Jeeping in High Rock Canyon

Updated: May 23

Since spwinter can't seem to figure itself out this year (we got a snowstorm on Mother's Day), we decided to go out on a Jeep adventure rather than a hiking adventure. My husband has had his eye on High Rock Canyon for weeks, waiting for the road to open following the lambing and nesting season. Well, this was the day it opened and we were on our way to Black Rock Desert.


We got up early and headed toward Reno, then Pyramid Lake, then Gerlach. Apparently, "Bruno" owns just about every business in Gerlach. The motel, the gas station, the laundromat in the back of the gas station, the motel/cafe/casino/saloon...



It's almost as if time has stopped here.


We topped off the tank at what would be our last available gas station and set out to view the vast desert playa.



Check out the van racing across it!



It reminded me of Racetrack Playa in Death Valley, but far more dusty and silty. I was also perplexed at the sight of agricultural farms in Black Rock Desert. Lots of irrigation systems spanned the landscape and it made me wonder, why try to grow things in the desert?


Leaving the Playa area, we now were on a dirt road for a very long time. It was windy, cool, and partly cloudy all day. We even ran into stretches of light rain, snow, and graupel.



The mountain-scapes were still spring green with their sagebrush covering, and some wildflowers were definitely in bloom. Even though we see wild horses fairly regularly as we pass through the high desert on our adventures, it's still a treat.



After what felt like a hundred miles on the dirt road, we arrived at the canyon entrance.




Then, the scenery got a little more interesting.




It's hard to believe that wagon trains in the mid-1800s during the California Gold Rush navigated this very road.




We parked and checked out a really dark cave that served as a quasi-post office for the gold-seeking emigrants, where they'd reportedly leave letters for other emigrants passing through. Another form of communication then was emigrant graffiti. This man (seemingly from Wisconsin) carved this message on July 16, 1852.




As we ventured farther into the canyon, things got a little interesting. Despite being in the middle of the desert, we found ourselves crossing a creek four different times. The first crossing, pictured below, was definitely the deepest water we have ever crossed in the Jeep. I was freaking out too much to get any video or photos of it, but we're pretty sure the water was halfway up our doors.


Thankfully, we made it across without incident, but I was sweating it.


Then the Jeep "road" turned more into a Jeep "trail," narrowing on both sides with thicker brush overcoming the trail. Needless to say, the Jeep got a few more pinstripes on this trek.


Once we made it out of the canyon, everything opened up to miles of green sagebrush and subtle pockets of colorful wildflowers. We also drove through a bit of precipitation.



Something about this terrain and landscape reminded me of our most memorable wildflowers and waterfalls hike in northern California.



We found our way back out to NV State Route 8A, which was still a dirt road, and continued to CA-299 that took us to Cedarville, CA, a cute western small town. We stopped on the downtown strip and had a late lunch at Country Hearth Restaurant & Bakery.


From Cedarville, we stayed on CA-299 and drove through snow showers over the mountain pass that connected to Hwy 395. This would be a section of 395 that we hadn't yet seen. Driving through the next town, Alturas, it was disheartening to see so many closed and empty businesses along the main thoroughfare. Just outside the town, however, I spotted a pair of sandhill cranes standing in the tall grass of a marshy area, which is always a welcomed sight. Three hours to Reno and then back up the hill to Tahoe!

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