville exit, we staged near the underpass. This was true desert riding with cactus in a large variety and warm weather when snow was on the ground at home. I love the mountain trails, but when the weather is nice in the desert, it is a welcome change.
We headed southeast from the New Gold Butte Road following Nickel Creek through a narrow canyon. The track was on solid rock, but with challenging sections to negotiate. We climbed from 1,475 feet on the desert floor to over 5,400 feet near the Virgin Peak Ridge. Five thousand feet did not sound like much when my home is at about 4,800 feet, but when the desert floor stretches out 3,000 feet below, it is pretty impressive.
Backtracking off the ridge, we headed east by Hen Spring. Taking a northerly heading, we passed through Cabin Canyon and down to about the 3,000 feet. Turning east we worked our way along the benches.
Some people like to listen to music while riding. My music is the sound of my ATV; however, I do sing to myself when I feel inspired. I wear a full-face helmet which catches most of the sound so as not to offend. I have my mountain tunes, but the one I sing in the desert goes like this, “I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name / it felt good to be out of the rain.” Come to think of it, I don’t have a name for my ATV — after all, most horses have names. It would need to be something manly like Rock Eater or Sledge Hammer.w
Turning south again, we climbed into the lower part of a field and there it was, just as real as rain — the Bunkerville Choo-choo. It looked like an engine without any wheels, but there were some things that just weren’t right about it being a steam engine. We took a closer look and realized that it was really a tank car with some modifications. It appeared to be there for the purpose of water storage. Mystery solved, we mounted up and headed west again.
We hadn’t traveled far when we came upon a natural arch near the trail. Many of our group took advantage of the opportunity to climb into it. I just stood back and took pictures. In my ATV travels, I have found delight in the unexpected. This arch was a good example. There are not many in the area, which made it a highlight of the trip.
The rest of the ride gave me an opportunity to enjoy the desert. I love the barrel cactus with its variety of sizes and the way the thorns intertwine to define its shape. We came across a lot of Joshua trees in bloom. I recently learned that for some reason there is a bumper crop of blooms this year. I have seen the Joshua tree blossoms before, but not this many. They are large with a pine-cone shape, their yellow color standing out at the end of the branches. They are not much for shade and nothing you would want to lean your back on, but they are interesting and unusual.
The best time to take this ride is in the winter, early spring, or late fall. It is a great place to take the first ride of the year. The trail is suitable for side-by-sides and jeeps and is a great example of desert riding. When you go take plenty of water, keep the rubber-side down, and sing a tune appropriate to the trail.
You may contact Lynn Blamires at email@example.com.