Thursday, February 22, 2024

Lost Pencil

 It doesn't really look like a pencil to me. And who lost it?? Those are just a couple of the mysteries we hope to unravel as we hike to see if we can find this interesting and strange rock formation, and (hopefully) get a close-up look.
We've chosen a perfect day for a hike in Joshua Tree National Park. We are going somewhere in the general direction of those rocks, but there is no trail to follow. My hiking partner today is Mitch, and he seems to know where we're going, so that's good enough for me.

This boulder is helping us with our navigation!
This interesting bent-over boulder is called "Aperitif Rock", so named by the rock climbers that like to climb it. Funny name... perhaps this is a climb to stimulate the appetite for bigger climbs to come?
Grumpy rock? Or perhaps tortoise head rock?
We get our first view of Lost Pencil. Like I said, it doesn't look like a pencil to me!
Hi Mitch!
From this angle, it looks pretty unstable!
This rock caught my eye because it stood out from all the other rocks in the area (mostly it's shape, relatively sharp edges, and color). Possibly a stone tool used by Native Americans? Hard to say, but I put it back on the ground where I found it and continued on.
Malapai Hill in the center of the photo. Unlike most of the surrounding hills made of granite boulders, Malapai Hill is dark-colored and volcanic in nature. It almost looks like you can see ancient lava flows!
Lucky break to see the moonrise through the clouds!

No shortage of interesting rock formations on this hike!
We didn't solve the mystery of the rock formation that doesn't look like a pencil and that isn't lost, but you did get an opportunity to see it up close. Hope you enjoyed this short escape out to the desert!
Linking with Skywatch Friday.
Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Hidden Lake in Joshua Tree??

 My expectations were low, but I really couldn't think of anywhere else to hike. I had spotted a "hidden" dry lake on Google Earth quite a while ago. To my knowledge, there was nothing special there... no pictographs or petroglyphs, no old mining structures, nothing. However, it's in a secluded location that probably gets few to zero hikers. I couldn't even find a place to park. I had to pull off onto the "shoulder" of Pinto Basin Road and hope not to get stuck in deep sand. I love hiking to remote places like this because you never know what you might find!
Remote and "hidden" dry lake bed.
A desert wash full of Smoke Trees... always a treat to see!
It had rained a few days ago, and I love how these red barrel cactus turn a deeper shade of red after a rain. I really enjoy hiking when the sky is cloudy, so I was thinking this might turn out to be a fun hike after all.
Very early into my hike I came across this rock formation. Can you spot the petroglyph? That just elevated the hike from "mediocre" to "fun"! It's always thrilling to find rock art and this one, although modest, probably hasn't been seen by too many people. And you know what this means, right? It means I will have to check every single nook and cranny I come across for MORE rock art!!
In case you weren't able to find the petroglyph.
I don't recall ever seeing a symbol like this.
The problem with the boulders in this area is they are covered with veins and striations. From a distance, they all look like petroglyphs! After looking closely at this one and finding nothing, I proceeded to the top of the hill just to take a look around.
And I was in for a surprise. Someone, a long time ago, prospected this area! There was a rock pile that might have been a mining claim or boundary marker, and a small pit in the ground. It's certainly possible this pit might have been deep at one time, and the Park Service filled it in. Adjacent to this area was a smoothed-out area (rocks removed) with a few pieces of old wood. Perhaps the site of an old cabin?
Beautiful turquoise-covered rocks, and also lots of quartz.
The miner that worked this area evidently had a fondness sardines!
I've finally made it to the lake bed. This is pretty much what I was expecting, and I was curious to explore the area. It might be nice to make a return trip when the wildflowers are blooming. With this sandy soil, desert lilies, sand verbena, and other sand-loving desert plants might put on an impressive show! I'm going to explore the hills on the far left side of the lake bed. On Google Earth, it looked like there might have been an old road that went up there, which would likely mean mining activity.
Looks like I'm not the first person to explore this old lake bed! There are no footprints in the area, so no one has been here in a while, but this old hole-in-cap can goes waaaay back. It was made sometime between 1825 and 1904. I continue my hike up the hill.
I make it up to the top of the hill, huffing and puffing. It looks like there might have been an old road leading up here, but can't tell for sure. No signs of mining, and no rusty cans. I'm admiring this cottontop cactus when I pause to take in the horizon, and my jaw drops... Is that water?? It looks like a small lake from here. I can hardly believe it. I've never come across a lake bed in the desert full of water after a rain, so this is amazing! Oh, and by the way, what's the white zig-zag stuff on the ground in the center of the photo?? Let's go check it out.
The white stuff turns out to be a very large vein of white quartz. As if planted by a gardner, this red cottontop cactus beautifully stands out against the white quartz! This hike has gone from mediocre to fun to amazing!
That's a lot of water for a dry lake😉
It's a new experience seeing creosote branches reflected in water!
I hike up to the high point to get this beautiful view of the Pinto Basin.
I use my telephoto lens to get this view of the serpentine Pinto Basin Road.
Nice view of the "dry" lake from the high point. Amazing!

I have a little time to kill so I prop my iPhone on a rock and take a selfie. I'm waiting for the full moon to rise (the first of 2024!). Problem is, the longer I wait, the cloudier it gets!! I finally decide not to wait any longer. If I leave now, I should be able to avoid hiking back in the dark.
Desert Reflection
Amazing how this bunch grass stands out in low light!

Last photo of the hike: Smoke Tree under a pretty sky.
Thanks for coming along on this interesting adventure. It's not often you find a hidden lake in the desert!
Linking with Skywatch Friday.

Thursday, February 1, 2024

The Hike Back (from Jabba Rock)

 It's a soggy day here in S. CA, the first punch of a two-punch storm that is predicted to bring a lot of rain to the area. But let me turn the clock back to November 11, 2023, and continue on from my last post. We had managed to climb up to the top alcove on Jabba Rock (black circle). It was late afternoon and time to start our hike back to the cars. As usual, I was lagging behind. The beautiful sky and incredible rocks were calling to me, and I couldn't resist taking more photos.
One of my favorite photos from up on Jabba Rock. I love the late afternoon light on the rocks, and so lucky to have such a pretty sky. Even sure-footed Mitch (red shirt) is scooting down the rocks on his butt, which means steep going. Getting down steep rocks can often be trickier than getting up!
My colleagues down below (hard to see) are busy giving me advice on how to get down!
Yay, back on solid ground!! That mountain is the direction we are heading. Highway 62 (and our cars) is at the base of the mountain. Fairly easy hike back from here, and with any luck, we won't need our head lamps! The photos below are just my attempts at capturing the ever-changing sky and beautiful light on the distant mountains as we finish up our hike. 

Last photo of the day!
Thanks for stopping by!!
Linking with Skywatch Friday.

Thursday, January 25, 2024

A Quick Tour of NE Joshua Tree

 My friend Roger has a couple buddies who live in the desert and hike often, but had somehow never hiked NE Joshua Tree. Mind boggling to me, since I hike this area often and it's my favorite place to explore. Anyhoo, I volunteered to be the tour guide for this hike. Of course, you can't see the entire area in a single hike (not even close!), but you can hit a few of the highlights.
First stop: Scorpius Arch
Unnamed arch.
Mystery Arch... one of my favorites!
Mystery Arch

Underneath Mystery Arch
Looking out the other end of Mystery Arch
Motley crew: The five of us, with Mystery Arch in the background.
Another unnamed arch.

Roger patiently waiting to be beamed up!

Still another unnamed arch.
Local pictographs (dStretch enhanced)

Hello desert friend!
Ojo Oro Arch

Roger getting just the right angle on Ojo Oro!

I'm enjoying some shade under another unnamed arch.
We were running short of daylight, but fortunately had just enough time to go by one of my favorite rock formations: Jabba Rock.
See the resemblance?
There is a way to get up to that highest alcove, but it's been a few years since I've been up there, and I'm not getting any younger. Before I knew it, one of Roger's friends had scaled the rocks and made his way up. Can you spot him? Wow, he's got some serious rock climbing skills!
After great difficulty, I did manage to "climb" (crawl) to the upper alcove. Scary, but oh so worth it. The alcove is big and roomy. It would actually be a good spot to spend the night (just don't attempt to climb down in the dark!). And the views... WOW!!

Did I mention the VIEWS!!
Thus ends my "quick" tour of NE Joshua Tree. We are about out of daylight, and for some reason, none of my hiking partners are too excited about hiking back to the cars in the dark!😉  Now for the hard part: Trying to get down off Jabba Rock without falling. Check back next week to see if I'm able to make the descent and post pictures of the hike back to the cars!
Until then... thanks for stopping by,
and stay safe and warm!
Linking with Skywatch Friday.