Nye Trail Work August 23-27


Ryan “Dirtmonger” Sylva, ODT thru-hiker 2017

Ryan “Dirtmonger” Sylva, ODT thru-hiker 2017

“To me, it’s a thru-hike in an isolated place that promotes a conversation in land management, ethics and usage. Hiking across a vast and remote landscape and having a random and chance encounter with cowboys and hunters to discuss how ‘all of us’ should treat the land, how we all have a responsibility, no matter our political leanings, really showed me the pulse of the people in rural areas, especially here out west.”


Great Basin Spadefoot Toads – a sleepy chorus

Great Basin Spadefoot Toads – a sleepy chorus


Sage Steppes

Sage Steppes

Organizer: Renee Patrick

Start Date: 8/23/2018

End Date: 8/27/2018

Region: Steens

Difficulty Rating: 5 out of 5

Maximum Group Size: 12 participants

About the place

Steens Mountain lies along the horizon of southeastern Oregon like a sleeping giant among a bed of sagebrush, perennial grasses, and wildflowers. Although often mistaken for a chain of mountains, Steens is actually one contiguous monolith — the largest fault block mountain in North America, stretching some 50 miles and reaching a mile vertically, with summits that overlook the Alvord Desert, wide canyons, and the Donner und Blitzen River. The Nye Trail offers a steep descent into Little Blitzen Gorge from the Cold Springs Road.

About the stewardship work

ONDA created Oregon Desert Trail (ODT) a few years ago to link existing trails, old two-track roads, and cross country travel as a way to introduce hikers to the stunning landscapes found in Oregon’s high desert. The Nye Trail is part of an alternate route for hikers in the Steens Mountain Wilderness.

We typically head to the work site at 8 a.m. and stop work by 4 p.m. in order to leave time in the afternoon to clean-up, relax, and cook a well-deserved dinner. The work will involve using loppers and handsaws to clear brush from the corridor of the trail, as well as a variety of other trail tools to clear and maintain the corridor according to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) trail standards. The section of trail we will be working on is a steep narrow trail that is quite exposed in places. ONDA will provide all instruction and necessary tools to do the job. No previous trail building experience is needed to attend this trip. All that is required is a love of the high desert, a big smile, and a willingness to learn.

Trip timeline

  • Thursday, August 23, 3 p.m.: We will meet at the Steens Loop Road/Cold Springs Road junction, and backpack into our primitive camp near Nye Cabin (approx 3 miles). The BLM will provide vehicle assistance to carry tools/water/gear into our camp spot as the road is too rough for most vehicles. We will set up camp, and volunteers are welcome to hike or explore the area at their own leisure.
  • Friday, August 24: After breakfast, we will begin our work brushing and maintaining the trail tread. Volunteers should plan to be out all day, and be prepared for a full day of hiking and doing physical work in full sun.
  • Saturday, August 25: After breakfast, we will continue our work brushing and maintaining the trail tread. Volunteers should plan to be out all day, and be prepared for a full day of hiking and doing physical work in full sun.
  • Sunday, August 26: After breakfast we will spend the morning learning about a unique aspect of the high desert environment. (Do you have specialized knowledge of the high desert you would like to share with your fellow volunteers? Our morning session could cover information about the local geology, plant or animal life, cultural history, or even involve a session of creating artwork or a piece of writing. Contact Renee for more information about this new educational opportunity on this volunteer trip). After lunch we will continue our brushing and maintaining the trail tread.
  • Monday, August 27: After breakfast, we will pack up camp, and return back to our cars. The BLM will provide vehicle assistance to carry tools/gear back to the vehicles.


We will be hiking to our camp above Little Blitzen Gorge, approximately 3 miles in from Steens Loop Road/Cold Springs Road junction. We will be meeting at 3 p.m. at the junction before backpacking in together. The BLM will provide vehicle assistance to carry tools/water/gear into our camp spot as the road is too rough for most vehicles.


Level 5

Challenges will be backpacking several miles into the work site, physically strenuous work on a steep trail at elevations between 6,200 – 7,500’, and hot daytime temperatures.

Participant responsibilities

Participants are responsible for their own food, camping gear as well as transportation to and from the trip. In the event of sunny and hot weather, please bring up to four liters of water capacity for the day, and consider an electrolyte replacement drink or mix to help you stay hydrated. There is no water at camp; ONDA will provide some water, but please supplement with up to a five-gallon water jug to ensure your water needs are covered for the duration of the trip. The BLM will transport this water to our campsite. Sturdy off-trail ankle-high boots, long pants, a long sleeve shirt (a lightweight sun shirt is a great option), and eye protection are required for this trip (sunglasses or prescription eyeglasses are suitable eye protection). Participants should be prepared to be away from camp all day and bring a daypack for lunch, snacks, and water.

Gear provided

ONDA and the BLM will provide tools for the work, work gloves, sunscreen, and hardhats. We will provide some water, expert leadership, and we can talk about long distance hiking on Oregon Desert Trail. This is a backpacking-based trip, so volunteers will need to pack their gear (with some assistance from the BLM) and be prepared for an awesome backcountry camping experience.


An ONDA registration application and medical form are required for this trip.

Apply now

You only need to fill this form out once per year and can join additional trips this year by emailing the trip leader directly. You will receive a confirmation email within 10 working days of submitting your form. The confirmation email will provide information regarding which trips you are on the “participant list” for, and which trips are full, and therefore you have been placed on the “waitlist.”

Six weeks before the start of the trip, the trip leader will send out an RSVP to make sure everyone is still able to participate. Based on RSVPs, open spaces will be backfilled with people from the waitlist.

Three weeks before the trip start date, registered and confirmed participants will receive driving instructions, maps, carpooling options, and additional information in an email sent by the trip leader

If you have any questions in the meantime, please don’t hesitate to contact the trip leader.