Riding the High Desert Trails through Jawbone Canyon

Fortunately not from one of the cars in the rally...

Be honest with me: when you hear phrases like “High Desert Trails” and “Jawbone Canyon,” don’t you automatically think of some old 1950s-era TV western? I picture Ward Bond as the stern but fair trail master. There’d also be some callow towheaded youth who would learn a valuable object lesson at the end of every episode.

All of which has absolutely nothing to do with what I was doing last weekend.

At the risk of being pigeon-holed as a “rally photographer guy,” I should inform you that High Desert Trails is another car rally, this time staged in the California High Desert somewhere between Ridgecrest and the Palmdale/Lancaster area in a spot known as, you guessed it, Jawbone Canyon.

Unlike Desert Storm in March, which stretched over four days, HDT is a “wham, bam, thank you ma’am” one-day event, which is generally appreciated by rally folk who have to take time off work and drive hundreds of miles (at over $4.00 a gallon) just to be there.

My main memory of this event is, to be blunt, being cold. It’s a little disconcerting for a city boy to be in the middle of the desert and see patches of snow in the shadows of the cacti. My main shooting position was at the top of a hill about a quarter-mile west and uphill from where I had parked my car. The difference in temp was somewhere in the neighborhood of fifteen degrees colder, and it was probably in the fifties where I parked. I attribute this to my parking spot being sheltered from the wind while my perch most certainly was not.

My initial shooting spot was east of my parking spot, but I wasn’t happy with the angles I was getting, so I started scouting to the west and finally found a nice little curve that a few of the cars were nice enough to slide through sideways. I’m sure they were doing it just for me.

Unfortunately, the rally was delayed by almost two hours by a rather serious accident when a dirtbiker ignored numerous warning signs and strayed across the road right into the path of one of the competitors. Fortunately, the man survived the encounter but had to be airlifted out. This pushed the finishing time of the rally from 5:00pm to approximately 7:00pm, when the sun (and temperature) were dropping like a stone.

Gaylord Van Brocklin / Steve Secviar

Driver: Gaylord Van Brocklin; Co-driver: Steve Secviar

This is one of the last photos of the #78 car in that condition. The driver, Gaylord Van Brocklin, decided to finish the last stage of the rally with a flourish by turning the car on its roof, then its wheels, then its roof again. Fortunately, no one was hurt but the car was…shorter.

More on the next page…