Thursday, June 28, 2018

After the Sun Sets but Before the Stars

Greetings!! These photos are from my return hike from Broken Nose Alcove a couple weeks ago. The sun had set, which makes for a photography challenge (no shadows/flat light). Also, as it starts to get dark in the rocky desert terrain, it's imperative to watch your footing to avoid a bad fall (vs. paying no attention to your footing and concentrating on how to frame up that next shot, which is my usual mode!).
Sometimes it's not obvious to me why I took a particular photo when I go back and review shots. There's a direct relationship between the amount of time that has passed since the photo was taken and the degree of difficulty recalling why I took it in the first place! Anyway, I recall being impressed by this HUGE boulder and the sky colors in the background. It was much more impressive in person, but you get the idea!

The rocky, otherworldly terrain in the area. It makes hiking in a straight line impossible! It also means that when one path turns out to be a dead end or unpassable, you try another route. It always makes me wonder what I might find behind the next rock!

Cheating a bit on this one (and on the last photo as well). I used a moon "texture" layered over the top of the original photo. I'm a sucker for big moons over desert landscapes!

A "real moon" shot... this is what the moon looked like during the hike.

I took this shot because I liked the sky color, the red barrel cactus, and the rocks. The rock in the foreground and also the one behind the green bush were very different from others in the area, and reminded me of huge pieces of petrified wood. I don't think they really were petrified wood, but they had that look. By the way, the green bush is Cat's Claw. If you rub up against it, there will be blood!

I like this photo because you can clearly see Broken Nose Alcove in the rock formation. We were climbing around inside that alcove last week!

One of my favorite shots. I like how the Mojave Yucca is isolated in the photo and seems to be enjoying a beautiful view south toward the Pinto Basin.

Crescent moon close-up.

Linking with Skywatch Friday.
Thanks for stopping by!!

PS: A big thank you to the nice comments last week, and especially those about concern for my safety. Safety first, always! And while there is a degree of risk in just about everything we do, I always do whatever I can to keep it to a minimum.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Broken Nose Alcove (Part II)

So just to be clear, I didn't break my nose on this hike (although I very nearly broke my phone, but I'm getting ahead of myself). To recap, I took you on a hike to "broken nose rock" last week. The nose-shaped rock appears to have split off from an adjacent section of rock.
As we were exploring the area, we discovered a very large and interesting alcove on the opposite side of nose rock. Our dilemma, as you might recall, was how to get up and into the alcove. Because of the 8-10' of sheer vertical rock below the alcove, we couldn't climb in from the front. We were also running out of daylight, so we had to be content with our discovery, and photographing Broken Nose Alcove from a distance. 

Here's a close up of the nose. After careful consideration, it looks like the safest way in (if indeed there is a way in) would be to hike up to the nose, squeeze through the space behind the nose, and then drop into the alcove from above. Ya, I know, it sounds crazy. But that's the only way I can see to get into the alcove. Who's with me??

Follow the white line to see what I am proposing. So off we go on hike #2 to Broken Nose Alcove with our goal today to find a way in! It's a warm day (mid to upper 80's) but we are well hydrated and carrying plenty of water, and have told loved ones exactly where we will be hiking (including GPS coordinates).

As we hike up to the nose, we want to see if there is a way to get up on the rock where you see the X. The big rock in front makes it hard to see what our approach will be, but as we get closer, it becomes obvious that this isn't going to work. The rock with the X is straight up and down and too large to climb. Bummer. So let's look for other options. Climbing around the front of the nose is a dead end. But just underneath the point of the nose is a rocky tunnel leading to an opening that looks like it might lead to the back of the nose. However, the opening is only about 2.5' in diameter and will require crawling on all four limbs. Not something these old bones have done in a while! A challenge to be sure, and I'm not even sure I will fit!! The thought briefly goes through my mind... what if I were to get stuck? Would anyone ever find me, or would I just be another lost hiker statistic?? I take my pack off, and proceed to crawl through the small opening. Success! Sweating profusely, I reach back for my pack and proceed on.

I wish I would have taken the time to get some photos of the rocky cave and small opening we just crawled through, but I was way too focused on the climb itself. But here's were we ended up after all that work. We now have nose rock behind us and the alcove below us. We have to climb down this notch and drop down on the rock below. Most importantly, we have to be certain we can climb back up later to avoid getting stuck in the alcove!

Success!!!!! High-fives all around! The first thing I notice is we're not the first to find a way into this alcove. I don't notice any human footprints, so it appears there have been no recent visitors. But the little rocky creation (center) has been made by human hands. There's also an old rusty can (not visible in this photo).

The alcove is quite deep in areas, and I can see a small patch of daylight way in the back of the alcove.

Inside the alcove things are quite spacious and comfortable (and noticeably cooler). I can stand up here without hitting my head, so 6' clearance with nice views!

 The alcove runs in an approximate east-west direction. This is the east end.

East end of the alcove, looking west.

Time to head out. We will need to get up on those rocks on the right of my hat and backpack, then pull ourselves up and out of the alcove. Fingers crossed!!

We make it out successfully, but while crawling and shimmying through the small rocky cave, I hear a "crack" sound. Oh cr*p, I probably broke the glass on my cell phone. But miraculously, no, my phone is still intact. I have no idea what the cracking sound was. Maybe my chiropractor can tell me!

We're done exploring the alcove and still have about an hour of daylight left, so let's keep exploring! One of the first things I spot is this nice rocky shelter. The boulders are huge, and this shelter is larger than it looks.

As we move on, a last look back at Broken Nose Alcove (side-view). It's always hard to achieve scale in desert photos, but the rocky wall in front of the alcove is nearly straight up and down and 6-8' high. Beyond my climbing ability!

As we continue to hike beyond the alcove in a northerly direction, the rocky formations are impressive!

The only problem with all these rocks is it makes the hike challenging. As we pick our way over and around the rocks going north, I decide to look for an easier way back on our return hike. I'm beat!

Now this is interesting! After following a rocky wash for quite a distance, we get to this lookout. The photo doesn't do it justice. It's a beautiful spot, and from here we can see the cars traveling down on Park Blvd. (center of the photo between the hills), which is the way we drove into the Park to begin this hike!

On the hike back, I marvel over this split-in-half boulder. It's huge... I would estimate 15' high, maybe more, at its highest point. What kind of forces could possibly spit a rock like this in half?? Hard to imagine.

We're almost home. I put a small arrow where our Jeep is. You will have to greatly enlarge the photo to see the Jeep. We will have to cross down into a wash and up the other side, but an easy hike compared to the rocks!

This was a fun hike, and I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. It's not everyday you discover something as grand as the Broken Nose Alcove, and I have a real sense of accomplishment that we were able to find a way to get inside!

Linking up with Skywatch Friday.
Thanks for stopping by!!

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Broken Nose Alcove

I hadn't hiked this area of Joshua Tree National Park since October of 2015, but I remember liking the hike and seeing some cool stuff, so I'm going to take you along with me to revisit the area. Another reason for the "revisit" hike is how interesting the area looks on satellite view (Google Earth). Lots of cool rock formations in an area that is rarely visited. Sounds like my kind of place!

So where exactly am I taking you today? It's a secret! I ended up finding a very cool alcove and I don't want to advertise the location. I'm sure you understand
Since over 2 1/2 years have passed since my last hike in the area, I was curious to see if I would be able to find the same sites. I didn't find the above eagle head (or perhaps American Indian head?) rock formation that I saw on my first visit.

Neither did I find "glove rock", which I thought was pretty cool when I spotted it on my first hike. Looks like a hand attacking a yucca family!!

Nor did I find "trash hole" rock where some old miners stored there trash all those years ago.

I also didn't find this cool rock with three little alcoves. The lowest one (far right) was large enough to crawl inside! So far I'm not doing to well finding key spots from my hike here back in 2015!

But I did find this cool little shelter. Very mysterious, I wonder who built it and why??

Here's a shot from the inside looking out, taken back in 2015...

Here's essentially the same shot from a couple weeks ago. Except for the sun flare and harsh shadows, things look identical!

So let's continue our hike. I'll just point out some of the weird and interesting rock formations along the way. Just stop me if you have any questions!
A big chunk of granite sticking up in the wash. Seems weird and out of place, so I guess that makes it worthy of a photo!

Mojave Yucca and Red Barrel cactus

Miniature arch!

Under-rock shelter. These rocks are HUGE, and the shelter is bigger than it looks!

Rocks, rocks, and more rocks! This area reminds me of what is called the "Wonderland of Rocks" in Joshua Tree.

Now that's just flat-out weird!! I'll have to remember to share this one again for Halloween!

Can you see the broken nose? Well, not so much broken as totally sliced off!

Here's a closer look at "Nose Rock". Pretty cool! At this point in our hike, I'm thinking about turning back. The sun is setting and I want to keep us safe. But that little hiker voice in my head is saying "don't be a wimp, just a little further", so, of course, I listen to the voice and off we go!

Whoa!! Turns out that little hiker voice was right. This is an amazing alcove and an exciting discovery just a short distance past "Nose Rock"! I've seen plenty of alcoves in my day, but none quite this large! It's easily 20-25' wide and close to 6' high, and it appears to be quite deep in some areas. I've never seen photos of this alcove or seen any posts or blogs about it, which makes it even more mysterious and cool!

The problem is, how can we climb up into it and explore?? I desperately want to check out the inside for human footprints, artifacts, petroglyphs, or who knows what we might find!

The rocks directly in front of the alcove are straight up and down, and about 10' above the lower rocks. It's beyond my climbing ability, and I would never attempt it alone (or even with you!). But what about dropping in from above? It looks like, with a bit of luck, one might be able to climb in from the opposite side of the alcove, directly behind the broken nose (see nose photo) and then drop down into the alcove from above. Well, perhaps more than a bit of luck will be needed, and it's not going to happen on our hike today! The sun has already set and we need to hoof it back to the Jeep quickly to avoid hiking in the dark. Tune in next week for the exciting conclusion of "Broken Nose Alcove"!!

Linking with Skywatch Friday.
Thanks for stopping by!!