|May. 30th, 2008 10:44 am Getting _way_ away from it all|
Last weekend (Memorial Day), jan_can_too and I went camping in the northern Nevada desert for the Black Rock Rendezvous. We had a great time!4 comments - Leave a comment
This annual event is held in the same general area as Burning Man, and is a gathering of various folks who share an interest in the Black Rock Desert; there were some Burning Man folks like us, but also scientists (archaeologists, paleontologists, biologists), historians (several of the emigrant parties enroute to California in the 1840's and 1850's passed through here), high-power rocketry enthusiasts, off-road enthusiasts, and general desert rats. It's a much smaller event than Burning Man (about 300 people, versus Burning Man's 40,000), and far more informal: no fee, camp wherever you want, and none of the standard restrictions that apply during Burning Man (driving on the playa, guns, fireworks, etc.). We spent most of our time chilling in camp with our friends, and doing a couple of off-road drives through some beautiful landscape.
This was our first "real" trip in our new (to us) camp trailer, a 2005 Thor Tahoe "19WSD":
Since this was the shakedown cruise for our trailer, we expected we might have some problems... As it happened, the only problem we had was that the fresh water pump failed on Monday (Memorial Day), so we ended up coming back a day earlier than we'd planned.
We camped with our friends Linda, John, Amelia, Laura, and Andy, and we had a great time. We chose a campsite at the top of the hills surrounding the Playa, about a mile away from the edge of the Playa (where the main events for the Rendezvous were held) and a couple of hundred feet above the Playa floor. There were about a 20 or so other people camped on the same plateau as us, in our own little island in the sky away from the main camping area down on the edge of the Playa (where most of the rest of the 300 or so people there for the Rendezvous camped).
Besides simply hanging out around the campfire with Janet and our friends, the high points of the weekend for me were a couple of off-road trips that we took, led by guides from the Bureau of Land Management (the whole Black Rock Desert area is a BLM-managed "Natural Conservation Area").
On Saturday, we took a short trip to view ancient Indian pictographs painted on a rock about 5 miles from the Playa. This involved about 30 minutes of off-road driving to get to and from the site. I had a blast doing the driving; I haven't don't much of that sort of driving since I was a kid, on my grandparents' cattle ranch. Nice to know that all the old skills are still there...
On Sunday, we took a much more extensive off-road trip to Soldier Meadows, Fly Canyon, and High Rock Canyon. This trip involved several hours of off-road driving, with stops at a few places along the way for exploring and lunch and stuff. The area were were driving in was only about 25 miles north of the Playa, but was much wetter and greener; the local mountains make a big difference as to what areas get lots of rain and what get very little. Here's Janet at the Soldier Meadows hotsprings:
From there, we went to Fly Canyon:
There are a series of historical markers along the Emigrant Trails, with quotes from the journals of emigrants who passed through here on the way to California during and after the Gold Rush. Here's the one at Fly Canyon:
Can you imagine trying to take a Conestoga wagon through terrain like this? The emigrants did, and this isn't anywhere near the worst terrain we saw along their route:
There was one part of Fly Canyon (which I didn't get a good photo of, unfortunately) where the wagon route was so steep that they had to unhitch their teams, lead them down by hand, then tie the wagons off with ropes and essentially slide them down the steep slope with the ropes as a brake.
From Fly Canyon, it was on to High Rock Canyon. Along the way, we stopped when somebody spotted this:
Can you see the 6 bighorn sheep in the photo above? Here are magnified versions of the left and right portions of the picture (near the center of the original, vertically), with the sheep outlined:
Wow, what camouflage! They were only about 100 yards away from us.
Finally, a little after 1pm, we reached our ultimate destination of High Rock Canyon, and stopped for lunch.
Looking back the way we came in:
The gap in the base of the wall (just above the woman in the red shirt) is Post Office Cave, where settlers and emigrants used to leave packages and notes and such for each other:
Can't you just imagine the bad guys in some old Western movie setting up an ambush from these cliffs?
High Rock Canyon is broad, sheltered from the winds, and green from the creek that runs through it, which provides abundant water. Emigrants passing through the area used to pause in the canyon for a few days, to rest and let their livestock graze and recover a bit before resuming their arduous journey. Since they had time to kill while resting in the canyon, some of them left calling cards, like this one carved by "George N. Jaquith" in July 1852:
Others used axle grease from their wagons to leave their graffiti:
After our long stop for lunch and exploring in High Rock Canyon, we headed back to camp via a different route, making a big loop. In total, the day's excursion took about 7 hours and involved maybe 70 miles of driving, most of it crawling along in 4-wheel-drive, taking us out to about 25 miles from where Burning Man is held every year. Talk about a different experience, though! I really enjoyed it; I hope that my passengers (Janet, Brad, and Kathryn) did, too.
I had a great time; I hope we'll be back next year!