Rolling over in my tent, I snuck a look at my watch. 4:57am, three minutes until my alarm would go off. The thought of staying in my cozy sleeping bag for another three minutes was appealing but I knew I’d have to face the 13 degree weather eventually so I decided to rip off the band aid. In a sleeping bag not far away, I heard my co-worker do the same.

With frozen fingers, I fired up the burner to make some hot water to make our lifeblood - coffee. Knowing that it would be a cold morning followed by a full day of hiking and hard work, my co-worker and I decided to make a hot breakfast of pancakes, sausage, eggs, and fruit. The sun peaked over the mountains to illuminate fall colors in the aspen groves just as the mingling smells of coffee and hot food drew the first few volunteers out of their tents.

Unbeknownst to many, Nevada is home to the largest National Forest in the lower 48, the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. With funding from the National Forest Foundation’s Matching Awards Program, we celebrated Friends of Nevada Wilderness’ 10th year of stewardship work by hosting a Hawaiian themed volunteer project in one of the most beautiful mountain ranges on the Humboldt-Toiyabe - the Toiyabe Mountains.

Although it was 7am and only a few degrees warmer than when we woke up, everyone donned their festive Hawaiian garb, packed their backpacks, and made the trek to our worksite. The fall colors were a spectacular backdrop for our hike and work project.

Over the course of the day, we fixed more than two miles of fence which served as a protective barrier against the trampling hooves of non-native animals from damaging a delicate spring source. While these animals may use the water further downstream, the spring source itself is home to a variety of smaller creatures that depend on this fragile ecosystem for survival.

Each day is an adventure as a volunteer stewardship coordinator. Each project is different and each volunteer brings a new dynamic and expertise to the group. Friends of Nevada Wilderness relies on the generosity, willingness, and devotion of our incredible volunteers to protect and preserve the many wild places in Nevada.

At the end of the day, tired and dirty and feeling humbled by the 15 faces in front of me, I fired up the stove once more, made hot beverages for everyone and cooked a dutch-oven meal fit for kings. It’s not much, but it’s the least I can do to say thank you to them. A little coffee and a home-cooked meal go a long way.

National Forest Foundation