The history of High Rock is quite literally written on the walls of the canyon. During the
High Rock Canyon is closed from February until the beginning of May for raptor breeding and bighorn sheep calving. The sheep were reintroduced to the area in 1996 after being absent for more than 50 years. We arrived at the southern mouth of the 16-mile canyon just two weeks after it reopened to the public, and early enough to beat sweltering summer temperatures. There is no fuel and very little drinking water available in the Black Rock Desert, so those who venture this way are wise to be well prepared and selfsufficient.
The rock that makes up High Rock Canyon was deposited 17 million years ago when the volcanic activity of the Columbia River Plateau deposited lava here. Eight million years later, the lava was faulted, tilted, and uplifted to form the Calico Mountains. In geologic time, man has made but a brief impression on High Rock Canyon. Still, there is evidence of inhabitants as long as 10,000 years ago lurking between the 300-foot-high walls, waiting to be discovered. In more recent times, the canyon was recorded by Captain John Fremont and his expedition, which included legendary mountain man Kit Carson in 1844. The Applegate brothers guided emigrant wagon trains through the canyon on their way to Oregon's Willamette Valley starting in 1846. By 1849, High Rock Canyon had become a well beaten path to the gold fields of California.
Mahogany Creek runs through the canyon, and with it comes an abundance of flora and fauna. The flowers we noted blooming in the canyon included Indian paintbrush, globe mallow, wild iris, phlox, larkspur, and penstemons. A few of the lucky ones at the front of the group witnessed bighorn sheep, while all were treated to numerous hawk and grouse sightings. Mud swallows' nests were also visible along the high canyon walls, well above the danger of four-legged predators. At one point we had to cross the creek, but the water was low enough that even the stock vehicles in the group executed the crossing without incident.
This FJ40 is better equipped for rockcrawling than expedition travel with the spring-over
Dan Streight's UZJ100 was definitely the envy of everyone present. Outfitted from top to b
Jack and Darcy Peeler recently traded their LX450 (aka 80-Series Land Cruiser) for a Tacom
After a full day, our destination for the night was Stevens Camp. From Soldier Meadows, this is the only camp containing toilets, running water, and shelter for miles in any direction. Unfortunately, another group was already occupying the site. Normally we would consider sharing a site with others, but the occupants were brandishing weapons in one hand and open beers in the other, leading us to look for shelter elsewhere. With light failing, we raced across Stevens Camp Road looking for any flat spot large enough to accommodate the eight vehicles in our party.
After traveling approximately 10 miles, we came to a wide, grassy meadow that was relatively flat and free of sage brush. On a windy night Stevens Camp would be preferable, but fortunately the air was calm as we circled the Toyotas and set up camp. Tents and stoves were erected shortly before the sun departed from the sky. After dinner, the group sat around in camp chairs, sharing stories and talking shop. We elected not to have a fire to minimize impact on the land, so the evening festivities did not last long before everyone decided to turn in. It was a calm, cool night, with only the howls of nearby coyotes to break the silence.
The next morning, we awoke with the sun and prepared breakfast before packing up. The meals were as diverse as the participants, running the gamut from cold Pop Tarts to three-egg omelets. After breakfast, everyone had the opportunity to get their hands dirty troubleshooting Nial Maloney's carburetor. The F engine in his FJ55 had been gasping for fuel on the previous day, and changing the fuel filter did nothing to remedy the problem. Disassembling the carb revealed a stuck accelerator pump. After adding a dab of grease and working the pump by hand, the carburetor was reassembled and worked perfectly.