Thursday, March 30, 2017

Looking for Pottery Sherds

So I was out hiking with my wife and granddaughter a few weeks ago looking for something called "Surprise Tank" in Joshua Tree National Park. We never quite made it to the Tank (an area where water pools after rains, often used by Native Americans, and later dammed up by the early ranchers in the area), although I did get a glimpse of it from a distance. However, while exploring the area, I ran across some old pottery sherds during my hike. They were terra-cotta in color, thin-walled, and it looked like a pot had been dropped and shattered into pieces. Who knows if that's what actually happened, but that's how it appeared. I'm still kicking myself today because I was in a hurry and didn't mark the location on my GPS app. I mentioned it to my friend Pat, who was very interested, and I promised to go look for it next time I was in the area.

Fast forward to last Sunday. During a return hike to the area, I thoroughly crisscrossed the hiking route from my previous trip but was unable to find the pottery sherds (dang!!!!). However, all is not lost. It's a beautiful area with blue-blue skies and I took a lot of photos (a few of which I'm sharing below). I also made it to Surprise Tank (topic for next week's post). So without further ado...

The Joshua Tree above seems to be telling me which direction to go!
Once you reach the rocks, there are a lot of "desert nolina", most of which were flowering. To my eye, the nolina can be easily confused with the mojave yucca, but yuccas have leaves that are much more rigid and pointy and do more damage if you step into one!
 Question mark nolina! Native Americans roasted and ate the flowering stalks, and the leaves were commonly used to weave baskets.

Alien life form?? The flower on this nolina appears to be just ready for blast off!

Climbing up on the rocks, I had a nice view of this little valley on the opposite side that's pretty much surrounded by rocks. I think that's Ryan Mountain in the background. I spotted that little depression in the top of the rock (center-left) and wondered if it might be a mortar. But no, an impractical location that is too difficult to get to. Must just be a natural depression in the rock that weathered that way over the millennia.

California juniper. The light blue berries are very distinct and contrast nicely with the green plant.

I discovered this little cave-like area between two huge rocks. It felt a little like a miniature slot canyon, and it looked like years and years of water erosion had created it. It was just big enough to climb through!

I only spotted this little guy because he moved. A great example of cryptic coloration, I think he's a Blainville's Horned Lizard. I've never seen one like him before, and I think they are rare in Joshua Tree.

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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

California Dreamin'

When I took my granddaughter to the tidepools a couple months ago, I took some photos at the top of the hill above Little Corona beach just as the sun was setting behind Catalina Island. It made me wonder... what would it be like to live in one of these beachfront homes? To be able to watch the sun set behind Catalina Island and drop into the Pacific Ocean every night? Wow, imagine the contributions I could make to Skywatch Friday! I wonder who lives in these incredible, and incredibly expensive, homes, what do they do, what's their story?? Do they even like photography?? Well, it's amazing (and downright scary) what you can find on the internet these days. A quick look on this little 3-bedroom house on the right in the photo below last sold on 6/12/2015 for a cool $18,783,500. But with the price of real estate in Orange County going up quickly, the current "Zestimate" value is $20,864,000. The owners should be pleased. The value of their home has increased over two million dollars in less than two years! Dang, if I don't act fast, it's going to be out of my price range!!

OK, sorry for my sarcasm. Or maybe not. And to be honest, I did downplay the home just a bit. True, it's just 3 bedrooms, but it's 7 bathrooms and 7,117 square feet. That's a big house. Not sure that I would have any use for 7 bathrooms, however. That's a lot of toilets to scrub. But I guess if I could afford a $20 million home, I probably wouldn't be the one doing the scrubbing.
Another shot of the view from my "dream house"!
This is the rocky beach directly below the $20 million house. I wonder if there is some secret passage to get down to the beach? Maybe even an elevator??

There was a photographer and model taking advantage of the natural beauty of the area. Yet something else I could watch from the deck of my $20 million home! Like I said, California dreamin!!

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Thursday, March 16, 2017

Serendipitous Moon Shots!

I had no plans to take moon photos. That is, until my 4 year old granddaughter said "look at the moon, Grandpa!". Sure enough, a big full moon, yellow in color, was just cresting the horizon. Beautiful! Some wispy clouds added to the beauty. I grabbed my camera, put on the telephoto lens, and took a couple handheld shots (my tripod was out in the car and I was in too much of a hurry to go get it). When the moon is on the horizon, it's not nearly as bright as when it's higher in the sky, and handheld shots generally look pretty bad. Here, I'll show you what I mean:
Not a great shot, but interesting how a moon on the horizon appears yellow and "squashed"!

About 20 minutes later I walked outside the house to see what the moon was doing and I could hardly believe it. There was a jet flying directly in front of the moon and leaving a contrail that looked like it was slicing the moon in half!! I could actually see the jet plane silhouetted against the upper edge of the moon, but it was moving fast, and gone by the time I captured this photo. Dang!! Oh well, a fun shot anyway.
"Bayer Aspirin Moon"
A moment later, the contrail was already starting to disappear.
  The next morning, my wife came in the house after walking the dog and said "you should really go out and take a pic of that moonset!". Wow, serendipity again!! She was right, the moon was just getting ready to set behind the hills. A few minutes later and I would have totally missed the shot!

I think it's cool how the moon appears to be rolling down the bumpy boulders! Look out below!!

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Thursday, March 9, 2017

Weird Rock Formations

I think the most scenic areas in Joshua Tree National Park are those areas with the weird and other-worldly boulder formations. Along with joshua trees, it's what JTree is known for. And it's hard to find more boulders than the Wonderland of Rocks area of the Park. The challenge is to find a way to get into (and out of) the Wonderland. With boulders everywhere, some the size of houses, it's not an easy area to navigate, especially for my tired old knees! There's a wash that you can follow that's probably the easiest way to get in (the Wonderland Wash) and it's where I took these pics. I've posted pics from this area previously HERE, and another shout-out to my blogging (and now hiking) friend Pat Tillett for showing me this area and some of the secrets it holds!
As you hike and boulder-hop through the area, you will be amazed by the rock formations. The number, the size, and the shape of all the different boulders is incredible. The way the rocks have eroded over the eons is also incredible and the resulting formations can be weird and fascinating. But enough yakking, let's look at some boulders! 
"Split Rock"
There are examples of split rock all over the park. This is one of many!

"Grumpy Face Rock"
"Fulcrum Rock"
"Fulcrum Rock" is actually not touching anything directly underneath it. It appears to be supported only by two small areas on either end, and it also looks like a good hard push could make it swing back and forth! In this photo, Pat appears to be living dangerously!!
Rock pillars
Rock pillars are typical of the area, and make it tough to get from point A to point B if they happen to be in your way, which they frequently are!

A rock vein or dyke (or dike)
A rock dyke (or dike) is a long, narrow, cross-cutting mass of igneous rock intruded into a fissure of older rock. These are commonly seen throughout the Joshua Tree area.

X marks the spot!!
"Suspended in Air Rock"
This huge boulder appears to be held in place by it's sheer weight pushing against the rock next to it.

"No-Name Rock"... it reminds me of something, I just can't think of what!!

"Heart Rock"

A good example of weird rock erosion

More interesting erosion
Does anyone else see a penguin??

"Swallow the Cactus Rock"

"Bologna Sandwich Rock"  I must have been getting hungry about this time on the hike!!

"Big Nose Rock"
"The Wave Rock"
"The Wave Rock" up close...

... and closer still!

Notice the hole on the left of Wave Rock? Depending upon your angle of view, this rock looks like all sorts of things!

Hmmm.... "Butt Crack Rock???

"Helmet Rock" (hard to see from this angle, but there's a big hollow area inside this rock)
The Freak Brothers (real name... I didn't make this one up!!)
Sorry for the long post! I went a little crazy with all the boulder shots, but couldn't help myself. There are so many weird rock formations in Joshua Tree, I haven't even scratched the surface (pun intended)!!

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Thursday, March 2, 2017

I'll Huff, and I'll Puff...

I've always loved this little homestead cabin that's up behind our place near Joshua Tree National Park. It's backyard border is literally the park fence. From our place (where these photos were taken), we have a nice view of it with the Wonderland of Rocks in the background. Recently, dramatic storm clouds were moving quickly behind the Joshua Tree boulders and the wind started to blow hard. It was almost like this little homestead cabin didn't stand a chance against these big scary clouds! I grabbed my camera and telephoto lens to capture these dramatic skies. Fortunately, the little house isn't made out of straw and will likely be around to see many more storms!

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