Thursday, June 30, 2016

Keys Family Graveyard

I posted a few weeks ago about a cross-country hike I took in Joshua Tree National Park (Desert Bighorn Sheep). I never crossed any fences or passed any "no trespassing" signs, but I ended up in an area closed to the public along Keys Ranch Road. It's only accessible when you take a tour of Keys Ranch. Why do I bother to bring this up? Because of what I found as I was making my way back to my car.

I knew if I hiked along the wash it would lead me back to Keys Ranch Road, which I could follow back to my car. However, this particular wash had all kinds of interesting stuff in it! Old car springs, cans, broken dishes and bottles, etc, etc. 

The wash was so interesting that when it reached the road, I decided to follow the wash a little further (opposite direction of my car). That's when I spotted it.
An old graveyard with a metal fence around the perimeter sitting up on a beautiful knoll below the boulders. Wow, totally unexpected!
As I got closer, it became obvious that this was a small family graveyard. And not just any family, but the early pioneering Keys family! I was shocked because I didn't know this graveyard existed, and I've never seen any photos of the graveyard. A quick Google search of "Keys Graveyard" prior to publishing this post did not turn up any images... The graveyard must not be on the Keys Ranch tour, and is a well kept secret.
There are a total of about eight graves. Each headstone appears to have been hand-made, and each grave has a horseshoe on it. It's very touching and more than a little eerie to see a little family graveyard like this out in the middle of nowhere, and a reminder of how difficult life must have been. The grave above is of an 11-year-old boy, and below is a 5-day-old. Sad and touching.

Willis Lawton Keys (son of Bill Keys), 1/5/21 - 6/10/2015

This is the tallest and most ornate headstone in the Keys Family Graveyard. Could this be the grave of Bill Keys?? When I enlarge the image, I think I can just make out the name Frances, so this must be the grave of Frances Keys, Bills wife.

I didn't think much of this headstone at first. It's small and not very ornate and illegible to boot. However, since it's right next to Frances' grave, it says "Dad", and I can make out "1879" (the year Bill Keys was born), this has to be the grave of the late great Bill Keys.

After taking these pics, I made a hasty retreat back to my car, feeling a bit guilty about stumbling into an off-limits area. Bill Keys is held in extremely high regard and is a local legend, so hoping he isn't looking down on me shaking his fist!! I would hope he would say "Heck ya, share my story!!  That's why I donated by home and land to Joshua Tree National Park."
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Thursday, June 23, 2016

Desert Cabin

An old homestead cabin out near Joshua Tree in the S CA desert. Nothing fancy, that's for sure. But it reminds me of the "old west", is fun to photograph, and is walking distance from our place!

 The view east.

The view south. Those hills are Joshua Tree National Park.

The view north. My wife calls this the "Scooby Doo" van! You can see the concrete blocks that are used to hold the plywood over the tires to keep them from rotting in the sun. But like everything in the desert, it is slowly falling apart and blowing away.

Did I mention the amazing views from this little cabin! Big open vistas in every direction. It's too bad this little place has sat vacant for years now. It's got a ton of potential.

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Thursday, June 16, 2016

A Favorite Sunset

Have you ever seen a sunrise or sunset and think "that's the best ever!"? How can it possibly get any better than this??! I had that experience last Saturday. The sky had been blah all day, partly because of strong winds that stirred up dust, and I wasn't expecting a pretty sunset. It came up suddenly and caught me totally by surprise. I've been a skywatcher for long enough to know there is never going to be a "best ever" sunset... Nature always finds a way to top herself. But this one was certainly one of my favorites!
I like how the sun is bisected by a cloud. As the sun set, I was thinking "show's over!", and was going to head back inside when I noticed the light rays. As the sun continued to set, the light rays became stronger and more visible. Glad I didn't pack up and go inside!!

The photos were taken within a few minutes of each other from my driveway in 29 Palms, CA.
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Thursday, June 9, 2016

The Long Flight Home

I was flying home yesterday on a long east-coast to west-coast flight, with nearly all seats full (which is the norm these days). As boredom set in, I found myself passing the time by taking some iPhone shots out the window and experimenting with my phone to try out some photo-editing.

The edits (below) are mainly cropping and converting to B&W. You can also adjust exposure, contrast, and a few other basic edits. These shots are of my granddaughter playing on some sand dunes. The sun had set behind the dunes and were highlighting the sky but she was in the shadows. I like silhouette shots. Even without much detail or ability to make out facial expressions, you can tell she is having fun!

Don't be afraid to try out editing on your phone. Of course, there are a bunch of photo-editing apps that you can use, but basic in-phone editing capabilities are reasonably good.
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Thanks for stopping by, and have a great weekend!!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Desert Bighorn Sheep

How I managed to be located on Keys Ranch Road in Joshua Tree National Park behind the "Area Closed / No Trespassing" sign is a long, convoluted story. I tend to follow rules. I started off on my hike about 3/4 mile south of here. I was hoping to find a back way into the Cow Camp Dam area (the front way in is closed/fenced off... see what I mean about following rules?). I was hoping that the back way in (which required a lot of boulder-scrambling and cross-country travel) was not fenced off, and it would allow me to see an area of the park that I had never seen or read about. But let's save Cow Camp Dam for a future post. Bottom line, after all that boulder-scrambling, my legs had turned to noodles and were no longer following my mental commands. It was not physically possible for me to backtrack my hike back through the boulders, I was just too tired. I started thinking of the show "Naked and Afraid" and how people can tap out. Not an option here, so I forged ahead and ended up on a closed area of the road, and made a hasty retreat back to the open section of the road. If anyone from the National Park Service is reading this... my apologies! But I couldn't resist taking a few photos along the way!!
Keys Ranch Road... a pretty little desert road heading to Keys Ranch, JTNP
Bill Keys is a local legend in the JTree area. The Park Service provides guided tours to his ranch, which (I'm told) is fascinating. Here's a link if you want to learn more: Keys Ranch.

Above is the view toward Keys Ranch. I sure can't fault Bill Keys for building his ranch here. It's gotta be one of the prettiest areas in JTNP!

It was somewhere around this area that an adult male bighorn sheep decided to jump across the road right in front of me! I didn't realize how large these guys are!! Or perhaps he seemed large because he was so close. Either way, he was way too quick for me to take a photo. I had never seen a bighorn sheep in JTree, not even from a distance, so my heart was pounding and the adrenaline was pumping. I changed lenses on my camera and decided to try to follow him to see if I could get a photo, knowing this was highly unlikely!
I couldn't believe my luck! He had run down into a wash next to the road, and then stood totally still (I'm sure waiting for me to leave). It gave me time to snap a couple photos.
What a beautiful animal!!

My new bighorn sheep friend is probably somewhere up in those rocks!
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