Thursday, February 15, 2018

Wild Skies...

That's Wild with a "W"!
Can you see the "W"??
How about now?
And now??
Switching letters, how about "A" for arch??

I like this one. I can see both a "W" and a Valentine's heart!

See the X?

I don't see any letters in the photos below... just some pretty desert skies!

The ruggedly-beautiful Coxcomb Mountains (above). Changing to a telephoto lens gives a closer view of the Coxcombs (below).

What's that in the sky? A coyote, perhaps?? I'm just thankful to be healthy enough to hike and explore in the desert and enjoy the beautiful, unique scenery the desert offers. 

Linking with Skywatch Friday and with Michelle over at Thankful Thursday.

Thanks for stopping by!!

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Winter? What winter??

Got my toes in the water (not quite!), ass in the sand
Not a worry in the world...
Zac Brown Band

This has been the warmest S CA winter I can remember. Can you have too much of a good thing? Blue skies day after day after day, daytime highs in the 70's and 80's? Not sure I can take much more of this (😎). I am pretty sure this beautiful stretch of weather will come back to haunt us. Just checking with Mr. Google, and the area where I live in Orange County has received 1.12" of total rainfall since Oct. 1, 2017 (the start of the so-called "water year"). That's only 17% of average. Not good.

What to do?? Might as well enjoy it, so a break from my normal desert posts while I take my granddaughter down to the tidepools at Corona Del Mar. We went during a recent very nice low tide (-1.7) on (yet another) beautiful day. Not only was the air temperature warm (actually hot) at the beach, but the water temp. was really warm as well. My only complaint from my granddaughter was why didn't I pack her swimsuit!!

Dancing in the sunlight. Gotta love that youthful exuberance!

The tidepools themselves were underwhelming. I can remember coming to these same tidepools years ago and always finding something exciting, especially with a really good low tide like a -1.7. You might spot a moray eel in a rocky crevice, a lobster wedged between rocks, sea cucumbers, occasional abalone, large chitons, keyhole limpets, kelp crabs, and even octopus. Sea stars and purple urchins were extremely common. This time... nothing. Only the occasional anemone and hermit crab. Not even any urchins or starfish. Where did all the critters go?? Wonder if it has anything to do with the rising water temperatures?

I think these are the little burrows of  "sandcastle" worms

The algae didn't disappoint... red, green and brown algae added their color to the tidepools.

A young lady practicing... beach yoga??
Funky Chicken dance?? Oh, and that's my dream house hanging off the cliff with the incredible ocean views.

On the hike back up the hill from the beach, we had to stop and admire Arch Rock and the beautiful view!

Linking with Skywatch Friday.
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Thursday, February 1, 2018

Scorpius Arch

I mentioned last week that most of the roads, campgrounds and hiking trails in Joshua Tree National Park are scrunched up into the NW corner. The map below (hopefully) clarifies what I'm talking about.
The circled red area is what people mostly see when they visit the Park. I didn't include Pinto Basin Road in the red circle because there are only a handful of campgrounds and tourist stops and most of the area lacks the iconic boulder formations and joshua trees. The blue-dashed area is more or less inaccessible (Little San Bernardino and Cottonwood Mountain Ranges). The yellow-dashed area, which represents almost half the park (by acreage), is what I think of as "the great wide open"... no roads, no maintained trails, no people. Just pristine desert. Old Dale Road and Black Eagle Mine Road skirt the western end of "the great wide open", but otherwise there are no roads or trails. It's amazing to me how much of the park is never or rarely seen. Photos from last week and this week were taken in the NE part of "the great wide open" (black arrow) which is an area that is rarely visited.

I went in search of something called Scorpius Arch in the NE section of the GWO. I've seen pics of it, but it's exact location is a closely guarded secret. People are very concerned that knuckleheads will do stupid things (trash, graffitti, bonfires...), and rightly so. After exploring the area, I eventually found Scorpius Arch, and I wasn't disappointed. Not only is the Arch amazing looking, but the entire area has beautiful, weird, unique rock formations that make it very photogenic.
An important note of caution. As mentioned, this area is remote and there are no trails to follow. Take extreme caution if you explore the area. Make sure you have a good GPS device, set waypoints in advance, tell people exactly where you are going, etc. I searched the photo sharing site Flickr for "Scorpius Arch" and was surprised that I didn't find more photos. One photo was accompanied by the following comment that I think illustrates my point (a direct quote):
"Do not ask me for the location of this arch. I will not tell you. This arch is in a remote part of the park that is not often visited. If you get lost or hurt in this area no one will find you for days or weeks. I will not have that on my conscience. If you message me asking the location of this arch, I will ignore you."
Scorpius Arch in B&W. It's hard for me to make up my mind if it looks better in color or B&W, so I guess I'll share some of both!

I plan to post once more (next week) on my first hike to this beautiful, remote area. I still have some great photos I would like to share with you. And of course, I'm already itching to go back for a second visit!

Linking with Skywatch Friday.
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Thursday, January 25, 2018

Into The Great Wide Open

Into the great wide open
Under them skies of blue...
                         Tom Petty

Joshua Tree National Park (at least the part most of us see) is scrunched up into the NW corner of the Park. Most people enter the Park via the west entrance (Park Blvd. in Joshua Tree). If you drive east and exit on Utah Trail (into the town of 29 Palms) you will have passed by most of the campgrounds and scenic areas that make the Park famous. However, that's a really small piece of the overall 790,656 acres that is JTNP. The Park's eastern half is wild, open, pristine desert. It is rarely visited, and with just a couple exceptions, there are no roads going into the area and not even any trails (the exception being an old mining road or two that were closed long ago). I made my first visit to this area a week ago. It's the kind of place you can hike all day without seeing another human being or even footprints from another human being!
Leaving 29 Palms. I always smile when I see this sign... it's a marker that you are leaving civilization and heading into the middle of nowhere!

As I headed west on Highway 62, my first challenge was to stay focused on my goal of reaching the NE end of the Park. First I had to pass by all the little abandoned and decaying homestead cabins in Wonder Valley. They totally call to me, and it's always hard to ignore them and not stop for photos. I only lost my resolve for just this one photo (above), and then drove on.

Somewhere past the Sheephole Mountains I couldn't resist another stop to admire the wide open spaces under a beautiful desert sky. That's my old Jeep, smiling because it gets to do what it loves best (explore old out-of-the-way desert locations).

Looking back (west) in the direction I had just come on Highway 62. I believe those are the Sheephole Mountains on the right. Joshua Tree National Park comes right up to the highway (on the left) in this area. As you can see, not a busy highway!

Finally, I reach my destination. Just a small paved turnout in the middle of nowhere. Hmm, I wonder if that call box actually works?? Looking straight ahead (east), I think those are the Coxcomb Mountains. Famous to a small group of die-hard explorers for their remoteness and ruggedness and inaccessibility. I'm not heading to the Coxcombs. My plan is to head due south to explore the rock formations, and hopefully find one particular rock formation (more on that in a future post).

I love these desert shots in B&W. As I begin my hike, I'm crossing a broad desert wash that slopes gently to the east. That little bush/tree in the photo above (on left) is a Smoke Tree, and they are usually confined to desert washes. You see them in paintings of the southwest deserts and they have a certain beauty about them. It may be an acquired taste... I've definitely acquired it! 

It's only about 1/2 mile to the start of the rocky area I want to explore, so not a long hike. But in the course of just a few hours and 2-3 miles I end up taking nearly 200 photos, so I'm going to have to share some of them on multiple posts. More to come!

Before I forget, a shout-out to Alan over at Yogi's Den for this cool app alert. It's called Solocator, and it adds location data to the top of your photo. Here's an example:
It shows the compass heading (about 87 degrees east), elevation (1992'), date/time, and the best part: GPS coordinates. Cool, don't you think?! Go ahead and try it... type 34 6'9"N, 115 27'2"W (I don't know how to make the little degrees symbol, but it doesn't seem to matter) into Google Maps (or similar). It should take you right to where I was standing (+/- 16.4 ft) when I took this photo! I use it when I find something interesting that I want to come back to. Just take a pic and you have the coordinates documented. Also handy when you want to share a location with someone else. Here are a couple more from the hike.

I have no idea what this is or why it is here!

As you can see, beautiful and interesting rock formations in this remote section of JTNP. I'll be sharing many more photos from this area in future posts.

Linking with Skywatch Friday.
Thanks for stopping by!!