Thursday, March 15, 2018

Cleghorn Lakes Wilderness (Part 2)

In my last post, I shared some of the stunning rock formations in the Cleghorn Lakes Wilderness. One of the highlights in this area is this rocky arch, which I named "Gayle's Arch" since my wife was the first to spot it!

"Window Rock" is another highlight...

...As are the numerous rocky alcoves and caves.

And the views from inside looking out!

The area also offers some expansive desert views. If memory serves, this is looking north, roughly in the direction of the town of Amboy on old Route 66 and the Amboy Crater.

But all is not well in this wilderness area. I've done a little research on "wilderness areas". They are often described as "pristine", seldom visited, remote, having limited access (no roads and sometimes no trails to follow) and rugged. The mantra of wilderness areas is the "leave no trace" principle. However, this area of the Cleghorn Lakes Wilderness is far from pristine. Leave no trace seems to have fallen apart. Or perhaps the wilderness designation came too late, after significant damage was done.
The biggest problem seems to be recreational shooting and target practice. I'm pretty sure you are not allowed to do this in wilderness areas. Unfortunately, the knuckleheads that are out here shooting are leaving their "trace" everywhere!

Shotgun shells, debris and glass litter the ground.

This one is by far the most disturbing to me. People have placed targets up in these rocks. All the small pockmarks and white areas are where bullets and shotgun pellets have knocked the natural patina off these once beautiful rocks. This will likely never heal. These rocks are scarred for life.

I guess the good news is the shooting range activity is away from the most beautiful of the rock formations. I would still recommend a visit to this location. It's unique and beautiful, which makes it all the more disturbing to see areas of destructive human behavior. 

As we finish our visit to the Cleghorn Lakes Wilderness, it's time to pack up the Jeep and head home. During the drive, my mind is churning, trying to come up with solutions. Perhaps BLM has it right... just close off all vehicle access. If the only access is a long hike in, you won't be carrying targets and shotguns! Where BLM has missed the mark is with education, signage and enforcement. I'm guessing many people are not even aware they are in a designated wilderness area. There are no signs to let you know, no signs that the road is closed, and nobody enforcing the rules. 

My little desert explorer granddaughter was sound asleep with her kitty stuffed animal in the back of the Jeep as we pulled into our driveway! I wonder what she's dreaming about?

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Thursday, March 8, 2018

Cleghorn Lakes Wilderness (Part 1)

Let me start by saying I may have broken the law. Nothing serious. I don't think there are any warrants for my arrest or a bounty on my head. In my defense, I think there is much confusion about what you can and can't do in "wilderness" areas. If necessary, I will use ignorance as my defense!

I was searching Google Maps for a place to take the Jeep for a little adventure and exploration. I noticed a well established dirt road leading west off of Amboy Rd. into what is called Cleghorn Lakes Wilderness. So off we went... My wife, granddaughter, chihuahua and I and a picnic lunch. It wasn't until about a week after our trip that I became curious to learn more about the area and decided to google "Cleghorn Lakes Wilderness". Imagine my surprise when I read "unless otherwise specified, no motorized equipment or mechanical transport is allowed" in wilderness areas. What, no cars allowed? Even on established roads that are obviously being used on a regular basis (the road we traveled clearly gets a lot of use)? I even emailed the BLM office in Barstow (which is responsible for overseeing the Cleghorn Lakes Wilderness) to clarify, but got no response.

So bottom line, I guess I unwittingly broke the rules... no cars (or Jeeps) allowed in wilderness areas. Even though many others are regularly doing it. Even though it appears the rules are not being enforced, and there are no signs posted to inform travelers that the road is closed to vehicles. Even though there are no gates or other obstructions to discourage using the road. Bummer, because I tend to be a rule follower and this was a fun road with a truly scenic destination that I would like to explore again.
"Yes, officer, that's my Jeep. But I have no idea how it got there!"

The rock formations in this area are really beautiful. They rival some of the best JTNP formations. They are limited to a relatively small area and stand out on Google maps (which is how I found them). The large rock overhang on the right makes a perfect camping spot, and in fact has fire rings already set up and lots of evidence of campfires over the years.

Just to the left of the camping area is this beautiful opening in the rocks. I don't think it qualifies as an arch, but beautiful anyway.

A closer look.

Yours truly in front of "Window Rock". Look closely and you can see my granddaughter scampering up the rocks to join me. Photo by my wife.

Yet another "window rock" (or perhaps an arch?). The rock formations here are really amazing. I guess I said that already, but worth repeating!

This was a big surprise. Someone built an outhouse around the corner from the camping area! So much for Leave No Trace and "wilderness" designation!! After checking for snakes, we let our granddaughter try it out. No doubt in my mind she will get back at me some day for posting this photo!

This is another area (similar to my last post) that has an abundance of rocky caves and alcoves, as you can see in the above photo. This might be a good time to mention there are no lakes in the area (just to set the record straight). So why is it called Cleghorn Lakes Wilderness?? Some BLM worker's idea of a practical joke? There are some dry lake beds in the area. Just areas of flat dirt and dust. If you were picturing nice wet lakes, swimming, fishing, lots of greenery... well, not here!

I would bet that this area was once rich in petroglyphs and pictographs and other signs of Native American life. It provides perfect shelter and is close to a wash that looks like it gets seasonal water. Unfortunately, recent use, campfires, and destructive human behavior appear to have ruined whatever might have been here. Perhaps it's still here and I just missed it.

Look, Grandpa, I found a petroglyph!! Who am I to burst her bubble? Got to love her enthusiasm!!

The views from inside these rocky caves is stunning! A perfect place to rest on a warm day.

Time for lunch!

Hi, Grandpa!!
But here's the icing on the cake. Do you see it in the photo above?? You might have even noticed it in photo #8 if you have a really good eye.
My wife was the first to spot it, so in her honor, I'm calling it "Gayle's Arch". I'm pretty sure it has an official name, although in doing a lot of online searching, I couldn't find photos of it or mention of it, which is surprising. However, well-defined arches are few, they are hard to find, and their locations tend to be closely guarded secrets!

I had to get just the right angle on the arch (can't be seen from this angle), and doing my best not to slide off the rock! Our fearless chihuahua seems to be keeping guard. Photo by my wife.
I love the look of this arch! It's even more impressive if you take the time to climb up the rocks to get this higher perspective.
Version 2: Composite image (moon added).

Another view of "Gayle's Arch".

Cleghorn Lakes Wilderness is north of JTNP and northeast of 29 Palms. Yes, this is a designated wilderness area, and as I recently learned, no motorized vehicles are allowed. "Leave No Trace" should be strictly followed, but sadly, many visitors don't abide. More to follow on my "Part 2" post.
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Thursday, March 1, 2018

Caves & Alcoves

Today we're heading east on Highway 62 to check out some of the weird rock formations in the NE section of Joshua Tree National Park. I should qualify my statement... one little tiny speck of this section of the Park. It's huge, and we're just seeing a little tiny piece. A rice grain. I've posted in the past about this area here and here.
We will zip past the "Next Service" sign (yes, the tank is full!) and head east through mostly open, uninhabited desert for just under 40 miles. It's a beautiful drive if you like desert scenery!

Here's our destination: Remote, rugged, beautiful... it's a jumble of rocks and boulders of every size and shape imaginable.

I love the way the boulder formations have weathered over geologic time. It's not unusual to find alcoves and small caves in rocky areas of JTNP, but in this area they seem to be even more abundant.

Many of these alcoves and caves are high up in the rocks and difficult or impossible to get to. Especially true since I am hiking alone today and it could be weeks or months before anyone finds my dessicated body! (not true, since my wife knows exactly where I'm hiking ☺).

 Multiple alcoves at the base of this rock formation.

Sharp-tooth rock? I wasn't able to climb up to this alcove.

Can you spot the alcove? This one looks like I might be able to climb up and take a closer look.

Definitely a good-sized alcove.

Here's the view from inside, looking out. Nice!!!

 Interesting rock formation, with a sharp-looking "beak rock" on the left and an alcove on the right.

 Close up of "bird's beak rock".

Close up of the rocky alcove. Another one that was too high to explore, but I lugged this dang telephoto lens with me on my hike today so I might as well use it!!

View looking out from a small cave.

Weird pointy rocks.

These rocks all seem to be wearing necklaces!!
Arrowhead-shaped opening.
Talk about weird? Hood-shaped rock sticking out of the ground. Can't even imagine how this was formed. Do the gremlins come out at night and play stick ball here??

I'll leave you with one final shot from inside yet another rocky alcove in the area.

No, wait, scratch that. Passed this arrow-straight dirt road on my drive home on Highway 62. Couldn't resist turning the Jeep around to take this photo. Sheep Hole Mountains in the background. Yet another mysterious desert road leading to who knows where?!!

Super-thankful to be able to explore and photograph these remote, interesting locations!

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