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Campground at Lamoille Canyon, Nevada
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Boots at J.M. Capriola Saddle Company in Elko, Nevada
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Western Folklife Center in Elko, Nevada
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Sign for the headquarters of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada
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Tack at J.M. Capriola Saddle Company in Elko, Nevada
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Scenic view of Lamoille Canyon in Nevada
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Elko, Nevada dining
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Cowboy display in Elko, Nevada
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The Picon Punch at the Star Hotel Basque restaurant in Elko, Nevada
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Did you ever dream of being a cowboy as a child, galloping on a powerful stallion through endless wide open spaces?

Perhaps you even dressed up as one. In Nevada, I was not only reminded of my childhood dreams, but finally got the chance to realise them: mountains, wonderful nature, and of course, real horses and even real cowboys!

High on the Lamoille Canyon

Not far from the town of Elko in northeast Nevada, I visited Lamoille Canyon, the largest glacial valley in the Ruby Mountains. A spectacular 11-mile winding Scenic Byway wraps around the highest peak, the 11,388-foot-high Ruby Dome. In addition, there are several short and interesting trails which are easily accessible from the road. Again and again, I stopped to photograph the idyllic scenes of what many call the "Grand Canyon of Nevada".

A Cowboy Saddlery and a Cowboy Gathering

My next stop was downtown Elko, where Joseph Capriola founded his J.M. Capriola Co. saddle shop in 1929, and the saddles are still handmade today. A narrow steep staircase going upward leads to the workshop and a museum, where the scent of leather permeates the room. I watched a craftsman carve the leather for a while, admiring the patience and care behind this art.

Just opposite the saddle shop is the Western Folklife Center, which promotes traditional rural life. The centre’s signature event is the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, with lots of music, art and literature. I was particularly impressed by the exhibition presenting and preserving the artwork of young cowboys. Equally inviting is the lovely gift shop, offering selected literature, music, jewellery and pottery.

Authentic Local Cuisine in Elko

Before I left downtown Elko, I discovered the diner 2 Dames & a Deli and realised how hungry I was. Its sandwiches and paninis hit the spot. My panini was very tasty and fresh, and the two “dames” are very warm and funny.

For supper, I chose the popular Star Hotel, which is famous for its Basque cuisine. There is a large Basque community in Nevada, from the Spanish-French border region in Europe, which established itself in the beginning of the 20th century. The mood was lively and joyful at the restaurant, thanks to the many locals who eat here. The delicious meals are served family style on platters, so that everyone in your party gets a little taste of various dishes.

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America’s History of Westward Migration

My next stop, The California Trail Interpretive Center, just outside of Elko, is a very informative museum. Interactive exhibits present the Westward migration of America, from 1841 to 1869, until the completion of the transcontinental railroad. The arduous and uncertain journey of pioneers who wanted to try their luck in California, and their interaction with Native Indians, is brilliantly simulated here. The friendly staff makes time for you and you can immediately feel their enthusiasm and dedication to the museum.

I always imagined the cowboy life to be much easier and more romantic. I never even considered the weather conditions they endured. Well, at some point, I guess you just grow up. However, the vast open space and spectacular scenery of Nevada exceeded my childhood dreams by far.