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Out there

Desert Companion

What

(shoot hoops!)

 

Is There

(paddle! stargaze!)

 

to Do

(fish! volleyball!)

 

Outdoors?

It’s a great big world out there, and these people make the
most of it

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Bird watching
by Shanti Colangelo-Curran

Bird watching

Jim Boone keeps a sharp eye out for birds at The Clark County Wetlands Park; it’s a hobby he shares with his wife Liz. “Birding is something you can do anywhere in the world, and spend as much or as little time doing it as you want,” says Liz. Jim adds, “You can do it in a downtown environment, or a natural environment.” He should know. Jim runs an authoritative and extensive website on birding and hiking called, fittingly, birdandhike.com.

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Flag football
by Shanti Colangelo-Curran

Football

BSB, in blue jerseys, squares off against War Machine at All American Park. If you thought flag football was just a quaint relic of high school P.E. classes, think again. It has become a popular pastime for adults, too. For eight years, Las Vegas Sports League President T.J. Love has been organizing games for men, women and kids. They get all the gridiron thrills — without the concussions and injuries traditional football is becoming known for. “I love what I do,” says Love. “Who wouldn’t love coming to the football field as their job? It’s just much better than sitting inside behind a desk.”

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Basketball
by Aaron Mayes

Basketball

It’s an unusually warm January evening on the Sunset Park basketball courts. As last light fades, Abraham, Jelani, Leopoldo and Michael play a warm-up game of two-on-two. Wilt, LeBron, Jordan and Dr. J they are not. But, oh, are they dedicated. You’ll find them here pounding it out every Saturday amid the rumble and roar of planes flying in and out of McCarran. They’ve been coming to Sunset for years for casual pick-up games. Sure, there’s the occasional hothead or court beef, but the competition is generally as friendly as it is plentiful.

“There are always a lot of new guys who come in, so you get to play with and meet different people every week,” says Michael Savage. “Then you get the same people (who) become your little rivals out here. It’s fun when you get to beat them.” When you ask them if this is a hobby, a pastime, a passion, the group answers in unison: “Ball is life.”

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Tai Chi
by Shanti Colangelo-Curran

Tai Chi

Tai chi practitioner and health educator Tamalyn Taylor leads a class at The Gardens Park and Community Center in Summerlin. Taylor has been practicing tai chi for 12 years now, but her enthusiasm for it is as strong as when she began the practice. “I found that the slow and rhythmic pace of the movements helped me to increase my muscular control, coordination, and balance,” she says. “Being mindful of the present moment brought more self-awareness and led me to giving up negative thought patterns that were interfering with my peace of mind. I found that as I progressed further into my tai chi practice, I was able to tone down my reactions to stressful events in my life. Best of all, I now have a practice that is gentle yet challenging enough that I can continue it for the rest of my life.”

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Cycling
by Shanti Colangelo-Curran

Cycling

Alain Quesnel, pictured right, rides with friends at Red Rock National Conservation Area. He fell in love with cycling in 2005, and would come to Southern Nevada every winter to ride, finally moving here in 2012. “I love all the outdoor possibilities that Vegas has to offer. Whether nearby like Red Rock, or a couple of hours away like Death Valley, Valley of Fire or Zion.” Now he’s even sharing the love, organizing regional bike tours in his spare time.

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Kayaking
by Aaron Mayes

Kayaking

Mike Smalls’ paddle digs softly into the water, propelling him quietly along as ducks forage and fish take flight here and there. This is his first time in a kayak, but you wouldn’t know it. It’s almost as though the serene surroundings bring out a natural confidence.

Smalls joins the group brought here to Lake Mead by Boulder City-based Desert Adventures to enjoy the water on a perfect February day, proof that kayaking in Southern Nevada is popular all year long — and that popularity is growing. Last year, Black Canyon became a National Water Trail, the first such Department of Interior designation. Paddle sports continue to evolve, and Desert Adventures owner Izzy Collett notes the emergence of all sorts of water sports, including stand-up paddling, kayak fishing, and riverboarding.

“When I first moved here in 1996, there were no paddle shops around, and no retail stores anywhere that carried kayaking gear,” Collett says. “Now the Vegas Valley has several big-name sporting goods stores that carry entry-level paddling gear, and multiple outfitters and rental shops near the water that carry specialty kayaks, paddles and gear. Our local paddling Meetup group has more than 1,000 members.” Proof that in the desert, fun on the water is an all-season sport.

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Larping
by Aaron Mayes

Larping

Spear at the ready, Murphy, aka Bobby Parker, battles his foe Acrid the Scarecrow, aka Dustin Macari. During the week they’re normal guys, but come Saturdays at Desert Breeze Park, they’re fierce warriors.

They’re members of the local group Barad’Dun that plays Dagorhir, a full-contact medieval-themed combat sport — think men and a few women beating each other with foam swords, shields, arrows and spears. Barad’Dun is just one of many LARP (live-action role-playing) groups that congregate locally, bringing a little old-school chivalry — and wild battles — to the valley.

On this day, 20 players — some in full medieval outfits, others in shorts and T-shirts — fight for glory. Amid a pitched battle, one player holds her ground and pays the price. “Dead!” she yells, putting an arm above her head indicating she’s out this round. “Nice chest stab, bro,” she says to the victor. “I felt my soul shake.”

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Star gazing
by Aaron Mayes

Sky gazing

Rob Lambert, president of Las Vegas Astronomical Society, greets people to his station with a “Step right up!” shtick as he points out the Great Orion Nebula. A young girl looks on as Lambert explains that the nebula, seen on a small screen showing a live view from his telescope, is part of the Orion constellation. The nebula, he continues, holds a cluster of stars that were born out of hydrogen gas, and is 1,500 light years away from us. He knows he’s lost her, and pulls out his green laser pointer to show her where they are looking in the sky. She’s back.

The light-drenched Neon Museum might not seem to an ideal place for stargazing, but the 1,300-plus people who came out to the Jan. 24 “Stars & Stardust” event didn’t mind a little terrestrial flicker and glow. The plentiful powerful telescopes helped them enjoy a glimpse of celestial bodies that are otherwise drowned out in a town where dark skies are a rarity.

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Trail running
by Shanti Colangelo-Curran

Trail running

The Southwest Ridge area near Blue Diamond Road and Hualapai Way is wildly popular with trail runners for its panoramic views and challenging terrain. Here, Kara Nassoiy hits the trail with some friends. “I ran cross-country in high school but never ran track,” she says. “I wasn’t really interested in doing laps on a track when I could be running through fields, mountains and sometimes cow pastures with the cross-country team.” That translated into a lifelong love of running in the natural environment. “There’s just something so amazing about being alone in the mountains with no sound other than your breathing, your footsteps hitting the earth below your feet, and the sound of the wind. It is absolutely inspiring.”

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Sand volleyball
by Aaron Mayes

Sand volleyball

Sand flies from the feet of 702 Volleyball athletes as coach Jennifer Richards shouts encouragement to her team of high school girls. They bump, set, spike and dig in the pits at Sunset Park, a local hub for all things sand. The beach volleyball scene at the park “has exploded over the past couple of years,” Richards says. And while it’s a little harder these days to find an open court, the sandy scene still has a laid-back beach vibe. “It’s just really turned into a great relaxing scene with chairs and coolers and just a bunch of people and great socialization and great activity and great atmosphere.”

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Fly fishing
by Aaron Mayes

Fly fishing

Water ripples with a soft breeze upon the Tule Springs reservoir as Randy Upton casts his line near a stand of cattails. For Upton, president of the Las Vegas Fly Fishing Club, fly fishing is a sport, yes, but it’s also a form of meditation, requiring stillness, focus and patience. “You become a little more disconnected from the world around you,” he says. “It’s in that state where you are no longer worried about anything else around except for that one little thing in front of you.”

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Parkour
by Shanti Colangelo-Curran

Parkour

Parkour enthusiast Perris Aquino practices moves on the UNLV campus. Aquino has been practicing parkour — and its flashier, exuberant cousin, freerunning — for almost 10 years. The sport has grown in popularity in recent years, with specialized gyms, parks and even classes dedicated to the craze, but Aquino prefers to leap off the beaten path. “Me, personally, I never took any formal classes. It was kind of me just training by myself. And that’s kind of the route I took progressing in it.”

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