Thursday, October 19, 2017

Ugly Foot Alert!

I had my first hiking injury recently, which can be a little scary when hiking alone in the desert. I'm generally very careful, planning my hikes in detail, marking waypoints on my phone to help me keep my bearings, and even using a tracking app that allows me to follow my exact tracks back to the start of the hike. I do a short write-up (complete with waypoints) prior to going on a hike. I print out out two copies (take one with me, and leave a copy for my wife) so there is no question of where I will be hiking. If for some reason I don't return, she knows where to find me! Perhaps most importantly, I STICK TO THE PLAN! There can be deadly consequences if I change my mind at the last minute and hike in an area where nobody knows where I am. I consider all this more or less mandatory for off-trail hiking in the desert from a safety and survival perspective.

So a few weeks ago I decided to hike the "Twin Tanks" area in Joshua Tree (more to follow about Twin Tanks on my next post, so stay tuned!). I had never hiked here before, and there is no trail leading to the Twin Tanks area. It requires some navigation ability and use of waypoints and landmarks. Also, I checked out a trusted resource before doing the hike (patricktillett.blogspot.com). My friend Pat had this to say about the area:

This place is a warren of washes and small canyons, many of which terminate in a dead end. What I'm saying, is that it is very easy to get lost and/or injured in this area. For most people, getting lost in the desert or wilderness, is a very bad thing. Sometimes, it is a fatal mistake. This is made all the worse, by the absence of cell phone signals here.

OK, this definitely raised a red flag in my mind to be careful. Thanks, Pat, for the heads up! So off I went on my Twin Tanks hike, well prepared and with camera gear, plenty of water, snacks, as well as other safety gear.


There is no trail to the Twin Tanks area, so right at the start of the hike you have to make a decision: Follow the wash (photo above), or take a more cross country approach? The wash is sandy, which makes hiking harder, with lots of twists and turns. Cross country can mean more rugged terrain with ups and downs. I chose the cross country approach, but rejoined with the wash from time to time.


Early in the hike, at about 3/4 of a mile or so, the rock formations started getting interesting. It might have been at this spot that I started hiking up one of the boulders to get a better vantage point for a photo.

Or maybe it was at this spot? I guess it doesn't matter, but I ended up slipping as I climbed a boulder. I went down hard, holding my DSLR in one hand and my hiking stick in the other. I heard a "clunk" as my camera base hit a rock, I felt a sharp pain in my right ankle and my right palm was bleeding. My first thought was "Oh s**t, I broke my camera!" My second thought was "Am I going to be able to hike out of here??" Thankfully, my camera was fine. I had some mild ankle pain, but I could walk on it.
Yup, I warned you. This is my ankle a few days after the hike as it's starting to turn purple. I don't know why the purple bruise follows that sharp line above my heel.


View of the other side of my right foot. Ugly, bruised and swollen, but nothing broken!

Since it didn't hurt too much to walk, I continued on my hike. It was actually a great hike, and I intend to go back for a second visit. There are some petroglyphs I would like to see that I didn't quite make it to on this hike. I'll leave you with a few pretty sky shots from the Twin Tanks hike.






Addendum: A sad ending to the young hikers that went missing in Joshua Tree in late July. Amazingly, it took over 2 1/2 months and thousands of search-hours to find the bodies (their bodies were found embracing on Sunday, Oct. 15). You can read a short article here. It just highlights how dangerous and sometimes deadly the desert can be.


Tune in next time for more photos taken during my hike in the Twin Tanks area.
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Thursday, October 12, 2017

Smoky Skies

Pretty skies, but at a heavy, heart-breaking cost. According to the news, something like 17 wildfires were burning in California early this week. The closest to my family is the Canyon Fire 2 in the Anaheim Hills area (about 15 miles as the crow flies from my house). We are in no danger, and thankfully, no loss of life (although significant loss of structures) from the Canyon Fire 2. Not the case for the fires burning in the Santa Rosa and wine country area. These fires sound devastating, and my heart goes out to those folks.

I picked up my granddaughter at school on Monday afternoon, and it was obvious there was a fire in the area.

We went over to our local park, where the views of the sky were more dramatic. I really didn't plan on taking any photos (I had promised to take my granddaughter to the park after school, and kids have a really good memory for that sort of thing!), but I couldn't resist as I saw the smoke slowly move across the sky and even start to obscure the sun. All photos taken on my iPhone.

 The Santa Ana winds were very gusty... hang on to your hat!


 Life goes on under smoky skies. Look closely and you can see sand traps, golf carts and golfers. There is a golf course right next to the park.

Even the geese and ducks seemed to be wondering what was going on with this strange sky!



Looking down... but perhaps should have been looking up??

Stay safe out there!!
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Thursday, October 5, 2017

Doo Doo Doo Lookin' Out My Backdoor

About four weekends ago (yes, that's how behind I am on my posts!) we were in 29 Palms for the weekend when one of those rare, beautiful desert storms moved through the area. I didn't even have to leave my property for these photos... no hiking required... all taken right outside my door!

That's Sullivan Road heading off to the west.

Pretty shot of Copper Mountain (looking north)





Looking south toward Indian Cove, Joshua Tree National Park... see the little piece of rainbow?

A rainbow over our house. Sorry, couldn't help the shadow!

Sometimes great photos are waiting for you right outside your door!
 
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Thursday, September 28, 2017

Crown Prince Lookout Hike Update

I posted a couple weeks ago about one of my favorite hikes in Joshua Tree, the Crown Prince Lookout Hike. I mentioned that there is very little known about the lookout, other than it was rumored to be a enemy aircraft warning station during WW2. I wasn't able to find any documentation on this... just rumor and word of mouth type stuff. Turns out my friend Pat over at http://patricktillett.blogspot.com/ had some information on the Crown Prince Lookout that he was able to find on his extensive hard drive full of data about Joshua Tree that he shared with me:
"The Split Rock Station (now referred to as Crown Prince Lookout) was activated on February 28, 1943. The station was designed by the Forest Service similar to their fire lookout towers to be 10 feet square primarily composed of windows and cedar shingle roof. The living quarters (an Army house trailer) were 50 feet below the station and accessed by a wooden stairway. The water tank had a 250 gallon capacity and sat on eight-foot stilts. And, a twenty foot pole to support a radio antenna. It remained on the peak for eighteen years until burned by vandals in 1961."
Pat even had a photo in his files of the lookout station and adjacent antenna. How cool is that?? And perhaps even cooler... there is supposedly a second lookout location in the Park somewhere (future hike alert!!). Again, a huge thanks to Pat for providing this historical information.

Based on the above information, I'm pretty sure the mysterious 3' x 3' concrete block on top of the Crown Prince Lookout must have been used to support the 20' radio antenna. There are multiple anchor bolts surrounding the concrete block, and there is still a heavy support wire dangling off the edge of the lookout from the block. Side note: If you are up on the Lookout exploring this area, be very careful not to trip over this wire. It's a good 30' straight down to the rocks below!
Look closely and you will see a heavy wire hanging over the rocks. This wire is still attached to the concrete block.

This photo is near the concrete block, and does a better job illustrating how steep the drop-off is from up on top of the Lookout!

One point of confusion for me has to do with the old photo of the station that Pat found. The rock formations don't look like anything like what I've seen up on the Crown Prince Lookout. If the radio antenna was on the concrete block (as I suspect) and the station is next to it, the Crown Prince Lookout has a steep, straight drop-off. I wonder if this might be the second lookout location that Pat mentioned? Clearly, more research and future hikes will be necessary!!

Also of interest up on the Lookout is this piece of cement with a metal plate in the middle. Although a piece of the concrete is broken off so you can't see the full name, it's signed by "Mandersche... 1961" (you may have to enlarge the photo to see this). May be someone named Manderscheen? Mandersched? We may never know. There's a second signature in the concrete that's not as clear. The 1961 date is interesting. That's the year the station burned down and it stopped being operational. I can imaging the military coming in and cleaning up and removing everything following the fire. Perhaps Mandershe... was part of the clean up crew?

Here's a nice view from up on top of Crown Prince. You can see the concrete block and the distant hills and mountains in the background. I took a ton of photos on this hike, so let me share a few more with you. Most of the following were taken during the hike back.

Another shot from up on top before heading down!

Yours truly... looking for that perfect shot!

We had an in-depth discussion... Is it harder to climb up or down? I think the consensus was going down is easier. Either way, it's a steep climb!







Golden light of late afternoon, AKA "the golden hour"!



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