Thursday, July 28, 2016

Goodnight, Sun!

Watching the sun dropping down in the sky, as if it's falling off the edge of the world...

f8, 1/500 sec, ISO 125, 400mm lens
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Thursday, July 21, 2016

Cow Camp, Joshua Tree National Park

Let's call this post "Part 3, the Final Installment", with Part 1 being Desert Bighorn Sheep and Part 2 being Keys Family Graveyard. Yes, I'm getting a lot of mileage out of this hike, but it was pretty spectacular!

Here's a cut & paste from Wikipedia. Cow Camp sounds like something right out of a Rawhide episode! To get fully in the right frame of mind, here's the recommended music score: Rawhide Theme Song. Now sit back and relax, this is a long post!
Cow Camp, located in Joshua Tree National Park, was associated with cattle rustling in the 1880s and 1890s. It was then later used as a line camp for cattle ranching. A stone chimney, two small dams, watering troughs and a well remain.[2] One dam was built by local rancher and character William F. Keys.
The camp was first established by the "McHaney Gang" in the late 1880s. Cattle rustlers used the camp into the 1890s. Jim McHaney reputedly murdered the discoverer of the Desert Queen Mine before losing it to a bank, then sold Cow Camp in 1894 to George Myers. McHaney eventually was convicted of counterfeiting $20 gold pieces in gold-plated lead and was sentenced to seventeen years in jail. In the 1920s Bill Keys, who had inherited McHaney's holdings, took over Cow Camp as part of his ranching operation.[3]
To get to Cow Camp and the Cow Camp Dam (legally, without passing beyond "no trespassing" signs or climbing over fences) is extremely difficult and requires cross-desert, back country boulder hopping. If you Google Cow Camp, you won't find much (vs. thousands of hits for nearby Barker Dam or Keys Ranch). Cow Camp is a seldom seen area of Joshua Tree National Park.
I took the photo (above) about half-way through my hike, taking off my 20lb pack to drink some water and change camera lenses. I think it was at about this point I realized... my legs had turned to noodles and I needed to either turn around and call it quits or continue and hope to find an easier way back to my car (I crossed my fingers and chose the latter).

Finally, I could see green ahead... desert willows and cottonwoods, a clear sign that there must be water nearby and I must be close to the dam.
Another sign of probable water nearby... fresh bighorn sheep droppings.
Looks like at one time, this area (or parts of it) were fenced off.
Another sign of water, lots of water, are the water-line stains on the side of the rocks.
Almost makes you forget you are in the middle of the desert!!
What's this contraption?  I wonder if it's a way for the Park Service to monitor bighorn sheep (and other large critter) movement in the area? If so, they have my mugshot on their device!
It's pretty clear this area is covered with water for at least part of the year.
I had buzzards overhead continually during this part of my hike. I hope they're not coming after me!!
Finally... a clear view of Cow Camp Dam, but unfortunately, no water in sight during my hike in early June.
Photo credit:  Forest Cowley
Above is what it looks like after a rain. Beautiful, don't you think? I definitely want to visit again after a nice, heavy rain.
A closer look at the backside of Cow Camp Dam. The top of the dam is at least 15' above the ground. There was a small amount of standing water at the base of the dam. Certainly not water I would ever want to drink, but I guess any water in the desert is better than nothing. See that big boulder in the middle of the dam? Kind of cool how they built the dam around it. By the way, for me to finish my hike and get back to my car, I'm going to have to find a way over that damn dam!
Here's what got me interested in hiking to this location to begin with. This is the Google Earth view of Cow Camp Dam (asterisk) and all the water behind it. Interestingly, it appears to create a much bigger "lake" than Barker Dam. Of course, one needs to take into account when Google took the photo. I found out the hard way that there is no lake behind the dam, at least when I visited.
Literally standing on top of the dam when I took this shot!
A good view of the dam. Notice how it was constructed around that big boulder?
Weird desert thistles in the area of the dam. I haven't noticed these anywhere else.
Front side of the dam. I don't know how the rustlers, and later, cattlemen, got around this dam, or how they got the cattle back to water. I saw no sign of trials, and certainly no easy access.
The Cow Camp Dam quickly disappears as you hike away from it. If you know what you're looking for, you can get just a little peek of it in the photo above. For the most part, you would walk right by and never know it was there!
This very strange rock caught my eye. About 3 1/2' high. Perhaps the McHaney Gang buried their loot under this rock? Or more likely I've been out in the sun too long!?
An old chimney, the only thing left of what was probably some old rustler's cabin. If you look really closely, you can just make out part of an old bed frame under the bush on the bottom right.

Hope you enjoyed this post about a very rarely seen area of Joshua Tree National Park.
Happy trails... until we meet again!

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Thursday, July 14, 2016

Two Views of the Night Sky

I took these night shots last weekend. Stepping out the front door at about 10:30 PM, I noticed the Milky Way was already visible in the eastern sky. It reminds me that I am overdue to drive into Joshua Tree National Park to take some really good Milky Way shots! This one will have to do for now, and isn't too bad given it was still early and all the light pollution from the town and neighbors. Look closely and you can see my moon shadow on the garage door.

Turning 180 degrees, I noticed the moon was just setting over the Morongo Basin and a haze lingered over the hills. Although the two photos were taken within minutes of each other, the sky in the second shot is much darker. That's probably a function of the shorter exposure time, since I was shooting directly towards the moon.

I can't resist including this shot of my granddaughter from earlier that same day. She was playing and singing in my old pickup. Doesn't it look like she's driving down the highway without a care in the world?!
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Thursday, July 7, 2016

Photo Play

Not sure where I got the idea, but I'm sure it was from seeing someone else's work somewhere.

Step 1: Have my wife take a pic of me with an outstretched arm up amongst the Joshua Trees.

Step 2: Take a photo of the Joshua Trees using my fisheye lens.

Step 3: Move and resize the "globe" to image #1.
Can you tell I'm being careful not to drop it?!!

Hike is over, so time to head back to the car. 
Gotta love the unlimited energy my little granddaughter has. She literally runs circles around us!

Only thing left to do is enjoy the golden sunset as we head home.
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