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Flying Pahrump

Only in Pahrump
Riding and flying Pahrump, Nevada

This article produced in partnership with TravelNevada

Rachel’s 25th birthday finally arrived. As an adventure enthusiast, Rachel suggested we take a long weekend in Pahrump, Nevada. She’d researched nearby off-road trails, and discovered that was the place to quench the thirst for thrill. It didn’t take much effort to convince her boyfriend, Jack, and two closest friends, Dani and me to join the fun. Her dad graciously lent us his two ATVs. More than just endless trails for riding, we looked forward to casinos and the thrill of my life: jetpacks. What could make for a better birthday getaway?


With its huge gold and glittering sign welcoming us, we entered the Pahrump Nugget Hotel & Casino. After checking in and dropping our bags off in our rooms, we went to explore the games. Although 570 gaming machines, ten table games, a sports book and poker room, blinked, beeped and buzzed around us, the vibe here was down-home and welcoming. To get in on the fun, we sat down for blackjack and talked some serious game—and about the area—as the dealer handed us our cards. As it turns out, Rachel was the only one who could walk her talk, and actually racked up a birthday-sized win.

The great outdoors

The next afternoon, we drove out to a trail off of Wheeler’s Pass Road and unhitched the ATVs. After Rachel gave us a quick instructional, we climbed aboard—Rachel and Jack on one, and Dani and me on the other. Dani gunned the engine, and we tore off on the gravel trail. I looked back and saw that Rachel and Jack were just a moment behind. Dani hardly seemed to slow for curves, but after a while I picked up on her rhythm of swinging out wide before the turn, cutting the corner tight and driving wide after the turn so as to straighten it out. My ears buzzed underneath my helmet from the grumble of the engine. I caught snapshots of the scenery in motion: cactus and grass on the flat land, sheer rock face cliffs dotted with the plants that survive in such crevices.

It wasn’t long before the path opened up and we were passed by Rachel calling out “Wahoo!”

She circled around and led us to a stop so we could switch drivers. Once seated, Jack sped off, and my competitive nature left me no choice but to follow suit. The trail took a downward turn. Tempted to ease off the gas, I leaned in. I felt light as we raced over some extended bumps, and learned to turn my legs into springs over them. It was like flying, but who needs to fly when you can carve perfect trails on four wheels?

We turned back and switched riders twice more. By the time we returned to Rachel’s truck, I was thoroughly satisfied with the ride. I could have kept going, but food was on the brain. We headed back to our hotel to wash off the dust, and get dressed up for Rachel’s birthday dinner at Symphony’s Restaurant at Pahrump Valley Winery for dinner.

We sat down on the restaurant’s patio, as relaxed as we had been thrilled earlier, and shared a bottle of wine. Over steaks, creamy risotto and buttery lobster, we watched the sun setting beyond the beautiful mountains we had spent our day exploring.

Eager for tomorrow’s jetpack adventure, I suggested we get some sleep to fully rest up for our day on the lake.

Flying like a fish

Forget what I said about flying—there’s absolutely a need. The next morning, the four of us headed out to Lake Spring Mountain for our lesson with Jetpack America. Jetpack strapped to our backs, we would each be propelled up in the air, “flying” thanks to water jets.

After about an hour of building anticipation and education in the initial lesson, the instructor led us to the lake for a quick swim test, which we all passed (swimmingly). Jack, Dani and I had fun chatting and joking around on the beach while we watched Rachel zip through the air around the instructor, tethered to the Jetski he was riding. We saw spins, face-plants, recoveries and dolphin dives. I was taking notes.

“That was amazing!” Rachel screamed from the passenger seat of the Jetski before they hit the shore.

Dani was up next. It looked like she was taking notes, too—no more than 10 minutes into it, she looked like a natural. It was extra cool watching alongside Rachel, who shared insights such as, “That move is harder than it looks, the trick is to….”

I got so absorbed in watching, that I felt like my turn came up quickly, but I was raring to go. Wearing a machine that propels you through water and air is literally unlike anything else. There are elements of Iron Man, Bambi on ice and flying like a fish. Once I got the hang of steering and hovering, I built up confidence to try diving and spinning around. By the end of my flight, thanks to trial and error and great instruction, I gained enough control to run across the lake’s surface, lift off, dive and rise again.

The 30 minute flight went by in an instant, but was so worth it!


Watching Jack fly was fun, too. Rachel, Dani and I were now watching with the camaraderie of the shared experience. Jack went bold with his flight—diving right away, going hands-free and doing helicopter spins.

We left the lake beaming and jabbering nonstop comparing flights. On the drive home, I had the phantom feeling of whipping around through the air. I was also hit with an immense gratitude for the whole trip. Racing up uncrowded dirt roads one day, and soaring above a lake the next—where else, but Pahrump?

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