Saturday, April 23, 2011

Water Tank Hike/Scramble

I drove west on Sullivan about a mile to the road that leads up to the water tank this afternoon.  There were just unbelievable clouds rolling in through the Morongo Valley today, and I wanted to do some rock-scrambling to get to a high point and take some panoramic shots.  I told my wife I would be gone about 45 minutes.  Little did I know what a great hike (more of a scramble) it would be!  I'm sure I was hiking at least 3 hours.  Lots of cactus and other plants in bloom, beautiful vistas, and incredible rock formations.  What I saw today rivals (dare I say exceeds?) the hikes I've been on inside Joshua Tree National Park, and this area is really close to my house.  I took over 100 photos, so a great day to take pictures!  Here are a few of my favorites...
Strange rock formations... and yes, this occurred naturally (not man-made)!
Lots for flowers...
More strange rock formations... note the horizontal rock "veins"
Beautiful vista toward Joshua Tree (northwest)
Tip-top of the mountain looking north - that's Copper Mountain College in the distance.
View looking Northeast... our house is almost dead-center in this photograph.
Above is my neighbor Bob and I.  Bob's an incredible guy, and lives in the place just behind us.  He's lived there about 50 years.  He's in his 80's but still very spry... I was really surprised when he followed me up the ladder onto my roof a few months ago to show me how to winterize my swamp cooler... incredible!!

Funny story... Bob says he was asked back in the day by a city employee what he wanted to name the road to his house (at the time, his was the only house in the area).  He asked his wife what she thought, and she said "I don't know, but you're a jackass for making me move out here to the desert!".  So Bob turned to the guy and said "heck, just name it Jackass Trail".  And so it was!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Where the Pavement Ends

After dinner tonight, my wife and I took a drive on Lear Ave. out toward the marine base in 29 Palms.  We had been out this road before, but never to the end, so curious to see what things looked like at the end of the road.  It's actually a pretty busy road, with many folks taking the paved portion of this road out to the base.

After heading north about 4-5 miles or so, you come to Pole Line Road (follows the telephone poles east to west), which is where the pavement ends.  If you pick up the Auto Club map of "Yucca Valley/29 Palms Area", it only shows as far north as Pole Line, but Lear Ave. actually continues on as a washboard sandy road for another 3-4 miles.  Right at pavement end, there are some good photo opportunities... an old abandoned water tower, abandoned homes, and also a bunch of mail boxes which remind me of Rural America... I guess mail doesn't get delivered beyond this point!
My wife noticed these incredible vapor trails... very cool!
Mailboxes at the end of paved section of Lear Road
Old, abandoned water tower.

Nothing left of this place but the 2x4's
Rock-lined pathway to the outhouse.

Two or 3 miles past pavement end, we stopped at some old homestead cabins.  If you follow my blog, you know I have a weakness for them!  They are so interesting and intriguing... each one tells a different story.
Broken out windows that were just capturing the last of the late afternoon sunlight.

Pretty sky and sunset behind jackrabbit homestead cabin. 

Wow... I think this cabin's days are numbered. Looks like the next heavy wind could bring it down.

Finally, the very end of Lear Ave. at the 29 Palms Marine Base.  Everything beyond this point for many miles is the base.  It's been a fun evening... well worth the trip to see the sights and take some photos!
Intriguing to look out on the base... "the largest Marine Base in the world".  We frequently hear the deep booms of artillery fire.

Oh yes, and no doubt about it... they don't want civilians on Marine Corps property!!!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Evening Walk

We headed out of town earlier than usual (Thursday afternoon).  Usually we head out to 29 Palms on Friday nights, but Easter Sunday required a schedule change.  We left an overcast Orange County with temps in the '60s and 2 hours later opened our front door in 29 Palms where it was a balmy 80 degrees, blue skies, no wind, and dang near perfect!

After dinner we took a walk up our "street" (the streets out here are unpaved, sandy roads) to the rocks.  My wife found this strange formation on the ground caused (I think) by ants - in the shape of an almost perfect heart!

I carried my tripod with me so I could take some long exposure shots after sunset and try another panorama pic.  The tripod helps to line up the individual photos, but I'm still having problems with the edges of the photos coming together... they don't blend very well.  If you look closely, you can see where the pictures come together (total of 3 pics for this panorama).  I used Adobe Lightroom to enhance the sky a little, but only a little... it was a really pretty sunset!

My neighbor Bob's ocotillo is in full bloom.  He must be watering it, because mine aren't blooming!

There's a little pink homestead place at the end of the road.  The owner only comes out and uses it once or twice a year.  It's really photogenic around sunset, and pretty much impossible to walk by without snapping a picture.  Here's the view from the front porch looking out toward Highway 62... spectacular!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Coyote Hills Panorama

If you've spent much time in Orange County, CA, you've seen tremendous changes over the years.  From a rural agricultural area in the 50's and 60's, with thousands of acres of orange and avocado groves, to the current Orange County... still nice, but good luck finding rural, open land!  It's heavily developed and has all the traffic problems and congestion that LA has.

Which brings me to Coyote Hills in Fullerton, CA.  Coyote Hills is quite literally the last undeveloped open land in Fullerton.  Owned for years by Chevron, as the oil wells stopped producing, the land was slated for development... more new homes, schools, shopping, traffic.  There's been a very active "Save Coyote Hills" campaign, which... drum roll please... was actually successful (at least for now, in this very down real estate market) in stopping the development.  The Fullerton City Council narrowly voted down the development.  Kudos to the City Council!  Call me a skeptic, but I never thought I would see this happen.  Hopefully, this land will remain open and undeveloped... the last open tract of land in Fullerton!

Four photos "stitched" together... using the Canon software that came with my camera!
This photo (actually, photos) were taken from the highest point on the Coyote Hills trail, which follows along the border of the land tract.  The tract itself is totally fenced off and inaccessible.  If you click to enlarge, you can see where the photos were stitched together.  You can also see a hazy Catalina Island toward the left.  The undeveloped Coyote Hills property is directly behind me.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Skywatch Friday!

Twin Ocotillos at sunset - 29 Palms, California

for more beautiful skies from around the world!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Geology Tour Road

It's been 3 weeks since we've been out to our desert place, and really missing it!  I had two goals for this weekend: [1] Work Goal - buy and/or clean filters for the swamp cooler, which requires considerable time up on the roof, up and down the ladder, etc., and [2] Fun Goal - go explore "Geology Tour Road" in Joshua Tree National Park.  I'll spare you the boredom of blogging about the swamp cooler, but the Geology Tour Road was really fun.  This was my first visit... very scenic, and a "must do" recommendation!

So, Geology Tour Road is easy to find; it's well marked (large sign)... just grab a map as you head into the park.  It's about midway between the 29 Palms and Joshua Tree entrances to the park, so doesn't really matter which entrance you take.  As you turn off the main road, you will see bathroom facilities and this sign on your right.  There is also a metal box near the sign... be sure to pick up the Geology Tour Road Guide that's inside this box.

According to the guide, this is an 18 mile (round trip) tour that "leads through one of Joshua Tree National Park's most scenic landscapes".  I'd have to agree!  There are 16 numbered stops along the way (not always easy to spot), and the guide points out the geology highlights at each stop.  Very cool!

My Better Half on the Geology Tour Road

The brochure says four-wheel drive is recommended, especially after you get about 5 or 6 miles into the drive.  I never actually put my Jeep into 4WD, and I think a 2WD vehicle with decent ground clearance could make it fine.  Definitely not recommended for the Honda Accord, however!

Gayle capturing desert sky!

We picked a great day to take this drive, with giant, fluffy clouds and the threat of rain (never happened).  And we picked the late afternoon for the long shadows.  There were so many photo opps that I kept the camera around my neck for the entire drive!   We only saw a handful of people on the drive, even though it was a Saturday in April.  Highs were only in the 50's, so our ride in the open Jeep was a little on the cool side, and we bundled up accordingly!

It was a crazy day, weather-wise.  In the AM we went over to Home Depot in Yucca Valley and there were actually snow flakes coming down!!  Only lasted for about 10 minutes, but pretty wild!

OK, back to the tour...

Around marker 12 - Lost Horse Mine area
Please note, I'm not organized enough to put these photos in order... they skip around quite a bit!  The area around marker 12 (Lost Horse Mine area) is a good place to stop and look around.  There is a trail head that starts off from here, and two large ore processing containers.  The brochure says this area is "riddled with tunnels and shafts dug by miners of gold and other precious metals".  Interestingly, the Lost Horse Mine is one of the few mines that was actually profitable (due to the high grade ore in this area).

View across top of Squaw Tank (Marker #9)
Above is a view of "Squaw Tank" which is a small concrete dam.  Cattlemen built this in the early 1900's to capture water for their cattle.  It was dry behind the dam today.

Around mile 7, the road makes a large loop, and becomes one way only.  Be sure to stay to the left.

You will run across the sign below after crossing the dry lake bed.  Stay right (toward 29 Palms).  We're saving Dillon road for another trip in the future.

Stay right (toward 29 Palms) to stay on the loop

Crossing the dry lake (somewhere near marker #13)

Getting close to completing the loop, and heading north... just beautiful!

 By late afternoon, it just seemed like I couldn't take a bad picture!  The light was great, the the blue sky with fluffy white clouds were awesome!

Above is a picture with the twin peaks of Malapai Hill.  I guess geologists get excited about this sort of thing!  According to the brochure, the hill is 400 ft. above the valley floor and is composed of black basalt, which erodes more slowly than the surrounding monzogranite.  Anyway, to my eye, it's just a cool looking hill!

Gayle under beautiful desert skies!
There were a few areas where the flowers were really beautiful.

Unidentified plant getting ready to flower... I just liked the late afternoon light.

Well, that's it.  Hope this gives you a flavor of the Geology Tour Road.  I'm looking forward to seeing it again sometime soon!

Friday, April 1, 2011

SkyWatch Friday!

Have a great weekend!

Under Desert Skies - 49 Palms Oasis Trail
for more beautiful skies from around the world.