On Wednesday morning Wild Bill II, Trail Boss Dave and Steve “AKA: Scout” headed up to the Black Rock Desert with the intention of doing a bit of coyote hunting and especially trying to locate the elusive Black Rock Lurble & Merble’s. 

Snaring a good camp site for the rest of the Madhatters was also high on our list.  When we arrived our primary camp was taken by Deer Hunters but, we adjusted our plan and found a nice flat spot for our base camp.  The weather was cool, windy and clear.

Prior to heading to the Black Rock, Trail Boss Dave had been checking the forecast.  The final verdict of those that are supposed to know was clear, highs in the mid 60’s and low in the mid 30’s with partly cloudy skies on Saturday. ( Little did we know how very wrong this forecast was )

Thursday afternoon Dennis and his partner, Kevin and Drew, and Rich and Greg arrived.  Little did we know at this time that Tom and Gloria were already ‘lost’ on the Black Rock.

We had a lot of firewood and Thursday evening was spent sitting around a big fire in preparation for hitting the trail at 7:30 the next morning.

About 9 pm Scout was fixing the group a refill of our adult beverage when he shouted out that it was snowing.  Everything went down hill from there. 

Tom and Gloria couldn’t be reached on the Ham or CB radio and everyone was getting seriously worried.  We stayed up until about 2 am waiting and then hit the sack.  It was windy, cold and snowing heavily.


During the night there were all types of strange noises.  When we un-zipped the doors to our tents we were greeted by about 6 – 8 inches of snow that fell inside.  The sky was dark and it was snowing steadily.  After a couple of cups of coffee, ” it took 45 minutes to perk a pot ” Trail Boss Dave made a command decision that we’d have to wait out the storm before driving the 90 + mile loop through High Rock Canyon.


For the most part we went into a survival mode.  The low temp was 17 and the high was 33.  The wind cut through us like a sharp knife.  The weather changed and we went from steady snow with blowing winds to waves of weather coming through our camp about every 45 minutes.  We all sat around the fire and could see the storms coming at us on the open desert.  It was kind of funny when I think back on it because after a couple of these storms everyone automatically got up and hid either inside of their tent or in their rigs with the engines running.  ( not the much heat came out of the heaters)  Kevin blew two freeze plugs on his Jeep.  This was probably for the better because he had no top , doors and the heater didn’t work.

About 2 pm Scout heard a crackle over his ham radio and said it sounded like Air Tom………. After a lot of confusion we figured out that it was Tom.  He was asking for directions to our camp but we couldn’t figure out where he and Gloria were.  To make a long story short, Tom took the 200 Road to Soldiers Meadows on Wednesday and as the storm and darkness approached decided to pitch camp outside of a large cave full of Black Rock Desert Bats.

OK, now everyone felt better that Tom and Gloria were safe so we have to decide what the best way would be to harass them for not being able to follow directions. 

They eventually found us and it was pretty interesting watching them attempt to pitch camp as the high winds and snow storms continued rolling through !

Bottom line is they made it safely.  Everyone was in bed by 9 pm and between you, me, and the bed post I have to say I had a tuff night inside the tent.  It was cold, windy and really really dark.  I can vividly recall thinking to myself on more than one occassion that ” THIS SUCKS !”


Saturday morning Rich and Gregg packed it up and headed home because of work commitments.  ( YEAH SURE !!)  The rest of us, ( Kevin rode with Scout and Drew rode with me) hit the trail about 8 towards High Rock Canyon.  Yeah it was really really cold but it had stopped snowing.  We stopped at the entrance to the Little High Rock Canyon and fooled around. Wild Bill II said he saw a big herd of Merbles, but we couldn’t wait around for another sighting and headed to the entrance of High Rock. ( He said he thinks he got a couple pictures of them )

The scenery was spectacular and yeah it was really really COLD. 

Come to find out, Tom and Gloria had camped in front of Post Office Rock and didn’t even realize it because of the darkness and weather.  When we arrived at the Gunther camp everyone got out, explored the cave and admired the writing’s from 1852 in the rocks.


We loaded up and traveled through the canyon, all the time being overwhelmed by the spectacular views and yes it was really really COLD.

We made a couple stops and had lunch at an old cinder block homestead from 1849.  Trail Boss Dave was searching for Stevens Camp and when he spied it sitting atop a bluff. Everyone turned right and wheeled to the camp.  A group of deer hunters were camped here and gave Dave directions for the easiest and shortest way back to our base camp.

High Rock Gas Station

After about ten minutes of wheeling we started running into snow again.  It continued to get deeper and deeper and we could see more storms approaching from the distant mountain……………. At this stage of the game we were tired of playing and wanted this day to end.  We wheeled about 40 more miles through slushy, slippery snow and eventually reached base camp about 3pm.

It was pretty much like a packing frenzy as everyone decided we’d go into beautiful downtown Gerlach, get a couple of rooms and warm up after a good meal at Bruno’s Country Club and Casino.  Everyone helped Dennis get his diesel truck started ( it was really really COLD) and I went ahead to Gerlack to secure rooms for us.


Upon arriving at Bruno’s I immediately noticed that the place was absolutely packed with Deer Hunters that has the same plan as the Madhatters. All the rooms in the Motel were full.

Using my many years of negotiating tactics I secured two mobile homes in a ” really really nice and classy” Mobile Home park.  The Madhatters started straggleing into Gerlach just about dark and we settled into our new accomodations……..  It was like heaven on the desert.  Hot showers,  shelter and good food.

There was no celebration late into the night by the Madhatters of the Desert.  We woke up bright and early Sunday morning and had breakfast at Bruno’s fine eating establishment…….. ( Actually it’s really good food.)

We loaded up and hit the long road home…….

The bottom line for me is simply that one can never be over prepared when they head out into the mountains, high desert or even the low desert. We used our heads, stayed as dry as possible and lived to tell our High Rock Canyon story.

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About El Presidante

Past Madhatter President (9 years), Retired Police Officer. A mild stroke in 2011 slowed my wheeling down a bit but I'm still working on getting back in the game. I now am TOTALLY retired. Sue and I are approaching 42 years of marriage and our 2 kids and 7 Grandkids keep me busy. At the top of my priority list is getting all those Grandkids up in the mountains on camping and fishing trips. My bucket list is getting shorter but I've still got a lot of projects in the works.
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