Thursday, March 29, 2018

Some Random Photos

Just a quick post this week. My granddaughter is on spring break, so I have limited time!

Sorry for the poor photo quality. This is actually a photo captured from video. My cousin took this video from the end of my driveway in 29 Palms, and I was totally amazed!! He's visiting from Chicago and had been here only one day when he spotted about a dozen desert bighorn sheep!! A little background might be helpful. Desert bighorns are very rare. I know people who have hiked the Joshua Tree area for many years and never seen one. In all my hikes, I've only seen a single desert bighorn. To see a group of 12 come down around houses is incredible. I even reported it to the Park Service in case they track numbers and locations. The ranger said it's complicated, because there is a population of bighorns that is small but stable and classified as non-threatened in my area. There's another population in the Cottonwood Springs area of Joshua Tree National Park that IS classified as threatened due to declining numbers, and they are tracked and monitored. I told my cousin to buy a lottery ticket! Talk about lucky!!

Looking over my backyard fence in Orange County a couple weeks ago. Beautiful sunset and moon!!
Pretty sunrise taken a couple days ago (Twin Tanks Desert Homestead Cabins, 29 Palms, CA)

Very weird (and beautiful) clouds over the Joshua Tree area. I've never seen anything like these "rainbow clouds" before! This photo was taken about an hour after sunset just a few nights ago.

Taken during the last full (or nearly full) moon.
Linking with Skywatch Friday.
Click on the link to check out great skies from around the world.
Thanks for stopping buy!!

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Around the Neighborhood

The skies have been impressive lately, even in suburbia (Orange County), so a quick break from my desert photography. All of these photos were taken with my iPhone while out on walks or with my granddaughter at the school playground.

Beautiful vintage VW camper van with what looks like original paint.

Skies over the local elementary school that my granddaughter attends. We go here often so she can play on the playground.
My neighbor down the street has a beautiful collection of vintage (and fully restored) camping trailers. She and my sister belong to a group and go camping together on a regular basis. Fun times!

Kind of a random shot. I was waiting to meet a friend for lunch last week, and I noticed this window next to the restaurant covered in stickers. I have no idea what any of these stickers refer to. I guess I'm way out of touch with the younger generation (and I'm OK with that!).

X marks the spot!

Skywatch viewing device!!

Standing on the bridge and looking back up toward the "skywatch viewing device".
Looking down at the clouds!
One of my favorite shots because you can the weather moving in, with blue sky on the left and solid gray clouds on the right. Over the next hour the gray clouds moved in and dominated the sky. We got a little badly needed rain overnight, and there's more on the way!

OK, time to go. I hear my granddaughter calling me: "Grandpa, quit taking pictures and come play with me!!"
Linking with Skywatch Friday.
Click on the link to check out great skies from around the world.
Thanks for stopping by!!

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?

Linking with Skywatch Friday.
Click on the link to check out great skies from around the world!
Thanks for stopping by. I always appreciate your visits and comments!!

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.
Linking with Skywatch Friday.
Click on the link to check out great skies from around the world.
Thanks for stopping by!! I always appreciate your visit and comments.