Thrill seekers

Reno is a great starting point when it’s time to hit the road to adventure

Photo By David Robert

Let’s get one thing straight: Do try THESE adventures at home. That is, if your home is Reno, and if you’ve got adequate training, an experienced instructor, a thirst for adrenaline and a high threshold of pain.

There’s another thing we should probably get straight before diving into this, the Reno News & Review’s first adventure guide: There are more opportunities for road rash in northern Nevada than could possibly be listed in one newspaper article. While we’ve found nine good ways to skin knees and cramp up muscles, we don’t even talk about scuba diving, tree-climbing, bungie jumping, ballooning, horseback riding, wakeboarding, dune buggying, roller blading, ghost towning, chute sliding, cliff diving, shot shooting, or the really dangerous stuff like recreational sex or flicking boogers at bike cops on Virginia Street. Finally, yeah, it’s spring, so we concentrated on ways to get the heart pumping that don’t require snow.

So squeeze into those fitted cups, ankle-supporting boots and crush-proof headgear and come along with us on the ride of a lifetime.

Miles away: BASE jumping
by Cherie Louise

Miles Daisher, 34, likes to explore his limits. Often he does this by falling through the air in increments of 15 seconds or less. He is a BASE jumper. BASE is an acronym for building, antenna, span, earth. Daisher—with little more than an already opened parachute and a backup plan—jumps off 500-700-foot-tall objects.

“You have to program your mind what to do when things go wrong because you don’t have time to think about it,” explains the compactly muscular Daisher. “You’re just reacting.”

BASE jumpers come to their sport through skydiving. “You [should] start out with at least 100 skydiving jumps before you learn to BASE jump,” says Daisher, who has completed 2,195 skydives and 482 BASE jumps since 1995.

Most BASE jumping is done illegally, and it’s usually at night.

“This is not a sport you just jump into,” notes Daisher, whose enthusiasm is translated through an exuberant smile and bright hazel eyes. “It’s a lifestyle. You’ve got to eat, breathe and dream BASE jumping. You have to really want it.”

BASE jumping may be finding its way out of the shadows. There are instructors in the West who teach the skills and places where jumping is legal (check out magazines like Skydiving for specifics). Here in the region, the most popular legal BASE jumping sites are on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land.

These days, most of Daisher’s jumping is legal. He performs as a member of the Red Bull Air Force, which demonstrates BASE jumping around the world. Daisher also seeks ever-greater personal challenges, including sky-yaking—parachuting with a kayak—and ski-BASEing—starting the BASE jump by skiing off of a cliff.

Does this sound like a death wish? Daisher, newly married and soon to be a father, is safety conscious. “There’s a saying about pilots that also applies to BASE jumpers,” he says. “There are old pilots and there are bold pilots, but there are very few old, bold pilots. I have a life wish. I want to live life to the fullest.”

Trail mix: backpacking
by Miranda Jesch

Backpacking is an extreme commitment. If you stick to trails, the most physical damage you’ll incur is tired legs, backs and feet, and maybe some scrapes, blisters and scratches. The emotional damage hits when you’ve spent three days hiking deep into the wilderness and can hardly manage another step, yet you know you’ve got at least two more days of toil to get back out.

During summer, on certain trails, especially those in the Desolation Wilderness near South Lake Tahoe, you can expect to encounter at least 30 other packers and hikers in a single day. Although the environmentally conscientious always adhere to trails in order to minimize impact on the great outdoors, my boyfriend and I have often forsaken trail etiquette to get to the most isolated spots. This is a risky practice, although designated trails can be precarious, too.

Backpacks are dangerous on the sketchier trails, as they inhibit movement. I’ve found myself in a predicament when I did some fairly simple bouldering and couldn’t get over the final ledge and also couldn’t step back down with a 30-pound pack on my back. I have a friend who lost his water filter (and the backpack it was in) in the rushing Yuba River as he tried to drop the pack down to a more secure hiking path. His dog died of dehydration when he trekked over barren volcanic rock to find the pack. He suffered dehydration himself.

There are many, many trailheads in the Lake Tahoe Basin and Sierra Nevada within a two-hour drive of Reno, from the Carson Pass area in the south, north to Plumas-Eureka State Park. Check out a guide like The Tahoe Sierra by Jeffrey P. Schaffer to find trail locations and explanations, topographic maps and permit requirements.

Depending on where you backpack, a trip can seem like a hike through the park or a grind up Mount Everest. Know your limits and stay hydrated.

Remember, when hiking three days deep into the heart of the wilderness, it takes three days to get back out.

Photo By David Robert

A good paddling: kayaking
by Jessica Groach

Kayakers tumbling over waterfalls in Ford SUV commercials might seem too extreme for you. But with some of the nation’s best kayaking locations right in our backyard, as well as having nothing to do with Fords, it’s worth trying.

“It’s physically and mentally challenging and extremely dynamic,” says Toby Ebens, kayaking instructor with the University of Nevada, Reno, and the City of Reno Parks & Recreation department. “Water flow changes throughout the day, and even in one spot, it changes in minutes.” There’s also the mental component of overcoming fear and getting your boat where you want it.

The two kinds of kayaking are whitewater and paddling (done on flat water, like the Sparks Marina). “When you see people hucking themselves off waterfalls, those guys are professionals; they’re extremely fit and extremely lucky,” says Ebens.

Class I water is the easiest, while Class VI is “advanced, never-been-done-before” white water. Ebens likes Class III but has done some Class IV kayaking.

“The Truckee River is great, Class II up to Class IV. The forks of the Yuba, north and south, the forks of the American River … these are all great and for the most part free of charge,” he says.

Ebens loves the new whitewater park downtown. The water’s free, and you can rent gear from Sierra Adventures, 323-8928, nearby. “Get off work, throw a boat in, go paddling for half an hour or a couple hours … yeah, it’s terrific!”

Want to learn? UNR students can take Ebens’ class or just show up at one of the free roll sessions, Thursdays at 7 p.m. in the Lombardi pool. Bring your own equipment or use what the gym provides. Not a student? Take a class with the city of Reno.

“It’s no more dangerous than some other sports out there, but the primary skill you should have is the Eskimo roll, which gets you upright. With a little bit of training and knowledge you can keep yourself safe,” Ebens says.

See some pros kayak at the Reno River Festival, coming May 14-17.

Ships of the desert: landsailing
by Krista Benjamin

Landsailing is just what it sounds like: a boat with a sail that rides on wheels on land. The boat looks like a kayak, and the tires compare to airplane tires, designed to roll across flat, barren land. Dry lakes and beaches with hard-packed sand in areas of high wind work best.

Local landsailors travel to dry lakes, including Edwards and Smith Creek on Highway 50 East near Austin; Adobe near Lovelock; and the playa of the Black Rock Desert. Parking lots and roads are out: It’s too easy to run into someone, as land yachts have no brakes. To slow down or stop a land yacht, you simply head into the wind.

John Bogard is an avid landsailor. He sells Manta land yachts out of his pottery store, Planet X, west of Gerlach.

“Taking up landsailing was a no-brainer,” Bogard says. “For years, the winds in the Black Rock Desert drove me nuts. Then I started landsailing, and now I wait for the wind.”

To check out landsailing, the best option is to attend a regatta such as the Holy Gale held on the Black Rock each summer. There, you can watch races. You might even be able to talk someone into giving you a ride.

Twin jammers hold two people, although most boats seat only one. Land yachts travel up to three times the wind speed.

If you like landsailing, you can purchase a rig. A decent one will cost less than $2,500, and you’ll have a fully operational, race-ready boat when it’s assembled.

Landsailing is easy to learn and ecologically friendly; the wheels don’t even leave tracks. “It’s fairly safe, it’s an adventure, and you’re basically a couch potato on adrenaline,” Bogard says.

The kayak park in downtown Reno is suitable for people of all skill levels. It contains Class II up to Class IV rapids.

Photo By David Robert

For more information, call Planet X at (775) 557-2500 or visit

Rock your world: rock climbing
by Dan Gingold

There’s nothing quite like being outside in the mountains on a stunning spring day. Surrounded by trees, breathing clean air, and looking down at the ground, some 80 feet below you, you know that all that keeps you from falling is a 10mm-thick rope, the gear you yourself have attached to the rock and your own strength and experience.

In-town Reno offers little in the way of outdoor rock climbing, but it is an excellent hub for getting out to climbing spots. There are a dozen world-class areas within a few hours’ drive, including Yosemite and Bishop, Calif., and several great areas within an hour’s drive. Big Chief, the Truckee River Canyon, Donner Summit, Lovers’ Leap in South Lake and recently reopened Cave Rock are all in and around Lake Tahoe. These spots have difficulty levels to suit beginners and veterans.

Those new to the sport can learn the ropes at RockSport Indoor Climbing Center at 1901 Silverada Blvd. A day pass is $12, climbing shoes and a harness rent for $5. Memberships run $25 to $40 a month, with a small initiation fee. Private lessons are $30 an hour, and the gym runs clinics on Thursday evenings at 7 p.m. The staff is keen to help you learn, and can offer advice and directions to local spots.

Both RockSport and Reno Mountain Sports sell all the climbing equipment you’ll need, from climbing shoes to ropes to harnesses to carabineers.

Happy climbing!

Two wheels and a trail: mountain biking
by Krista Benjamin

If you want to cover a lot of ground in the wilderness, consider mountain biking on Lake Tahoe’s East Shore. You can ride two of the best trails in the area, the Flume Trail and the Tahoe Rim Trail. Take the Flume Trail Shuttle, and you’ll avoid doubling back or, worse yet, riding on the narrow shoulder of Highway 28.

The 13-mile Flume Trail is open to mountain bikers every day. Park your car at Spooner Lake (one-half mile north of Highway 50 on Highway 28), and ride north on North Canyon Road beside Spooner Meadow. You’ll pass through aspen and pine groves as you climb rolling hills toward Snow Valley, then descend to Marlette Lake. From there, you’re onto a nearly flat single-track with spectacular views of Lake Tahoe. At the end, ride downhill on Tunnel Creek Road and wait for the shuttle. For $10, you get to sit in an air-conditioned van and sip a cold drink on the way back to your car.

The Tahoe Rim Trail is open to mountain bikers on even days of the month only. To do a 21-mile ride, park at Spooner Lake and take the shuttle to the Tahoe Meadows Trailhead on Mount Rose Highway (cost $15). From there, you’ll ride south on the Rim Trail enjoying views of Lake Tahoe and Washoe Valley. Follow Tunnel Creek Road to the Flume Trail, or stay on the Rim Trail for a steeper ride with switchbacks. Either way, you’ll end up back at your car at Spooner Lake.

Max Jones, a Mountain Bike Hall of Fame member, owns and operates Flume Trail Bikes at Spooner Lake. Along with shuttle service, the company offers bikes for sale, demo and rental, as well as guided tours. For more information, visit, or call (775) 749-5349.

Out of thin air: skydiving
by Cherie Louise

“It’s like nothing you’ve ever experienced. Really, it’s sort of indescribable,” says Donna Abbot about skydiving. Abbot, who is office manager for Skydance Skydiving out of Davis, Calif., says her favorite part of the sport is the freefall.

A skydive consists of two distinct parts, the freefall and the “canopy ride” after the parachute has been pulled. The freefall portion is described as a feeling of floating or flying. “You don’t get that gut-wrenching feeling like you’re falling,” notes Abbot, “because you have the momentum of the plane.”

But fall you do. Within instants, you’re headed toward the ground at 120 miles per hour. Then, when the canopy is pulled, you gradually decelerate in utter silence.

“All you hear is the flutter of the parachute,” says Abbot. It’s a dramatic change from the extremely loud rushing wind of the freefall. And you can see for miles. On a clear day from the Davis site, you can see the Golden Gate Bridge, the snow in Lake Tahoe, the Sutter Buttes and out to Lake Berryessa.

There are three skydiving places within a few hours of Reno. In addition to Skydance, (530) 753-2651, you can find instruction and pay to jump out of an airplane at the Parachute Center in Lodi, (209) 369-1128, and Skydive Lake Tahoe, (530) 832-1474, which flies out of Portola. The fastest way to find yourself falling through the air is to take a tandem jump. Within an hour of your arrival, you can be headed up in an airplane to an elevation of your choice (the higher you go, the longer you get to freefall), and, soon enough, attached to your instructor, flying through the air. Alternatively, you can sign up for a longer instruction and make your first jump solo. Prices start at $100 for the tandem jump and go up from there.

Folks with firepower: paintball
by Rory Dowd

In paintball, the biggest physical dangers are dust in the eyes and welts, but the adrenaline rush makes it as intense as any other extreme sport.

Photo By David Robert

Dust. Dust will get in everything; in the triggers, in the hoppers, in your mask, in your eyes. Marker will jam, you’ll be pinned down and have to wait it out. It’s a good day, though. The clouds give cover from the desert sun.

Scattered fire and shouts for cover drifted over from another field. “Watchit, watchit, watchit!” “Back right! Back right!” Bursts of rapid-fire “foop-foop-foop” subsided as players were hit and taken out. Last man standing is the name of the game. Welcome to paintball.

My squad was up. We anxiously awaited positioning orders from one of the veterans. This was my first time into the field. My rigorous 20 minutes of training had taught me the rules and how to hold a marker. Nothing can prepare you for the real thing. My palms started to sweat.

“Players ready!” boomed the voice of the judge across the Lemmon Valley battlefield.

I licked my lips and tightened my grip on the marker.

“On my mark!”

Digging my right heel into the hardpan, my body tensed to rush the field.

“One, two,”

Here it comes.

“THREE! Go-go-go!”

I scrambled for cover, strafing as I broke right. I hit the dirt on my knees, sliding into the stack of barrels. Two breaths. Pop my head out, squeeze off a couple rounds, pop back in. Two breaths. Pop my head out and–POW!

I took two shots simultaneously in the chin. I was out and left the field within five seconds, the first of those not standing.

And if you don’t think this is the funnest thing ever, don’t talk to me. You don’t know, man! You don’t know because you weren’t there!

Places to go in Reno/Sparks: Desert Dawgs: 971-9434, Lemmon Valley (outdoor); Herbie’s Paintball, 575-6946, Fernley (outdoor); HPA Sports: 324-7486, Reno (indoor).

River rats: river rafting
by Brad Bynum

The big brother of the kayak is the whitewater raft, and for those seeking aqua adventure, there are many rivers in northern Nevada and California suitable for rafting. The East Fork of the Carson is a good river for beginners: wild, scenic and having the added bonus of hot springs along the way. The American River and Feather River are other favorites—and then, for the more adventurous, there is the North Fork of the Yuba River.

“And there’s also a river right here in town,” says local attorney, former rafting guide and self-proclaimed “river trash” Mark Mausert, “It’s called the Truckee.”

Indeed, the Truckee seems to be a largely untapped resource for adventurous local residents and tourists. Mausert points out that the Truckee could be developed beyond the minimal development of the Wingfield Park area and that it could eventually became a tourist attraction akin to the American River, which has nearly 40 companies running rafting trips.

Slowly, though, things are developing for the Truckee. There are a few companies, including the Truckee River Raft Co., based in Tahoe City, that are already running portions of the river, and there are efforts to clean up other parts. Some local rafters envision glorious future days of Tahoe to Pyramid runs. One such rafter is Charles Albright of the Sierra Nevada White Water Club, who has long toiled to make the river safe for rafters. This effort has included the removal of trees, industrial debris, and efforts to force the updating or replacement of dangerous low-head dams.

Those interested in learning the basics of white water rafting or who want to find out more about local rivers, at least three local businesses, Kayaks, Etc., 849-2714, Reno Mountain Sports, 825-2855, and Wild Sierra Adventures, 323-8928, can all recommend teachers and other resources.

And kayakers, watch out: Some rafters tend to look down on their "parasitical" brethren. Mausert gleefully says, "I like to run them down. Because they always want rafters to carry their gear; they always want our beer: they don’t help us carry our rafts; they get into places on the river that they shouldn’t … and mostly because it’s fun, and I can, and they can’t do anything to retaliate since I carry their gear."