- Associated Press - Thursday, June 12, 2014

RENO, Nev. (AP) - Hot, dry and dusty.

That’s how someone who buzzed across Nevada on Interstate 80 or U.S. Highway 50 might describe the scenery.

But crossing the state on foot via the American Discovery Trail is a completely different experience.

The national, coast-to-coast trail stretches 496 miles through Nevada from Baker to Incline Village, goes over 10,000 and 12,000 foot mountain summits, through thick stands of aspen, crosses paths of elk herds and mountain lions and along the shore of Lake Tahoe.

“It’s paradise, man,” said Brian Stark, who in 2011 ran the Nevada section of the trail in 11 days, seven hours and 28 minutes. “It was a world of difference between running the highway and running actual trail across the state of Nevada.”

Stark, 42, has run across 31 states and made the trip in part to highlight the significance of the American Discovery Trail, which goes between Cape Henlopen State Park in Delaware and Point Reyes National Seashore in California.

Although sections of the trail have been in existence before the United States was a country, the American Discovery Trail hasn’t yet been recognized by Congress. Recognition, according to Stark and others, would make it possible to post trail markers for runners, cyclists and equestrians and help elevate the visibility of the route.

For Nevada, it would mean exposing some of the nation’s best backcountry to a wider audience of potential visitors, extreme athletes and adventurers.

“When I got to those woods and bearing down on Lake Tahoe, the alpine forest, the pine needles, the blue lakes … it was just a really, really great thing to see,” Stark told the Reno Gazette-Journal (http://on.rgj.com/1krYQEb), describing the experience. “The thought of Nevada from people who don’t live there is flat and brown but that is not the case.”

While the trail is an opportunity to see parts of Nevada, and the country, most people never see, the politics of getting the designation from Congress is all too familiar.

From about 1998, Congress has seen several proposals to designate the American Discovery Trail, but the job remains undone.

Backers say they have a difficult time identifying specific problems they could address because it’s not getting derailed out in the open. It’s merely languishing without action while supporters try to assuage vague concerns about the trail representing an increase in federal control of the land.

Peter Schoettle of the American Discovery Trail Society said westerners in particular have a tendency to view any sort of federal designation as an expansion of the federal government.

“Everybody east of the Mississippi laughs at that and thinks it is loony,” Schoettle said. “I think there is a real split in the country.”

Backers merely want Congress to add the American Discovery Trail to the National Trails System, which was created in 1968 as a system of scenic, historic and recreational trails. There are now eight National Scenic Trails, 15 National Historic Trails and more than 1,000 National Recreational Trails.

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