High in the plateaus of the Sierra Nevada, internal combustion engines struggle for breath in the thin mountain air. Where the landing roll is short, but takeoff distance is eternal. Follow a group of modern day trailblazers on a high flying expedition to a giant sandbox for pilot's.
Remote backcountry bush flying might conjure images of tiny dirt strips carved into the dense forest of toothpick pines at the base of a snow capped Alaskan mountain. Or strapping on floats and taking a dip into an ancient glacier lake in the heart of the Canadian wilderness, but behold the pilot's playground in the dry, arid heat of western Nevada. Just southeast of Lake Tahoe, acres upon acres of public property under the domain of the Bureau of Land Management offer various remote landing sites between 4,000 ft and 12,000 ft above sea level.
Now every year 60-70 airplanes gather in mid October to be led by local expert Kevin Quinn on a guided tour to find the last legal landing destinations in the little remaining untamed frontier. "High Sierra" consists of huge roaring campfires at night and short daytime excursions. Even if you don't have giant bushwheels there are a plethora of dry lake beds, smooth grassy meadows and finely packed sandy strips in entertain pilots of every make and model light aircraft.
This behind the scenes insight to the event jokingly dubbed the "Burning Man" for airplane junkies is sure to move "High Sierra" to the top of every pilot's bucket list.
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Chris is a pilot who loves airplanes and cars and his writing has been seen on Jalopnik. Contact him with questions or comments via twitter or email.