The last hitch

A view into the valley from camp.

Having forgotten ice for our cooler during the last hitch, we find some snow at the end of a work day and bring what we can carry back to camp.

Our summer NCC crew, minus Young and Luke who took their remaining discretionary days before the NCC term ended. We're standing by completed tread (not pictured) in the Mount Rose Wilderness Area.

Assistance arrives

To lessen our weight burden when hiking miles to our camp location, the NCC managed to get us some pack horses to carry our food and kitchen supplies up the mountain. Unlike our food, we had to walk up the mountain.

The NCC crew meets the pack horses before parting ways up the mountain to our campsite.

After retrieving tools from our tool cache made during the previous hitch, crewmembers continue hiking up the mountain.

Dan, Dylan and Luke look into the valley towards Reno.

An Alpine Lake in the Sierra Nevadas

People jump from boulders into Lake Tahoe, the largest alpine lake in North America. Its surface elevation is 6,225 ft. For comparison back at home, Syracuse, NY has an elevation of 380 ft. Lake Tahoe is also the United States' second deepest lake, the first being Crater Lake, OR.

Visitors at Sand Harbor, on the east coast of Lake Tahoe.

NCC crewmember Trent Lieber jumps into Lake Tahoe.

Beach-goers play in Lake Tahoe in the early evening.

NCC crewmembers in Lake Tahoe. The Sierra Nevada mountain range is the background. The mountains encapsulate the lake. The highest peak in the mountains immediately surrounding Lake Tahoe is Freel Peak at an elevation of 10,891 ft.

Sierra Nevada Wildflowers

We have been working outside of Thomas Creek for the past four weeks, building a trail that will eventually connect to the Tahoe Rim Trail. Having to hike about four miles to our back-country camp location for the hitch, we pass a lot of wildflowers. Below are some of them I've documented using a Sierra Nevada field guide.

Alpine Penstemon |  Penstemon davidsonii

Alpine Penstemon | Penstemon davidsonii

Applegate's Paintbrush (orange) |  Castilleja applegatei

Applegate's Paintbrush (orange) | Castilleja applegatei

Applegate's Paintbrush (red) |  Castilleja applegatei

Applegate's Paintbrush (red) | Castilleja applegatei

Bitterbrush |  Purshia tridentata

Bitterbrush | Purshia tridentata

Checker Bloom |  Sidalcea glaucescens

Checker Bloom | Sidalcea glaucescens

Crimson Columbine |  Aquilegia formosa

Crimson Columbine | Aquilegia formosa

Dwarf Chamaesaracha |  Chamaesaracha nana

Dwarf Chamaesaracha | Chamaesaracha nana

Elephant's Head |  Pedicularis groenlandica

Elephant's Head | Pedicularis groenlandica

Giant Mountain Larkspur |  Delphinium glaucum

Giant Mountain Larkspur | Delphinium glaucum

Granite Gilia |  Leptodactylon pungens

Granite Gilia | Leptodactylon pungens

Hartweg's Iris |  Iris hartwegii

Hartweg's Iris | Iris hartwegii

Heart-leaved Arnica |  Arnica cordifolia

Heart-leaved Arnica | Arnica cordifolia

Horsemint |  Agastache urticifolia

Horsemint | Agastache urticifolia

Peony |  Paeonia brownii

Peony | Paeonia brownii

Scarlet Gilia |

Ipomopsis aggregata

Showy Penstemon |

Penstemon speciosus

Sierra Nevada Pea |

Lathyrus nevadensis

Sierra Onion |

Allium campanulatum

Sierra Plum |

Prunus subcordata

Sierra Stickseed |

Hackelia nervosa

Snow Plant |

Sarcodes sanguinea

Soft Arnica |

Arnica mollis

Spreading Phlox |

Phlox diffusa

Spur Lupine |

Lupinus arbustus

Woolly Mule's Ears |

Wyethia mollis

Subalpine Shooting Star |

Dodecatheon subalpinum

Sulfur Flower |

Eriogonum umbellatum

Western Blue Flag |

Iris missouriensis

Western Wallflower |

Erysimum capitatum ssp. perenne

White Rein Orchid |

Platanthera leucostachys

Mount Rose Vistas

The early evening sun lights an alpine meadow in the Mount Rose Wilderness Area outside of Reno, NV. Mount Rose is the leftmost peak in this photo, at an elevation of 10,776 ft, the highest mountain by Reno and in Washoe County.

The crew begins a day of work on the Tahoe Rim Trail by Mount Rose. Snow is still present and several feet deep despite it being mid July. Reno is located in the valley visible in this photo.

Katie, a Harry Potter enthusiast, surprises us all by waking up in costume the morning of the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2. As we are in the middle of an eight-day hitch and she can't watch the movie until getting back to Reno, Katie is nonetheless excited about the day.

The crew works on building tread as part of the Tahoe Rim connection trail in the Mount Rose Wilderness Area.

Camp life in the alpine forests

The crew eating dinner together at the end of a work day in the Mount Rose Wilderness Area.

NCC crewmember tents in our designated camping area. While not normally so close to one another, the frightening prospect of bears coming by at night convinces us to set up our tents near each other.

Crewmembers hike items up to the campsite, located over four miles from where our trucks are parked with a gain in elevation the entire way. Here we take a short break on trails the NCC built just recently before hiking the remaining distance.

The crew watches as our crew leader, Phil, attempts to throw a rope around a branch in order to secure our bear hang. Due to the hiking distance from our trucks to our campsite, the idea of carrying a bear box up is out of the question. Instead, we hang our food from a tree. Setting up bear hangs can be very, very frustrating.

Phil secures the bear hang. The bags go up at night and up during the work day. Down for breakfast and down for dinner.

Crewmembers try to catch popcorn from a Jiffy Pop aluminum pan gone awry after dinner.


Phil walks under one of the bear hangs.

Another Day in the Office

The crew commissions single track trail in a recreational area by Pyramid Lake, NV managed by the BLM. We were charged with creating a re-route for OHVs around an area that was recently designated as culturally sensitive. We were apparently not qualified to know what was culturally sensitive about the area, but we gathered that this area, named Spirit Canyon, was of significance to neighboring Native American tribes who perhaps performed rituals in this Canyon. Above, the crew walks through Spirit Canyon.

After work on Thursday, the last day of hitch, we take a dip into Pyramid Lake.

The crew walks over the trail at the end of the day to return to camp for the evening.


A GBI vehicle has no choice but to venture through a flooded road. There were certainly no intact, water-free adjacent roads we could have taken instead.

GBI Special Forces

The crew rendezvous near the trailhead of the Wilson Canyon trail by Yerington, NV, at the end of the day for a brief meeting. After two hitches, we had completed 3.7 miles of trail. As a result of such a feat, Austin has designated our crew as GBI Special Forces.

The Wilson Canyon area is teeming with petrified wood. This petrified stump is becoming exposed after years of erosion. This area outside of Yerington used to be covered in pine trees before climate change resulted in the arid desert that exists today. Although there is no volcanic activity now, the topography used to be very erratic, and fallen pine trees would be covered in soils, leaving them no oxygen needed to decompose. All organic materials in the wood are eventually replaced with minerals while maintaining the original structure of the wood.

Phil, Austin and Luke build cairns, or reassurance markers, alongside the trail in Wilson Canyon.

After more strong winds at Wilson Canyon, some tents needed to be taken down.

Sand Mountain

NCC crewmembers worked 20 miles east of Fallon, NV at Sand Mountain to decommission unauthorized OHV roads. Sand Mountain, a Singing Sand dune, began to form when the nearby Lake Lahonton dried up. As wind blew across the delta, sand picked up and blew northeast. Trapped by the Stillwater Mountain Range, the sand would fall into its present day location. Over centuries of accumulating sand, Sand Mountain currently stands at almost 600 feet.

The dry lake bed of ancient Lake Lahonton can be seen in the distance. Formed by glaciers over 10,000 years ago, climate change led to the gradual dessication of the lake. As the water level dropped, the lake broke up into a series of smaller lakes. The lake here dried up about 4,000 years ago.

NCC crewmembers decommission roads during precipitation in the Sand Mountain area outside of Fallon, NV. The mountains in the distance belong to the Clan Alpine Mountain Range.

A lizard sunbathes on a rock in the Sand Mountain Recreation Area.

Decommissioning of unauthorized OHV roads in the Sand Mountain Recreation Area. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) manages these 4,795 acres of designated recreation area, used primarily by OHVs. An endemic species called the Sand Mountain Blue Butterfly lives only in this area and was recently petitioned to be listed as a threatened or endangered species. The butterfly is almost completely dependent on Kearney Buckwheat, a plant that continues to diminish due to unchecked OHV use on non-designated areas. Decommissioning unauthorized roads at Sand Mountain will prevent further lose of habitat for the endemic butterfly.

NCC crewmembers take a break.

Sand Mountain.

End of the Spring Mountains


The night sky over our camp, Blue Tree, in the Spring Mountains.


A few of our tents at night at Blue Tree.


Joel stands atop a boulder he climbed in Zion National Park, Utah.


A scorpion in the Spring Mountains.


Heading back to camp after work in the Spring Mountains.


The Spring Mountains.


Nevada Conservation Corps Crew #1 on our last day of trail work in the Spring Mountains.