Thursday, December 28, 2017

Happy New Year!

Yikes, I can't believe 2018 is just about here! Hope you are enjoying the holidays, and wishing you and yours a healthy and happy new year!!
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Thursday, December 21, 2017

Face Rock Hike

There really is a "Face Rock" in Joshua Tree National Park. This time I didn't make up the name! I had seen photos of Face Rock but never seen it live. After a little research, it looked to me to be a very short and easy hike (famous last words). Just a short distance from the main highway, then loop around some rocks, and with any luck at all, we should be able to find it. It looked fairly flat in satellite view. Here's proof.
Just park in the paved turnout and follow those red arrows. What could be easier? I talked my wife and granddaughter into coming with me, promising a short and easy hike, and off we went.

See the steep hill above leading to the notch between the rock formations? That's red arrow #2 on the map, and as it turns out, not flat at all! I've learned this lesson many times now: Reality (on the ground) looks very different from satellite view on a computer screen! On we marched, albeit slowly and carefully.

This area is full of interesting and beautiful rock formations. The three photos (above) were taken in the red arrow #2 and #3 sections of the map.

More pretty rock formations. This would have been near red arrow #4 (looking north). As we continue to the left (west), there is a steep descent down to a wash (red arrow #5). Once in the wash, there is a small trail marker (easy to miss) pointing the way to Face Rock.

Do you see it yet? I know (at the time) I didn't see it. Like many rock formations, things change dramatically depending on the light (time of day) and viewing angle).

There it is! Face Rock, impossible to miss when viewed from this angle. But worth noting that as we continued walking along the wash, the face quickly disappeared. It must be viewed from a specific area to clearly see the face.

A square crop makes the face even more prominent. Is that a smile?

B&W version. And yes, definitely a sly smile!!

Time for a quick break! At this point, granddaughter is running circles around grandma and grandpa!

The little hiker.

A little Photoshop fun... my wife enjoying the moonrise!

If you want to hike to Face Rock and you are looking for the shortest possible route, you can either take the approach outlined here, or even easier, follow the wash up from the highway. That way you avoid circling back behind the large rock formation, but you will miss some pretty scenery! Actually, the preferred approach would be to hike the awesome Split Rock Loop Trail (about 2.5 miles give or take), and watch for the side-trail hike to Face Rock. But perhaps not if you have a 5 year old with you!!

Wishing everyone a wonderful holiday season!!
Oh, and happy winter solstice if your are in the northern hemisphere.
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Thursday, December 14, 2017

Boom Boom

If you spend any significant time in 29 Palms or adjacent desert areas, you will hear it... occasional booms, thuds, rumbles. Often you feel it more than you hear it. A slight ground shake, or perhaps the windows even rattle. Military convoys along the main highway (Highway 62) are a common sight, as are military aircraft flying overhead.

29 Palms is an interesting place. Just north of town is the Marine Base. At 998 square miles, it's the largest in the world. It's larger than some small countries, and with the recent addition of sections of Johnson Valley, it easily exceeds 1000 square miles. You need a lot of space for troops to conduct live fire exercises, which include artillery, tank, and close air support training. The base has a sprawling "Combat Town", with a fabricated Middle Eastern village, complete with a mosque and native role players. So yes, those big thuds and rumbles are from the exploding large ordinance being used during exercises on the Base.

Cousin Scott sent me a Marine Corps link recently that includes military photos. Search "29 Palms" and it gives you a better idea of the local training activities that take place at this desert Marine Base. Surprisingly (at least to me), the images are public domain and cleared for release. The site makes them easy to download, and the image quality is good. Use them as you want, they only ask that you give credit to the photographer. Pretty cool! I edited most of these (mostly cropping and exposure adjustments). So here's a glimpse into how our military train, just north of 29 Palms, for some of those very difficult and challenging military assignments.
Photo by Cpl. Kelly Street

Photo by Cpl. Kelly Street
Photo by Cpl. Kelly Street
Photo by Lance Cpl. Imari Dubose
Photo by Lance Cpl. Levi Schultz
Photo by Lance Cpl. Levi Schultz

Photo by Lance Cpl. Levi Schultz
Photo by Lance Cpl. Levi Schultz
Photo by Lance Cpl. Levi Schultz

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Thursday, December 7, 2017

Supermoon 2017

Sunday's "supermoon" was the first (and last) of 2017. Really?? I didn't believe it either, but check out for the details. Unfortunately, we didn't have a chance to get out to the desert for the event. My ideal shot would have been a huge supermoon in the desert with a twisted and gnarly old joshua tree silhouette in front of it. May be something like this:
This is a composite image, using a photo of the supermoon with an earlier image from Joshua Tree National Park. OK, let's move on to "real" photos. Here's what I did manage to capture.

While the moon was low on the horizon, I could only get filtered views through the trees.

 Finally I was able to capture an unobstructed view. The moon had more color while it was low on the horizon. As it went higher in the sky, it lost that yellowish tint.

It also started to be filtered out a bit by the clouds.

I was here to take moon shots, but it was hard to ignore the pretty post-sunset sky to the west. It was a real beauty! 

As I was walking around our local park capturing moon shots, I noticed this lone fisherman under the supermoon. He didn't catch anything, and soon moved on.

As evening sets in and the sky darkens, the background starts to disappear. The moon is so bright that everything else fades to black.

Fast forward to Monday AM, 12/4/2017. The moon was setting at about 7:30 AM. Captured these from the sidewalk in front of my house.
Moonset over Ginkgo tree.

Goodbye supermoon. At least for this year!

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