Thursday, April 19, 2018

Desert Solitude

Solitude is defined as a state of being alone without being lonely, and can lead to self-awareness. The word carries the sense that you are alone by choice, and that it's peaceful and pleasant. All I know is that for me, alone-time on a desert hike is relaxing and calming, and is one of the best ways I know to recharge my battery and reduce stress. And there's a thrill when hiking in a remote area where few others have hiked. Why is that? Perhaps the thrill and anticipation that you might find something new and undiscovered? I think we all have a little bit of "explorer" in us. Which brings me to today's post.

I don't think I can get much more remote than this on a day hike. I'm going to keep the location secrete because I found some very cool rock formations and caves and I don't want to advertise their location. The location is not in Joshua Tree National Park, which is where I do most of my exploring.
Off we go!!!

The hike started on a less than thrilling note. The day turned out to be warmer than expected... a little too warm for a hike in this area! I had located this interesting looking wash that I wanted to explore on Google Earth, and had pictured one of those pretty desert washes that I commonly see in Joshua Tree. Turns out this area gets a LOT less rain than JTree. Even the creosote look sickly and stunted and barely alive. The photo above shows the entrance to the wash... not a pretty picture! But in a way, that's part of the allure. There's nothing here to attract hikers. Nothing here to attract attention. I've never seen a single blog post or published article about the area. Which in my warped, heat-stricken mind, means a greater chance of discovering something new!

A short distance into the wash I found these old shot-up barrels and some wood. Makes me wonder if there was some mining or other activity in the area. Although there appeared to be very limited human footprints in this wash, there were some faint prints that looked old. It was clear to me that very few people hike here.
  
Just past the old barrels I found this desert tortoise shell. At first I thought he was alive and just tucked inside. Unfortunately, it was just the shell. Not sure if he/she met its end naturally or by a predator. There is almost no greenery or dead grass in this part of the wash. Just straggly creosote and cats claw. I can't imagine how a tortoise would survive here.

Prior to my hike, I was careful to map out waypoints that I can view offline (since I didn't have cell coverage) during my hike. I also left a printed copy of my hiking itinerary with my wife. I noticed on Google Earth a number of side washes branching off the main wash that I wanted to explore.

Wow, check this out! While exploring side-wash #2 (or was it #3?), I stumbled upon this old picnic table! This side-wash was overgrown with cats claw... I had to bushwack to get into the area, and nobody had been here in a long time. This table looked like it had been sitting in the hot sun for years.

Cool old lantern. I wonder what the story is behind this stuff?? Near the table I also found the remains of an old camp table and makeshift outhouse. Someone must have camped in this little hidden side-wash on a regular basis, but likely many years ago. Another odd and likely unsolvable desert mystery!!

Continuing up the wash, the cats claw was getting thicker and harder to penetrate. Note to self: NEVER wear shorts when hiking in the desert, I don't care how hot it is! My legs and ankles were already bloody and scratched.

At this point, I was getting near the end of my planned hike. Just ahead the wash would get narrow and rocky. I thought about turning back and calling it a day. Although I had found some cool stuff, the area was not as pretty and photogenic as I was hoping for. But the explorer in me said "lets just go a little further and see what lies ahead!" I decided to climb out of the main wash and take a look around.

I was surprised (and pleased) to see things were relatively flat up above the wash. I was also pleased to see some clouds in the sky, which weren't around earlier and would enhance my photos. I found some really interesting rocks in this area (rocky crystals, clear quartz, rose quartz, etc). I'll definitely be going back to this spot in the future to explore more. Hope I can find it again!

I hadn't seen any human footprints in a while. Actually, a little ways back in the wash was the last human footprint I would see for the rest of the day! I was getting a strong sense of hiking in an area that is seldom explored and of desert solitude.

Looking back... The wash I had been hiking up (although hard to see) is on the left. I've followed it up for about a mile or so, and I'm standing on a rocky plateau up above the wash for this photo.

Up above the wash, the rock formations are getting prettier and more interesting.

I'm starting to see small caves and alcoves eroded into the rocks (a good sign). For me, the "holy grail" on a hike like this would be to discover one of three things: A natural stone arch, a large cave or alcove, or pictographs, petroglyphs, or other sign of Native American activity.


OK, this looks really interesting! Maybe the highlight of this hike. From this spot, I can see some very unusual rocky erosion up in that dark area. I can also spot a cave or alcove up there, although hard to tell how deep it goes. The big question is can I climb up without injuring myself??

I end up making the climb slowly and carefully. The above shot is a closer view. On the right, the rock reminds me of an ear! Center is some weird circular erosion. I've never seen anything quite like it before. And on the left is a very nice small cave or alcove behind two large rocks.

Here's a close-up of the strange circular rocky erosion.  

A view from inside the rocky alcove. Turns out it's not very deep, but wow, what a view!! The floor is fine sand and just has a few small critter prints. Footprints in a protected alcove like this would last a long time, so I know this spot hasn't been visited by a human in quite a while. Heck, who knows, maybe I'm the first??!

Thanks for joining me on this adventure. There's still a major discovery to be made on this hike, but will have to save it for my next post as I'm running out of time.

Linking with Skywatch Friday.
Click on the link to check out great skies from around the world.
Thanks for stopping by!!

36 comments:

  1. Hello, pretty skies and desert scenes. I like the picnic table find and lantern. The alcove rock is really cool. The framing on the last shot is beautiful. Enjoy your day and weekend ahead.

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  2. Beautiful shots, Peter, that's indeed quite an adventure. But I wonder if it is wise to make this kind of hikes when you are alone ...
    Anyway, thanks for sharing and enjoy your weekend.

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  3. Thanks for sharing this very beautiful adventure ~ Magnificent photography! Glad you are home safe too!

    Happy Weekend to you,
    A ShutterBug Explores,
    aka (A Creative Harbor)

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  4. Wow! The tortoise left it's shell!

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  5. That looks like quite the adventure on less-trodden paths. Great desert photos as always!

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  6. I found myself holding my breath from photo to photo, each one interesting and the next one more interesting. What a wonderful hike! I'm sure you'll never forget it. Your pictures took my mind back to the days when my parents wintered in a desert town on the Baja Peninsula in Mexico. I wish I had hiked around more than I did then, but it was fun to visit with my parents. Thus I've found discovered the beauty that you discovered!
    Kay
    An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel

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  7. Amazing! The color of the sky is beautiful.

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  8. Wonderful place, Amazing clicks.

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  9. The last picture is a winning shot. Wow!

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  10. Wow - such beautiful and other-worldly scenery. I love being out in the woods on my own. If I meet 2 or 3 other people during the course of an hour or so, then I'm a bit miffed that it has been so busy! ;-)

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  11. I have become addicted to your posts, so be cautious. A wonderful adventure and superb images. I was thinking that some of the formations look like mighty damn big fossils :)

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  12. Good expedition whit a lot of interesting finds specially the rock with the holes in it and the picnic table with lamp. It can only end with finding a great treasure somewhere in the future. I am looking forward to it.

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  13. Wonderful hike! Very interesting...

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  14. Your posts and images have become part of my mental landscape. Places I would otherwise never see. Thank you for producing this significant work for us to enjoy.

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  15. Thank you so much for sharing your adventure. It was surprising for me.

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  16. We introverts indeed recharge on our lone hikes and explores. I wouldn't have it any other way. Loved this hike with you vicariously. :]

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  17. The last two images were worth your hike here! Don't have the guts you have, so It's nice you have the gumption to do it for all of us. Great post!

    I didn't know it either about the Irvine Spectrum, till I read it in Wikipedia. After my discovery I could see how the Alhambra was the inspiration. It has an Old World feel to it.

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  18. That was an amazing adventure indeed!

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  19. Thanks for taking us along on your hike! I would be so chuffed seeing that table in the middle of nowhere!!

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  20. Very interesting find from your hike! Beautiful rock formation!

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  21. OMG! That last shot was a big payoff...kudos...

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  22. every time I admire again your meticulous preparations and bravery to venture into desert. every time it pays off with great photos.

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  23. What a wonderful hike. I enjoyed seeing the treasures you found along the way, the picnic table and lamp, very cool. Looking forward to your next post.
    Take care and enjoy the day.

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  24. So, so cool. Each new photo was more interesting than the last. Thank you for taking us along on your hike.

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  25. I don't blame you for wanting to keep some pristine world for yourself ... I am also a person that needs some alone time to re-charge. I am glad for you that it met (and perhaps we will find out in the next post, exceeded) your expectations. A handsome reward, indeed, and wonderfully captured in your photos!

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  26. wow, that was spectacular. And you are right. Better keep it a secret. Strange to see the old table in the mdidle of it all. Love the rock formations :)

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  27. Already a spectacular hike and you say there's more? a wonderful hike, so beautiful and so many things to think about (already)..... I understand your definition of solitude and I need that kind of time ... just wish I were capable of getting it in such beautiful settings. (However, I've always had a poor sense of direction and getting lost in the wilderness or the desert would be a little too much of a good thing .)

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  28. I was very rarely in a desert, but after your photos the subject inspires me. Super nice, your photos!

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  29. I always look forward to your adventures. Nice that it is outside the JTNP yet still pristine. I love the artifacts you found.

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  30. You are fortunate to be able to explore all these interesting desert places! This one would be a good setting for a mystery story. Who were those campers that hauled out a picnic table to the desert and why have they not come back? The erosion on the rocks was fascinating. I wonder if you dug around that cave if you would find arrowheads or spear heads fro long ago?

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  31. Beautiful photos and such intriguing discoveries - thanks for sharing another virtual stroll through the desert for visitor's enjoyment!

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  32. I have never seen desert tortoise! But again you have an amazing experience here and thanks for sharing those lovely photos, as always

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  33. Well, I just left your next post, and now this one. You really hit the daily double buddy! I also love the solitude. There are a couple of people I really like hiking with though (you being one of them).

    Great photos and I love the ongoing narrative. Makes me feel like I was there.

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  34. Great shots. I like the turtle Shell very much.

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