Thursday, December 14, 2017

Boom Boom

If you spend any significant time in 29 Palms or adjacent desert areas, you will hear it... occasional booms, thuds, rumbles. Often you feel it more than you hear it. A slight ground shake, or perhaps the windows even rattle. Military convoys along the main highway (Highway 62) are a common sight, as are military aircraft flying overhead.

29 Palms is an interesting place. Just north of town is the Marine Base. At 998 square miles, it's the largest in the world. It's larger than some small countries, and with the recent addition of sections of Johnson Valley, it easily exceeds 1000 square miles. You need a lot of space for troops to conduct live fire exercises, which include artillery, tank, and close air support training. The base has a sprawling "Combat Town", with a fabricated Middle Eastern village, complete with a mosque and native role players. So yes, those big thuds and rumbles are from the exploding large ordinance being used during exercises on the Base.

Cousin Scott sent me a Marine Corps link recently that includes military photos. Search "29 Palms" and it gives you a better idea of the local training activities that take place at this desert Marine Base. Surprisingly (at least to me), the images are public domain and cleared for release. The site makes them easy to download, and the image quality is good. Use them as you want, they only ask that you give credit to the photographer. Pretty cool! I edited most of these (mostly cropping and exposure adjustments). So here's a glimpse into how our military train, just north of 29 Palms, for some of those very difficult and challenging military assignments.
Photo by Cpl. Kelly Street

Photo by Cpl. Kelly Street
Photo by Cpl. Kelly Street
Photo by Lance Cpl. Imari Dubose
Photo by Lance Cpl. Levi Schultz
Photo by Lance Cpl. Levi Schultz

Photo by Lance Cpl. Levi Schultz
Photo by Lance Cpl. Levi Schultz
Photo by Lance Cpl. Levi Schultz

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Thursday, December 7, 2017

Supermoon 2017

Sunday's "supermoon" was the first (and last) of 2017. Really?? I didn't believe it either, but check out for the details. Unfortunately, we didn't have a chance to get out to the desert for the event. My ideal shot would have been a huge supermoon in the desert with a twisted and gnarly old joshua tree silhouette in front of it. May be something like this:
This is a composite image, using a photo of the supermoon with an earlier image from Joshua Tree National Park. OK, let's move on to "real" photos. Here's what I did manage to capture.

While the moon was low on the horizon, I could only get filtered views through the trees.

 Finally I was able to capture an unobstructed view. The moon had more color while it was low on the horizon. As it went higher in the sky, it lost that yellowish tint.

It also started to be filtered out a bit by the clouds.

I was here to take moon shots, but it was hard to ignore the pretty post-sunset sky to the west. It was a real beauty! 

As I was walking around our local park capturing moon shots, I noticed this lone fisherman under the supermoon. He didn't catch anything, and soon moved on.

As evening sets in and the sky darkens, the background starts to disappear. The moon is so bright that everything else fades to black.

Fast forward to Monday AM, 12/4/2017. The moon was setting at about 7:30 AM. Captured these from the sidewalk in front of my house.
Moonset over Ginkgo tree.

Goodbye supermoon. At least for this year!

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Thursday, November 30, 2017

Ivanpah Tank

This is a great little hike in Joshua Tree National Park. Less than 1/2 mile from the east end of the Live Oak parking area, it's perfect for people who like short hikes. On this day, I had my 5 year old granddaughter with me, and she did great! We went well beyond the Ivanpah Tank into some steep, rugged areas as we followed the wash to the east in search of a second "tank" or dam, and I didn't hear any squawking or complaining!

 Early in the hike, you go by "Submarine Rock". You can see my granddaughter checking it out, which gives a nice perspective to it's size.

This is a nice view of Ivanpah Tank. I don't know anything about the dam (year built, who built it, etc.) but it's one of the larger ones in the Park. I'm sure it was built to catch water for livestock back in the day. I can imagine, years ago, much less sand being behind this dam, and the dam having the ability to catch a significant amount of water after a desert thunderstorm. It doesn't look like it would collect much water now with all that sand. I plan to come back next winter after some significant rainfall to check it out.

Here's the back (upstream) side of the dam that might transform into a lake after a series of heavy rains. I like how the late afternoon light was turning everything golden. Getting around the dam to the downstream side turned out to be a little tricky, and required climbing down a steep rocky slope. My granddaughter held my hand, and I told her to "hang on tight to Grandpa in case he slips!" Fortunately, Grandpa didn't slip and we made it down to the lower wash without mishap.

Here's a view of Ivanpah Tank from the front (downstream) side. I have a theory, which is that the original dam was built of stone, as seen in the photo. Over the years, as sand and silt built up behind the dam, they extended it higher (probably easier than removing the sand). That would explain the weird dual construction, with the bottom half being stone and the top half being formed concrete.

It's a beautiful wash as we followed it down from the dam. Rumor has it that there is another tank or dam further down the wash, and I'm hoping my granddaughter can hang with me long enough to find it. The photo above shows the wash from a vantage point I've scrambled up to. Hmmm, wait a second, where's my granddaughter? I better scramble back down and find her!!

Ah, there she is! I can just make out her little pink hat. Do you see her?

Here, this should help. I cropped the image so you can see her more easily.

Time for a little rest and a light snack.

I'm calling the rock face above "Bison Rock". See the dark pigmentation on the rock? In the late afternoon sun it really stood out and reminded me of a bison, with it's head (on the left side) in a downward position. Or maybe it's just the wide open desert spaces playing tricks on me again?

 Split rock? Or perhaps Eel Head rock?

Periscope rock? Hey, just winging it here. Looking for suggestions!

Here she comes!

I give her high marks for making it down this rocky wash!

Ta daa!! We found the "lower" Ivanpah tank. Not marked on any maps, just another one of those JTNP mysteries. Coming down the wash, it's more or less invisible because the sand has totally filled in to the top of the dam. It's not until you step over and look back that you can see there was a dam here!

On the hike back, I noticed this strange obelisk sticking up in the middle of the wash. The sun was lighting it up, so impossible to miss. I'm calling it "Tombstone Rock", although I think others have named it "Fish Rock". Either way, very cool.

Finally, back to the Jeep and ready for the ride home. But first, we need to bundle up! The Jeep is open air and the desert is starting to get chilly.
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