Sunday, June 26, 2011

Covington Flat, Joshua Tree National Park

Yesterday my wife and I explored an area in Joshua Tree National Park called Covington Flat.  This area is in the far northwest end of the park and is nice because you don't access it off one of the main (paved) roads in the park or pass through a park entrance.  Probably better know to the locals, although it is clearly marked on the park map.

You access Covington Flat by going south on La Contenta off highway 62.  La Contenta turns to sand and winds through a very nice residential area (old desert homes nestled in the boulders) before entering the park.  You will know you are entering the park when you see this sign:

A little further on, you know you are on the right road when you see this sign.  It's actually pretty hard to get lost on this road!

Just an FYI, 2WD is fine for this area (high clearance preferred).  We only saw two cars the entire trip.  One was a park ranger.  My wife and I were stopped on the side of the road checking a map, and he pulled over and said "you look lost!"  He said we might want to check out Eureka Peak, which turned out to be a great suggestion.  We also saw a pick-up truck that pulled up when we had reached the peak.  They quickly left.

It's a pretty drive, with a slow, steady increase in elevation.  To your left (east), you will notice many burned Joshua trees from a fire started by lightning about 10 years ago, while things look surprisingly green and lush to your right.
Joshua Tree skeleton in Covington Flat
I wasn't tracking mileage (sorry), but perhaps after about 6 miles or so, you will see this sign, which should reassure you that you are, in fact, on the right road!

The road continues to gently climb.  By now, we are noticing the cooler temps (was triple digits when we left 29 Palms, and about 85-90 now), plants in bloom, and some pinion pines.
Lots of purple flowers along the road... beautiful!

This lizard actually cooperated and let me take his picture... usually I'm not so lucky!

We finally reached Eureka Peak, and the name is appropriate.  Outstanding views in almost every direction.  I think the views at Eureka Peak (5518' elevation) are comparable to Keys Lookout (at 5185'), and a lot less crowded!  The road ends in an area with enough room for parking.  We pulled out the cooler and ate lunch.  The peak is a short hike (1/2 mile or less) to the next peak over, and wow, what a view!

Southwest View

Hang on to your hat... it's windy up here!!!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Whitewater Preserve

My wife and I had a chance to head out to the desert earlier than usual this weekend (Friday around noon vs. late Friday night).  As we headed east on the 10 and saw the Whitewater exit, we made a spontaneous decision to check it out, since we had the time. It's surprisingly pretty... very green and worth seeing.

The preserve is a short drive (about 5 miles) off the 10.  Right now they have signs posted about high fire danger, and they don't want people pulling off the road and hiking out to the river.  As you pull into the Whitewater Preserve, you will notice small man-made lakes, people camping, kids swimming, lots of picnic tables, etc.  Interestingly, Whitewater appears to have started out as a trout farm/fishing area before the official "preserve" designation.  It's got a wonderful old Visitor Center which is big and feels very old and comfortable (lots of knotty pine and beams).  There was an older couple playing cards as we walked in and they made us feel very welcome!
Can't read everything, but definitely appears this used to be a trout farm!

Visitor Center:  "Whitewater Trout Company - Founded 1939"
The ponds are well stocked with huge rainbow trout.  One of the rangers said fishing is still allowed on certain days, but only children and only catch-and-release.  I would love to see a kid hook in to one of these big rainbows!!
My wife checking out one of the ponds.
Big, healthy trout were abundant!
There are also multiple trail heads that start from this area, so if you're looking for a hike, you might want to check out Whitewater Preserve.  Otherwise, a great place to visit and have a picnic.

View looking back towards the Visitor Center

Because of year-round water, bears and mountain lions are sometimes seen.
Blog Entry Part II:  68050 Kern

When we got out to our place Friday afternoon, we walked across the wash to the next street over.  There is a small homestead cabin that we have never seen anyone use and always wondered about.  It has a blue van parked beside it, but in more than a year, we've never seen it move.  I wanted to go over a take a few pics as my curiosity got the better of me.  Up close, it's obvious nobody has been in this place for a long time.  Shortly after I took the below photo, I heard a little yell out of my wife... she found herself standing very near a knot hole with swarms of bees going in and out!
Weathered tongue-and-groove, and the 'Dutch Model" trying to stay out of the photo!
Great location (right up against the hills), but a real fixer!

Another view.  I think this is my favorite of the three photos... very "old-timey" looking!
My final photo entry:  walking back home at sunset!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Henrietta the Hen!

My wife has a stuffed hen she named Henrietta.  I think we've had her for about 10 years.  She still has most of her feathers, and she often wears a hat... and I've noticed, not always the same hat.  Anyway, I thought she might be a willing photography subject.  She will sit still for extended periods without complaint and I can practice different lighting and camera settings.  So here she is, at her initial photo shoot, proudly displaying her favorite yellow hat!
Indoor light/no flash; 0.6 sec exposure @ F 5.6 (tripod used); 55 mm, ISO 400.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Update: Miley the Chihuahua!

Here she is... in all her glory... Miley the Chahuahua. We're guesstimating she's about 3 months old, full of devilish pranks and seemingly unlimited energy.  My wife has taught her to sit, shake, and lay down.  My daughter taught her to fetch a little soccer ball.  She loves the back yard, and will stay outside as long as we will let her.  Here are a few pics I took this afternoon...
Run like the wind!

OK, you can let go of the ball now!


Mmmm... chewing on grass.

On the hunt in the backyard (jacaranda tree is dropping flowers everywhere!)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

A Change in Scenery!

I'll apologize in advance for my long-winded post, but I have a lot of photos I want to share :-)

My wife and I don't get up to the mountains in S CA much anymore... our passion has turned to the desert. But for many years, the mountains were our passion (specifically, a cabin about half way between Big Bear and Arrowhead).  You could find us up there every other weekend.

We needed to go up this weekend for cleaning and maintenance.  As I type this, I'm tired and sore with a back ache and sore knee from a long working weekend, but I enjoyed every minute of it!  Between all the work, I managed to go on a hike and get some fun pictures.

The hike was along a trail accessed by one of the old forest service roads behind the Green Valley Lake campground.  My first impression was surprise... surprise that many of the Forest Service Roads are closed to all vehicles. I didn't see another human being all afternoon!  Also surprised at the number of burned trees (see below).  The fires in the San Bernardino mountains were really extensive (more so than I realized).  Lastly, surprised at the number of wildflowers.  It's been a great year with regard to rainfall, and I've never seen such heavy blooms in the mountains.

My hike took me to the top of a high peak with an incredible view.  You could see all the dense cloud cover and "June gloom" bumping up against the mountain range.
Top-of-the-world view!  You can just make out Lake Arrowhead in the distance.
Certain areas were beautifully carpeted with Erysimum capitatum - the Western Wallflower.
The Black Oaks were just starting to leaf out - near 8000' elevation.

A stand of burned trees.

Lots of water in the mountains right now.

Hiking back, I passed through the Green Valley Lake campground, a really pretty area.

We then made our way down to the lake... for years, we kept our little row boat in this cove (above).  They stock the lake with trout, and I saw a lot of nice stringers and we walked the lake.

Shortly after getting home, we spotted a HUGE raccoon.  It came right up to us.  My wife, the worlds biggest lover of any and all creatures, wasted no time in sharing a pretzel.

Count your fingers!!!
Interesting, Mrs. Raccoon wasn't interested in broccoli or a piece of fruit... she seemed much more interested in junk food!  And yes, I know, we shouldn't be feeding her.  Clearly, someone has been (she was really tame), but that doesn't make it right.  At any rate, it was a fun encounter!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Exploring the Wide Open Spaces!

So I was studying the Joshua Tree National Park map (#226) by National Geographic.  I'm a map lover, and it's always dangerous for me to study a map because I can always find someplace new to explore.

If you're familiar with JTNP, you might know there's a big chunk cut out of the north side of the park, starting roughly from Utah Trail and extending to Ironage Rd. (east to west) and south of Highway 62 to the park boundary.  This area is labeled "Pinto Mountains" on the map, and is absolutely loaded with mines... probably at least 50 labeled mines on my map (and who knows how many more unlabeled mines exist?).  Anyway, it's fun to take the Jeep out and see if you can find them, so Saturday my wife and I set off with food, lots of water, the map, and a goal: Find Marbolite Mine.  This one isn't too remote... only about 5 miles off Hwy 62, so off we went!

So, let me cut to the chase... guess it's good news / bad news.  The bad news is we never did find a mine... no opening in the mountain, no hole in the ground, etc.  Mainly just mine artifacts such as cables and old foundations.  The good news:  a fun drive, a great place to explore, a great place to take pictures, and well worth the drive.

Mine cables cross top of mountain-top... but where's the mine?? (awesome view, however!!)
I explored all over the place... top of the peak, in front of the peak, even behind the mountain, so pretty sure there is no existing mine (probably been filled in by BLM).  Here's some additional pics from the drive.  Enjoy!

Cool rock and cable in the Marbolite Mine area.

The road to the mine tracks through a beautiful wash - SmokeTree in foreground

My wife catching the wind along the drive home.

Yours truly along the dusty trail.

Heading west on Hwy. 62 at sunset.