Thursday, April 18, 2019

Flowers, Arches and Alcoves

Most of these photos were taken 3 weeks ago. While hiking last week with my friend Patrick Tillett in the same area (Joshua Tree National Park wilderness area), the flower's were already on the decline. Amazing how quickly things bloom in the desert with a little rain, and also amazing how quickly it all disappears!

 View from inside "Bird" alcove!

 The rugged Coxcomb Mountains in the background.

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Thursday, April 11, 2019

Invasion of the Giant Mustard Plants!!

It seems like every vacant lot and undeveloped hillside in Orange County, CA, is covered by the yellow bloom of the mustard plant.

Photo credit: Gayle Berggren
The mustard plants are so thick and tall that it's turned our little trail over at our local park into a "mustard maze"! By the way, I have no idea why my granddaughter seems to prefer non-matching socks. Some weird phase she is going through I guess.

Changing to my telephoto lens, I can capture the hills on the horizon up above Brea, totally covered in yellow mustard flowers. Of course, there's going to be hell to pay as the season progresses, temps go up, and all these mustard blooms dry out and turn to highly flammable weeds. But for the time being, lets not think about that, and just be thankful for the beauty we have all around us today!

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Thursday, April 4, 2019

Scott's Arch

"East of 29 Palms, CA, Highway 62 passes into the wide-open spaces of the Mojave Desert and becomes one of the loneliest and quietest highways in southern California. In fact, you will see scant evidence along much of the route that anyone has ever made a mark on the land"
 Roadside Geology of Southern California 
by Arthur Gibbs Sylvester and Elizabeth O'Black Gans

So off we go, Cousin Scott and I exploring one of the most remote areas of Joshua Tree National Park, looking for alcoves, arches, and whatever else we might find. The few people who hike this area usually begin their hike from one of two pull-out areas where parking is safe. Since we're driving the Jeep and not worried about soft sand on the shoulder of the road, we start our hike further east where no one (but crazy people) hike, so we can access seldom seen areas. I've previously posted about some of the alcoves we found on this hike.
The area is a huge jumble of rocks, with the rugged Coxcomb mountains to the east. It makes hiking a challenge. If you can follow a wash, that makes things easier. But washes often dead end or get choked off by boulders. It's critical to map out your hike in advance using GPS because it's very easy to get turned around. On this day the sky couldn't make up it's mind about what it wanted to do, but it looks like it would mostly be a dull and drab gray sky. I remember being disappointed because the sunset would probably be less than impressive. As it turns out, I was wrong!
The rock formations are always interesting in this area.

And it's nearly impossible for me to pass up an alcove without crawling inside to explore and take a photo. I remember telling Scott that if we could find an arch at some point, it would be the icing on the cake for a perfect hike. Most of the arches in this area are unnamed and uncatalogued by the NPS.

Smoke Tree in a desert wash, without another human footprint to be seen anywhere. The sense of quiet, solitude and open space is wonderful!

Exploring the Joshua Tree outback. Photo credit: S. Wessel
As the day moved into late afternoon, the sky was getting more interesting.

On the rocks up ahead, I hear Scott calling me: "I found an arch!!"

Sure enough, as Scott leads me up a ravine, I get my first partial glimpse of "Scott's Arch"!!

There it is... in all it's glory: Scott's Arch!!

Climbing up and over to view Scott's Arch from the opposite direction, it looks very different. The rocks are flat instead of rounded. You wouldn't know it was the same arch!

Viewed from a distance, and looking NE, Scott's Arch is impressive! It's also well hidden because it wasn't visible to us as we were hiking south (the direction hikers would be coming from).

As we continue beyond Scott's Arch, we come across this trio of alcoves. At least that's what they appear to be. Let's hike a little closer to check them out.

Wow... another significant discovery! The left-most "alcove" turns out to be a double-arch. How cool is that!!

A wider-angle view of "double arch" alcove. Very impressive! My first thought was how can I climb up into it to check things out?

Unfortunately, there is no way up the sheer rock walls to explore the double arches. But I managed to get up high enough on the rocks to capture this photo of the surrounding area. A beautiful desert scene!

As I was taking the overview photo, Cousin Scott was taking this photo of me. The double arches were directly above me, but the vertical rock wall made it impossible to climb up.

I'll leave you with a couple of desert sky shots. These were taken in the late afternoon, but the best skies were yet to come, and I'll leave those for a future post!

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Thursday, March 28, 2019

Solving a Mystery

I was looking out the window from our desert house and noticed a peculiar white band at the base of what is called Copper Mountain on the opposite side of the highway. It's probably about 2 miles (as the crow flies). I put the telephoto lens on my camera to get a better view, and this is what I saw.
Any guesses? Snow came to mind, if only for a moment. Much too warm for snow, and why would it be in just this one area? I thought possibly a flower bloom, but dismissed that idea too. Although we are having a spectacular superbloom in the desert right now, the predominant blooms are yellow,  purple or lavender, and orange or gold (not white). So Lilly and I jumped in the Jeep to go check it out.

As strange as it might seem, if you guessed some weird white flower bloom that only occurred in a quarter-mile long band along the base of the mountain, you win the prize!!
As we drove the jeep along this dusty desert road, all of a sudden the white flowers appeared!

A little further up the road, they became even thicker. The soil here is very sandy, and Lilly couldn't resist getting out and exploring the area!

After doing a little research, I'm pretty sure these are called Dune Primrose. The dune in the name makes sense. There are other primrose species, but this one only grows in the sandy dunes or sandy soil areas.

A closeup of the flowers. Beautiful!
It's nice to have a little photo-model to provide perspective. I've seen these primrose flowers before, but never in these numbers!

The Dune Primrose blooms totally dominated the sandy soil areas (hence the "band" of white seen from my house). As you move away from the sand and into rockier soil, other flowers and colors dominated.

Lilly's just a blur, but having fun playing up on the nearby sand dunes! That's Joshua Tree National Park in the background.

So that about wraps up the mystery of the elusive Dune Primrose. Thanks for playing along!!

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