Away from the glitz and noise of Las Vegas there’s a very different Nevada. In the northern half of the Silver State, in the shadow of the Ruby Mountains, you’ll find the heart of Cowboy Country.
Sure, the neon still burns here. Flashing lights advertise all night diners, casinos and, yes, a small red light district, with brothel names like Mona’s Ranch. But after a stroll through Stockmen’s Hotel and Casino in Elko, where curly mustached men in 10-gallon Stetsons play high stakes card games, you might feel like you’ve stumbled onto the set of Deadwood or Westworld. Just don’t call it the Old West.
In Cowboy Country, the West is as alive — and as young — as it ever was.
Give Me Land, Lots of Land
There’s a reason “Don’t Fence Me In” is the theme of Nevada’s latest travel ads. The state’s sprawling, wide open spaces are practically begging for you to explore them, whether by horse or horsepower. And if you’re looking for a bit of peace and quiet, you should know Nevada has more ghost towns than populated towns. From Elko, home of the annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, it’s a two-hour drive northeast to Jarbidge, an isolated historic mining town dotted with towering rock formations known as hoodoos. Today visitors can explore the old Jarbidge jail and abandoned brothels and wander the Jarbidge Wilderness.
Northern Nevada’s expansive land is also home to several cattle ranches. Among the most impressive is the Glaser Ranch, a five generation, family-owned working cattle ranch in Elko County. Located at the foot of Nevada’s Ruby Mountains, the Glaser Ranch is a stunning scenic beauty.
Glaser Ranch Cowboss, Shane Ritchie, has worked at the ranch for 17 years. When asked what brought him to the ranch Ritchie simply responds, “Cowboying. It’s all I’ve ever done.”
Underneath the Western Skies
The J.M. Capriola Co., located in downtown Elko, is the premier destination for Northern Nevada’s ranching needs. Established in 1929, the store carries on the tradition of G.S. Garcia, a maker of Western gear who came to Elko in 1893. Garcia soon developed a worldwide following of cowboys and ranchers who clamored for his exquisitely made bits, spurs and saddles.
Today, J.M. Capriola saddles are handmade by a small staff of master craftsmen, such as Armando Delgado.
For a closer look inside the J.M. Capriola Co.’s craftsmanship, watch the video below.
Upstairs, the J.M. Capriola Co. doubles as a saddle shop and museum, displaying relics of rodeos past.
Located next door to the J.M. Capriola Co., the newly opened Western Arts and Gear Museum honors the lives of iconic Westerners, such as G.S. Garcia and trick rider and Cowgirl Hall of Famer Mabel Strickland.
From there, take a trip over to the Western Folklife Center to view some Western art, have a drink at the Pioneer Bar or see a show at the G Three Bar Theater.
Basque in the Glory of Cowboy Country Cuisine
After a day spent exploring ghost towns and ranches and buying all the Western gear your wagon can carry, you’re bound to work up an appetite. And no trip to Elko County is complete without a stop at The Star Hotel, a Basque restaurant and bar.
The Basque people immigrated to Northern Nevada from a small region of land between France and Spain in the mid-1800s. Primarily sheepherders, Basque folk became known in the region for their hearty cooking. Basque cuisine is beloved among Nevadans, and The Star is no exception.
Meals at The Star are served family-style and with enough grub to feed an entire team of ranch hands. Along with your entree of choice, every meal comes with soup, spaghetti, french fries, beans and a bottle of table wine.
If you’re feeling adventurous after dinner, order the Picon Punch from the bar. Known as the Basque Cocktail, the Picon Punch is made with Torani Amer liqueur, soda water, grenadine and brandy. But beware: these drinks are strong enough to knock down even the toughest cowboy or cowgirl in the West.
Roy Rogers was on to something when he sang about riding “through the wide open country that I love.” Whether you’re an urban cowboy or a classic buckaroo, once you’re in Cowboy Country you’ll be jumping fences in no time.