Thursday, September 29, 2016

Searching for an Old Desert Mine (Color Version)

On our last trip out to the desert, we went looking for an old mine located about 20 miles or so east of 29 Palms, CA. If you know this part of the desert, then you know the area is remote. Very remote. I read about this mine and it appealed to me because it looks like it's only a short drive (3-4 miles) off of Highway 62 with some cool stuff to see. I researched it carefully on Google Maps, planned my route, packed up the Jeep, and off we went!

Well, best laid plans. We didn't get more than a few hundred yards off the pavement before the sand got super-soft, deep and powdery. Even in 4WD, we were close to getting stuck. I decided not to risk it, turned the Jeep around, parked, and we had a little picnic. The mine will have to wait for another day and another way to approach it. I haven't given up yet!

My granddaughter wasted no time getting dolls out and playtime started!

And certainly not a wasted trip. I took the opportunity to photograph some of my favorite desert denizens (smoke trees). These bushy trees are found in desert washes and have a strange beauty all their own.
My wife even found a geocache. We know nothing about geocaching, and couldn't figure out what this little tin filled with... something... was doing in the center of a creosote bush in the middle of nowhere! We opened it up, my wife made an entry in the logbook, and added a couple treasures. My granddaughter was fascinated by it!
Highway 62, looking west. For Skywatch Friday "Sun in Your Eyes" edition!
In this stretch of the desert, Highway 62 is pretty quiet with limited traffic. However, you still want to pay attention to the occasional car or truck when you're out in the middle of the road taking pictures!

Sand sculpture!
While exploring the area, I came across two old water tanks and dry wells. See that big rusted-out opening on the side of the tank? Here's what it looks like from inside the tank:

Another view of the water tank, this shot is facing north. The mountains are starting to take on a slight purple tint.

One of the last shots of the day. As the sun was setting in the west, the mountains took on this incredible purple hue. Also, you can see what's left of some old fence posts. This area must have been something back in the day, with two wells and evidence of fencing. Perhaps an old ranch house? A nice opportunity for future research to see if I can't trace the roots of this area.

Next post I'm planning on B&W shots of this same location. I really prefer them. It's such a remote and lonely stretch of desert that B&W works perfectly. But I'll let you be the judge.

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Thursday, September 22, 2016

Wascally Wabbits!!

I took this photo a week ago at a park about a mile from my house. There are always a ton of rabbits in this area. Ironically, this part of the city is known as Coyote Hills. I'm thinking we might be a little short on coyotes??? Actually, it's been a long time since I've even seen a coyote in my neighborhood in central Orange County, CA. I see them all the time at my desert house out near Joshua Tree. Just last weekend (and moments before my wife was going to take our chihuahua outside) three coyotes walked through our property. They were up very close to the house and were slowly passing through and checking things out. If dogs have nine lives, my chihuahua used one up life last weekend!

I may be opening up a can of worms here, but it's interesting (to me at least) the differing views toward coyotes in urban Orange County vs. rural Joshua Tree. In OC, people are up in arms when a coyote is sighted. When the occasional pet is killed by a coyote, people are outraged and demand that officials take action. This is a generalization of course, but it seems to be a common reaction. I'm not sure exactly what action the city takes (catch and release? euthanize?) and I'm not sure I want to know, but there are very few coyotes around. In the rural desert area of Joshua Tree, coyotes are accepted for what they are and their place in the food chain. People are very careful in the desert with their pets, but when one is killed by a coyote, people seem to accept it as a fact of desert life and move on.

I'm of the "live and let live" opinion. Not that I wouldn't be sad if my chihuahua gets picked off by a coyote, but killing the coyote for doing what comes naturally doesn't seem like the right solution. But that's just me. I'm curious to know what you think.

By the way, I didn't notice this until after I looked at the photo on my computer screen. Can you spot the squirrel? Funny to see all those rabbits surrounding a solitary squirrel!

Finally, an opportunity to link with Theresa's Good Fences
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Thursday, September 15, 2016

Eagle Cliff Mine (Part 2)

Hey, thanks for hanging in with me for this two part post on Eagle Cliff Mine in Joshua Tree National Park. At the end of Last Week's Episode I was hiking the backcountry tired, hot, hopelessly lost with only about an hour of daylight left. OK, that's an exaggeration, I wasn't hopelessly lost (thankfully), but I was having a hard time finding the Eagle Cliff Mine area. So it was time to backtrack and make another attempt to find a trail or passage I must have missed, and I really was running out of daylight.

After backtracking about a half mile or so, I noticed a faint trail branching off and heading in the direction I thought was the right direction. Heck, no wonder I missed it, it was very faint and appears to get very little use. After about a 1/4 mile or so on this "trail", I started to wonder if I had made a wrong turn. About this time, I noticed a nice flat clearing flanked by huge boulders on either side. You can tell it's getting late by the way the rocks pick up that golden glow from the late afternoon sun.
This looks promising. You can see some stony rubble on the ground (mine tailings?). Sure enough, just beyond this spot, you can see the mine.

The Eagle Cliff Mine is partially hidden by an oak tree, and it's fenced off on the inside so it can't be explored. The mine dates back to 1895, and is said to be one of the oldest mines in this area. But the mine isn't what I was after. Turns out, there's an old miner's cabin built into the rocks. Totally cool and well preserved, and that's what I'm hoping to find today. 

Study the photo below and you might get a slight glimpse of a wood frame door that is the entrance to the cabin. Don't worry if you can't see it...

I breathed a sigh of relief, and danced a little jig, as I followed this passageway along the rocky walls and spotted what I knew to be the Eagle Cliff mining cabin.

Probably obvious that not all here is original. I read somewhere that the Park Service is restoring parts of this cabin. Also, this front entrance was originally roofed with pinyon pine branches and logs, which has long since disappeared. I wonder if the Park Service will try to replace this roof?

As I entered the cabin, I was blown away by the amount of cool "stuff" inside! I actually had kind of an eerie feeling that I was invading someone's privacy.

As you enter the cabin there is a beautifully built stone fireplace that I'm sure was used to keep the miners warm on some of those cold winter nights.

Wow, look at all the stuff!! I was absolutely impressed that a place like this, totally unsupervised and open to the public (if you can find it) has been left alone, intact, over all these years. No looting, no grafitti. A living piece of history.

Like the sign says, "take only photographs, leave only footprints". Excellent advice. Which brings me to another topic... I'm sure the old miners didn't make this sign. When I compare my photos to some older posts, I think there's actually more "stuff" here now! Are people adding to the collection??

Looking straight up, you can see the roof made from old sticks and perhaps flattened cans or old stovepipe. And some of it looks new. 

Home-made cooktop with some of the utensils still present!

Can you believe it? A six-pane window with all the glass intact!!! How did they manage to get glass out to this remote location all those years ago? 

Shelf space is at a premium!

Here's what the miner's cabin looks like from the other end (opposite the entrance). Pretty amazing, don't you think? This is well hidden behind oak trees and the casual hiker would not see it.

And here's the view from the Eagle Cliffs, about 75 yards from the miner's cabin. I bet the miners enjoyed this view on a regular basis after a hard day's work!!

The Eagle Cliff miner's cabin must have been incredibly difficult to build. Even by today's standards it is remote, and there is no way you are getting a vehicle in here. All supplies would have been packed in. It really highlights the work ethic and ingenuity that the old miners had, and it makes me happy that people have respected it over the years... leave only footprints, take only photographs! Perhaps the coolest thing I've ever seen in Joshua Tree National Park.

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Thursday, September 8, 2016

Eagle Cliff Mine (Part 1)

Eagle Cliff Mine in Joshua Tree National Park is another one of those places that you occasionally hear about or see photos but the location is a closely guarded secret. Tourists don't know about it (haven't even heard of it) and it's not on any map. Kind of like the Iron Door Cave, these places start to take on a certain level of mystery and intrigue. You only speak of them in hushed tones.

I spent hours looking at posts and studying Google Maps until I felt confident I knew the approximate location. The hike in from the Pine City Backcountry board didn't look too bad and looked relatively short as viewed on Google Earth. However, I've learned from experience, hikes always look easier and shorter when viewed in the comfort of your home on Google Earth!!

Here's what Death Valley Jim says about the hike:
Despite only being a three mile trek, you will likely find that you have the trail to yourself. The feeling of remoteness, and aloneness is far too much for the average day visitor. Enjoy it, as it's beginning to become difficult to find places like this in Joshua Tree, as visitation has nearly doubled from just a few short years ago.
He's right. I had the "trail" (what there was of it) entirely to myself and didn't see a single person during the entire hike. The feeling of aloneness and remoteness was wonderful!

The hike got off to a bad start. It was late afternoon by the time I started out and I was feeling rushed. Not knowing exactly where I was going, my biggest fear was getting out in the middle of nowhere and losing daylight. It's easy enough to get lost in the desert, but almost guaranteed to get lost hiking at night!

Early in the hike I ran across this old stone miner's cabin. Not much left, just some partial walls and an old bed frame. I got my DSLR out of my backpack for a photo and... Memory Card Full!!  I can't believe I made such a novice mistake. In my haste to get started on my hike, I forgot to grab a spare memory card and battery.
Thank goodness for my iPhone. It's saved me a number of times now.

Not too far into the hike, you pass through the Desert Queen Mine area. Lots of mines and some mining equipment can be seen in the area. Unfortunately, all the mines are fenced off.

Inside, looking out!

These rocks remind me of two people facing each other having a discussion (or have I been out in the sun too long??)

A perfect day for a hike into Joshua Tree's backcountry. Blue skies, and definitely warm, but not uncomfortably hot.

Yet another exploratory mine (very shallow). This was well into my hike, and I was starting to feel like I should be heading north toward the area I thought was Eagle Cliff Mine. Instead, the trail was taking me further southeast.

A beautiful view, but I can see the trail dropping down quickly to the southeast. I'm positive at this point that I've somehow missed the turnoff to the Eagle Cliff area. Even the main trail is faint and disappears at times, so if there is a fork in the trail, it would be easy to miss. Time to head back, keep an eye out for a fork in the trail, and perhaps reluctantly call it a day and continue my search at another time.

Sorry to leave you with this cliffhanger (pun intended), but I promise you that Eagle Cliff Mine (Part 2) will provide you with a satisfactory ending!

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Monday, September 5, 2016

On Safari!

San Diego Zoo Safari Park, that is! We took our granddaughter, and she really enjoyed it. Photography was really secondary, and I debated lugging around my DSLR vs. just using my iPhone. I ended up taking the DSLR and glad I did, as there were some great photo opportunities.

The Safari Park is huge. Employees are quick to point out that it's NOT a zoo (animals are in habitats on lots of acreage vs. in cages). It requires a lot of walking, so rather than try to see it all in one really long day, we spent two 5-hour days, which worked well. It's a great experience and I give it a "thumbs up" recommendation!
You don't realize how HUGE lions are until you get up close and personal with one. I couldn't get over the size of their feet!!
"Cheetah Encounter" is an opportunity to watch the worlds fastest land animal get up to top speed chasing a rabbit skin. This was shot at 1/400th second shutter speed and is still a bit blurry!

This is what you see walking the "Tiger Trail" section of Safari Park.
A different perspective. I never realized tigers have these distinctive white marks on the back of their ears... almost like they have eyes in the back of their heads!
 This pelican was preening and posing, so I obliged by taking his pic!
Looks like the mom is having a little chat with her young son. I wonder what words of wisdom she is sharing??
Off he goes!
Despite all these wonderful opportunities to see animals in a natural setting, my granddaughter said she liked the little water park area the best!
"Lorikeet Landing" at Safari Park. It's well worth paying a few dollars to buy the food. The lorikeets are fearless and will be your new best friends!
A favorite shot... my wife and granddaughter playing with their new feathered friends! Well, at least until the food runs out.

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