Reno Adventure Park
July – August 2016
HOW SHEER ADVENTURE SOARS
Reno disc golf park blends beauty and altitude.
BY JOHN DELELLO
As I trot down the concrete runway, I plant my feet consciously and precisely, taking care not to tumble down the mountain. Quickly yet fervently I let the neon-yellow disc fly with all my strength. My target—a steel disc catcher basket—is more than 400 feet away and 200 feet below. Granite, trees, and one of the steepest, loosest side hills in the state stand between my putt and me.
I’m playing the red course—the most difficult of the three disc golf courses at The Reno Adventure Park. Next to me is Reno Adventure Park creator Tom Frost, who declines to throw. He’s 78 years old and a towering 6 feet 4 inches. He has the appearance and mobility of an aging Titan.
When Tom bought the 40-acre plot of unreachable and vertical foothill terrain off Geiger Grade southeast of Reno in 1976, he couldn’t access his land, and consequently had no vision for it.
“I got the bulldozer stuck and about rolled ‘er,” Tom says. “Needed to call in another dozer to get me out.”
Then, when renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s colleague David Dodge declared “This property is magical and a test of perseverance and will be a credit to all involved,” Tom vowed to figure out a purpose for the parcel.
FROM THE GRADE UP
Disc golf involves throwing Frisbee-like discs into a metal basket. The goal, like golf, is to use the least amount of throws possible. Teeing off from concrete tee pads etched into the steep terrain feels more like preparing to skydive than play disc golf.
In 2008, Tom built—almost single handedly—three of the steepest disc golf courses in the world. While Reno Adventure Park sounds like a modest experiment or a manageably sized ‘Disneyland in the Sierras,’ it could be the most humbling and awe-inspiring 40 acres anywhere. One part of the property drops 500 vertical feet in a quarter mile, with an average 38 percent grade on loose footing.
It takes 18 80-pound sacks of concrete and a lot of water to construct a tee pad. The herculean task of wheeling these loads down such a grade put Tom in the hospital. A quintuple bypass and three months later he was back, finishing the course on a limited budget, and primarily by himself at the age of 70.
Ironically, Tom has never played the game and has no desire to do so.
“When I saw a disc catcher in a sporting goods store, I asked the salesman what it was,” Tom says. “He explained the concept and referred me to a couple websites. I did my research including hole lengths, tee pad placement, and studied the layouts of the best courses. I then decided I’d build the most extreme and beautiful disc golf course in the world.”
There are more than 2,500 officially designated disc golf courses in the world and Tom’s courses are ranked in the top 10 for vertical challenge and enjoyment alike. His courses also showcase top-notch metal art. The disc catchers are custom welded from scrap metal. One is made from a 100-year-old wagon wheel.
“I basically lived at a Reno salvage yard. My first purchase was 600 steel pipes for $3,500,” Tom says.
There are more than three miles of singletrack trails that connect the disc golf course holes as well as other loose ribbons of trail. Several lead to beautifully crafted steel benches, offering sweeping views of snow-covered Mt. Rose and the glittery view of south Reno 1,500 feet below.
“I’ve got some designated artist points; the best places to paint, draw, or take photos. Everything in the park’s priority is aesthetics,” says Tom, who paints Tahoe landscapes as a day job. He sells his paintings to fund the adventure park’s ongoing construction.
The trails that connect the holes of the course are worthy hikes, even without throwing a disc. Reno Adventure Park’s benches and artist-lookout points showcase some of the finest views anywhere.
Tom envisions people coming to the park for events including bachelor parties, tours, and to play its courses. Future plans include building an amphitheater and a ’50s-style diner.
Surrounded by a collage of cliffs, spring flowers, juniper, psychedelic hues of dust, and a bluebird sky, the park radiates freedom. There may be no better place to spend an extra 10 minutes searching for a double bogey.