Rides with Friends #5; Around Little High Rock Canyon Wilderness

Dooby Vision, can you dig it? Guru Rd will definitely be included in future rides

Sometimes it is best no one else shows up for a ride. Unfortunately this ride got rescheduled at the last minute. But rather than cancelling I just pushed it forward. Of course the weather pushed forward to. It pushed hard enough that the ridge of high pressure that normally sits over northern Nevada snapped. I arrived in Gerlach Friday afternoon to 81o. That wasn’t going to last. I made a quick trip to check out the wisdom of Guru Rd. Pretty far out. Every once in a while you come across an art installation in the desert. This is a gallery of such installations. I will include this road in future trips to the desert.

Weather was starting to change across the Black Rock Desert
Where will your adventure take you?

Riding back to Gerlach the wind was picking up. Clouds were marching across the sky. I had heard from some folks they weren’t going to make the trip. But I kept moving forward as if there might be a participant. I camped at the first lookout on Soldier Meadows Rd. It was a blustery night, high winds, dust, and a little precipitation. By morning my bike looked like it had just done 100 hard miles. I drove back to the Friends Visitor Center, before driving to the start of the ride. I made a detour to the BLM’s Black Rock Station, also a place to bring riders, especially if it is their first visit to the area.

I drove out to Lund Petrified Forest. It really is a remarkable spot, unlike anything I have ever seen. I had to touch the stumps to convince myself they were real. Wood tissue replaced by stone, looks like a stump complete with growth rings. You touch it expecting old dried wood. But it feels like rough textured stone. Your eyes and fingers cannot agree. The fossilized wood represents proto-Sequoia trapped in volcanic ash about 12 million years ago. Most of the time we are trying to imagine very different landscapes 4-12 thousand years ago, so making the jump to 12 mya is unimaginable. Now I want to fill my imagination with the years in between.

Friends you meet along the way
Children of the Earth, Red Skull Bug, Jerusalem Cricket, Potato Bug, all common names for Stenopelmatids

From the Lund pull-out I rode west along the southern border of the Little High Rock Canyon Wilderness until I turned off Co Rd 34, following the Designated Route marker to Little High Rock Reservoir. I was being blasted by the wind, I could see snow squalls all around me, but I felt very capable to make this trip. I was prepared for the weather. I had appropriate layers, base, insulation, and wind/water shell. Galen Watson told me from his ultralight backpacking experience, he never hiked through inclement weather. If there was rain and snow, he would wait it out in his hooped bivy. For me that is an option if the weather is so bad I cannot make forward progress. But with adequate gear and experience I can move through the weather with peace of mind.

The dry spillway of Little High Rock Reservoir, I crossed the dry bed

Little High Rock Reservoir was completely dry. Last time I saw it it was a nice little body of water. I headed to the top of the canyon, but came across a flowing arm of Little High Rock Creek. I wasn’t willing to risk wet shoes, nor was I committed to take my shoes off twice for this unnecessary extension of the trip. I didn’t remember this crossing from Pete Rissler’s and my first visit. Pete shared this route with me in 2017. Next stop was Denio Camp. The homestead is on its way to collapsing. But the spring is thriving with flora and fauna. Otherwise the route was as I remembered it.

I picked a gully with a large boulder hoping I was picking a “smarter” camp spot. It was adequate with a little protection from the wind. One nice feature of a bivy is it requires a much smaller foot print. Once I was in camp I got inside my bivy and sleeping bag. I had my phone on a tripod to mess around with time lapse of the clouds and sunset. Then through the night I could shoot night sky photos.

Waking up, looking over the canyon created by Mahogany Creek

Sometime in the middle of the night the wind broke. It was silent, until it wasn’t. I heard this clopping of hooves in camp. It sounded like they were on top of me. I turned on my headlamp only to have three pairs of eye-shine looking back at me. The deer were frozen in my headlamp 50′ away. Maybe they pick this gully for the same reasons as I. I thought they might walk a little quieter. Hey, trying to sleep over here!

Across a frozen sea of sage, Calico Mountains

I woke to a frozen landscape. Plenty of frosty condensation in my bivy. Never a surprise, but always a little shocking at the volume. I still have yet to pick that campsite that gets the mornings first rays. There is always the next time for the first time! A little snow/sleet blew in as I was breaking camp, but for the most part the storm broke, leaving a blanket of cold air, 18o F, over Black Rock Country. Such crystal clear views with warm light cast across the canyon lands landscape.

A dry High Rock Lake in the distance, getting ready to descend into Smoky Canyon

The ride out brought me to the edge of the Calico Mountains before I dropped into Smoky Canyon. To the north I was looking over the edge of High Rock Canyon. High Rock Lake was dry. The ride out exiting Smoky Canyon is straight forward. You pass the mouth of Little High Rock Canyon. You are looking up at Division Peak, 8533′. You are passing High Rock Lake Wilderness.

I look forward to repeating this ride with a group in better weather. To me it is an ideal introduction to the canyon lands geology of the NCA. It is a region with its own distinct flavor. Little High Rock Canyon begs to be hiked. The “cherry-stem roads” can take you to unique vistas by bike. The abundance of water brings you face-to-face with biodiversity. Land use is primarily ranching and you are brought to the edge of the Applegate Emigrant Trail. By the numbers the route is 46.2 miles with 3,700′ of climbing, though the actual ride recorded slightly smaller numbers. Split between two days, this is a very doable route.

Here is the link to the route on Ride with GPS. Everything I currently ride and routes I dream up are here. I rode my Manzanita gravel bike on this ride with 650bX47mm tires. They were adequate for the terrain. I may have ridden some of the chunkier bit on my mountain bike faster, maybe not.

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