Sunday, January 30, 2011

Copper Mountain

Drove out to 29 this weekend.  Got off to a rough start, however... realized I left my camera at home once we got here.  Dang!

Wife and I decided to drive up to the top of Copper Mountain, which is just the other side of Hwy 62 from where our place is.  Beware - this is a pretty tough road.  Very rocky and some very steep area.  I almost turned around at one point; didn't want to beat up the Jeep too badly!  However, views from the top are spectacular, so we forged ahead!

Fortunately, my wife brought her little Kodak point-and-shoot.  She's a very good photographer... she has a much better eye for artistic composition than I do. 

My sister over at Lap Dog Knits blogspot got me started looking at Flickr... incredible pics, and every photo group imaginable.  I ran across one group called "Flare Friday" and posted a photo that my wife had taken (told you she's good!):
Yours truly - Cottonwood Spring, Joshua Tree National Park
So now our running joke is we keep trying to take "flare" photos.  It's very hit-and-miss (mostly miss).  Here's one on the road up to the top of Copper Mountain.
The road up.

No flare here, but view looking due North from the top of Copper Mountain.  That's the 29 Palms Marine Base on the horizon.
Looking North from the top of Copper Mountain

Last one for this post... got some things I need to get to before our drive home.  My wife took this one from our back porch this AM.
Sunrise flare

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus) Lifecycle

A few years back, my wife planted milkweed a around the house in hopes of attracting butterflies. The plants aren't much to look at, and the neighbors probably wonder why we don't take better care of our garden, but they work... they definitely attract butterflies. 

We get monarchs on a regular basis, and I decided to try to follow one from caterpillar to cocoon (I think the correct name is actually chrysalis) to butterfly. We're in S. CA, and I don't think we are on any regular migration route for monarchs, but somehow they manage to find us... very cool!

Photo taken 12/26/10 @ 2:07 PM
Monarch caterpillar on Milkweed plant - they are voracious eaters
and will strip the plant of all leaves

Another Monarch caterpillar (not the same as above)

Photo taken 1/1/11 @ 2:49 PM
Sorry - technical difficulties! Turn your head 90 degrees
to the left.  Monarch caterpillar has attached himself to
the siding on the front of the house (hanging down, not sideways!)

Photo taken 1/4/11 @ 3:02 PM
Caterpillar has morphed into a chrysalis - 3 days old

Photo taken 1/9/11 @ 2:52 PM
8-day old Monarch chrysalis; has turned a darker green and
the gold band is now curved; chrysalis has more angular shape.

Photo taken 1/12/11 @ 3:00 PM
Sorry - turn your head again... 11-day old Monarch chrysalis
In the above picture, I think you can actually see the butterfly colors through the thin wall of the chrysalis. The butterfly emerges very soon after the chrysalis turns dark.

Photo taken 1/22/11 @ 2:53 PM
I promise... last time you will need to turn your head 90 degrees
to the left!! Monarch has pushed it's way out of the chrysalis.
The above photo is just the empty shell of the chrysalis.  The Monarch butterfly has emerged 21 days after I first noticed the caterpillar had attached itself to the siding on the front of the house.

Newly emerged Monarch on Milkweed plant... but this is not the same
butterfly that emerged from the above chrysalis.  Note the folded wings,
so we know he has just emerged!

Photo taken 1/22/11 @ 2:52 PM
Here's the star of the show... "newborn" Monty the Monarch 
 has just broken out of his chrysalis. Doesn't appear he can fly yet.

Photo taken 1/22/11 @ 4:59 PM
Monty the Monarch... just a couple hours old. Not flying yet, but starting to open and close his wings in preparation for first flight!

If you want to learn more, there is a good review on Wikipedia: (

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Das Boot!

Just finishing up a relaxing weekend out in 29.  My sister over at Lap Dog Knits blogspot had this old "birdhouse boot" that she gave me.  Actually, I think it came from our cousin, but I digress... It definitely looks like it belongs in the desert.  Very creative idea.  Has a shingle roof, a horseshoe, and everything!

Turns out the boot posed a photographic challenge, with the bright background and the boot hanging in the deep shadows.  On my first attempt the boot was so dark you could hardly see it!  I have a new camera I am trying to figure it out (underscore trying), so I think I was able to get the flash in manual mode and use it for fill. Boy, remember the old days when cameras actually used film and there was no such thing as automatic anything?  My new Cannon Rebel has so many bells and whistles it makes me dizzy!  However, I sure do like the convenience of film-free shooting.

In the afternoon, we drove from 29 Palms to Cottonwood Spring in Joshua Tree National Park.  This is a fairly long drive (about an hour and 15 minutes), and helps to put the size of the park in perspective.  We wanted to go on a short hike to "Morton's Mill" but unfortunately couldn't find the trailhead. We will have to save it for a future visit.  We did manage to hike around in the Cottonwood Spring wash, which was very pretty.  We came across these two red barrel cactus seemingly growing out of solid rock!!

On the drive back to 29, couldn't resist pulling the car over to take this quick pic of the pink sunset!

Sunset in Joshua Tree National Park