MOUNT CHARLESTON, Nev. -- Hidden in the calm of Mount Charleston, reachable by only a few on the ground and in the air, a marijuana farm thrived.
After a long drive, a climb and uneasy steps over thick brush and slick shale, an intimidating path emerged that drug growers used to ferry equipment and product back and forth.
"It was rough to get to. They're very steep slopes," said Forest Service spokesperson Judy Suing. "The rain hasn't made anything easier, but neither have these big rocks. This is at least a 30 to 45 percent grade that we're trying to go over. It's really tough to think that they had to haul gear all the way to the top of this bluff."
At the summit, an eradication effort is underway. More than 1,000 plants were chopped, cut and gutted - some of them reaching six feet in height. The plants are Sensimilla weed.
Signs of people exist everywhere.
"All around, we've been seeing these piles of little Dixie cups that they've been using for starting these plants," Suing said.
"This is cut, dried and ready to go on the market," she said of some of the mature plants.
The buds needed human hands to cultivate. "Basically, get some sort of heating source to heat and dry out the plants," one agent said.
Nevada growers are using the same techniques as those in the fertile northern California pot region. Water on the mountain is channeled and controlled, passing through a pipe until it's time to feed the plants.
"They're tapped into a spring way up there, and that's what's supplying the two pits," an agent said.
The watering methods were smart but crude. When it's not raining, the water slowly collects. Growers filter it with a can on a pipe and a little piece of mesh to get out impurities.
People were present during the bust. Two men made off into the brush, outpacing the agents and disappearing into the cloudy, socked-in ranges.
Ammunition and long-term tents were left behind. Another remnant will also linger.
"The pesticides and the fertilizers are a very big concern, because they do leak into the groundwater, and they get carried away with the rain, and that's going to go into our streams," Suing said.
Agents carried bundle after bundle of pot down the hill. Each bundle weighs up to 75 pounds, adding extra weight to an already challenging descent.
It's a harvest the growers never wanted, a show of force that sends a message and perhaps bring calm back to these mountains.
This was a major task force operation with agents from Nye County, Bureau of Land Management, the Forest Service, Metro Police, North Las Vegas and the Drug Enforcement Administration.
A source tells the I-Team there were three other grows found Wednesday from the air. The eradications are not ending anytime soon.
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