Sharing the beauty of Carpenter Valley

Truckee Donner Land Trust has ensured that many tracts of beautiful pristine land in the Tahoe Sierra are preserved for wildlife and recreation, which now includes Carpenter Valley.

Views of Prosser Creek. | Priya Hutner

The 600 acres of Carpenter Valley were purchased in July, and the Land Trust is offering docent-led hikes so people can experience the beauty and ecology of this newly acquired gem.

There was a crowd of 40 people gathered around volunteer docents Andrew Terry and Bob Bowles when I joined a recent guided hike to the valley. Leslie Benson, also one of the docents, was the sweep on this tour and trailed behind the group.

The wildflowers were mostly finished blooming, but aster, Indian paintbrush and goldenrod dotted the area.

Wildflowers in Carpenter Valley. | Priya Hutner

Working with the Nature Conservancy and the Northern Sierra Partnership, the Truckee Donner Land Trust’s mission is to protect the area’s ecological gems.

I walked along the dirt road with Kathy Englar, the development director for the trust. We meandered along the North Fork of Prosser Creek, through the woods and through a portion of Crabtree Canyon, 640 acres, which was purchased by Tahoe Donner Association from the Truckee Donner Land Trust and is protected through a partnership of the organizations.

The woods were rich with the smell of pine and the earth damp from the rains the day before. We came upon a tiny house along the way, the home of the caretakers of the land. They maintain the area. Currently only guided hikes are permitted on the land.

We stopped along a portion of the creek and Terry offered a bit of history about the area.

Kathy Englar and Priya Hutner.

“This is a year-round stream with constant clear, cool water so it’s ideal for fish and wildlife here. This land was visited by the Washoe, who came here every summer to farm the camas lily bulbs. They pulled the bulbs, put them in an oven and baked them,” said Terry, who added that the purple flowers were the ones the Washoe ate.

William Carpenter and his wife Julia settled the valley in the 1920s. They brought their cattle up from the Central Valley to the area to graze. It is only after 50 years that the plants and willows have grown back along the creek. Much of the area has been restored and is a refuge for wildlife.

Bob Bowles talks to participants during a guided hike.

As we continued along our journey, Carpenter Valley came into view. The Carpenter Valley Peak and Carpenter Valley ridge rose off in the distance. We walked along the valley floor. The wildflowers were mostly finished blooming, but aster, Indian paintbrush and goldenrod dotted the area. Terry pointed out sandhill cranes on the other side of the creek. He says they are relatively new to area. They are a magnificent bird, with a unique guttural clucking sound.

We walked past the Cobden Cabin, which currently is privately owned and the Land Trust is working to purchase the land in the future. As we walked farther down the road, we came on private property signs where decedents of the Carpenters own land. The docents were extremely mindful and asked the group numerous times to respect their privacy.

It is all part of a fragile relationship. We received a brief history of the geology of the area and then we proceeded to cross a bridge and make our way to the other side of the valley. Along the way, we caught glimpses of the Sierra Crest and the backside of Castle Peak and Basin Peak.

The Carpenter Valley acquisition including more than 1,300 acres that comprise both the Lower Carpenter Valley, which is part of the guided tours, and the 640-acre Crabtree Canyon parcel now owned by Tahoe Donner Association.

“As the Truckee Donner Land Trust works to unify the Sierra Checkerboard, [the alternating pattern of public and private land established when the transcontinental railroad was built in the 1800s], we envision a time when trails will connect our properties at Castle Peak, Carpenter Valley, Independence Lake and Webber Lake so residents and visitors can enjoy multi-day hiking and back-country skiing across all these properties,” says Englar.

The hike is about 5 miles roundtrip and is mostly flat. Glacier boulders, a large forest of tall aspen trees and beautiful vistas make this hike special. And, made me grateful to the Truckee Donner Land Trust.

Carpenter Valley docent-led hikes will continue on select dates until Oct. 29, weather permitting.

For more information and to sign up for docent hikes, visit Dates for guided hikes are listed in the Events calendar in each edition and at