Thursday, September 27, 2018

Fun Photo Editing

No new hiking adventures this week, so I'll share some recent photos from the Indian Cove area of Joshua Tree National Park. Some of the photos have only minor tweaks and some have big huge edits. I'll let you guess which is which!

Thanks for stopping by!!
"Leave only footprints, take only photos"

Linking with Skywatch Friday.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Dead Snake Shelter

Lilly (my granddaughter) and I were hiking recently in the Indian Cove area of Joshua Tree National Park.
It was another triple-digit summer day in the desert, so we waited until after dinner (around 6 PM) before starting our hike. It would be dark by 7:30 PM, so we had just a short window of time.

 Although it was still hot, we had pretty skies overhead, and Indian Cove is a great spot for a hike!

Is it just me, or does anyone else think the rock Lilly is standing next to looks like a big toe??! Wait, let me crop the image so we can get a closer look.
Hmmm, even cropped it still looks like a big toe to me!!

After hiking a short distance, we came across this cave or shelter. It's bigger than it looks. An adult (me at 6') can easily get around that round rock blocking the entrance, and the shelter is surprisingly large on the inside. I was excited to find it and was already focused on looking at the boulder walls for any sign of rock art when Lilly said "Look, Papa, a snake!" Dang if she wasn't right!!

On the ground in the middle of the shelter was a snake. And not just any snake, but a rattlesnake. I was surprised and a little spooked that he wasn't coiled and rattling. Actually, as I took a closer look, I thought he might be dead. I was so focused on looking at the rock walls for Native American art, I hadn't even seen the snake. Saved by a 5-year-old!!

After moving Lilly away from the shelter opening, I changed lenses and put on my telephoto lens. It was easy to see that the rattlesnake was alive... eyes open, head slightly up, and occasional tongue flicking. But something was wrong. Was he sick? Why wasn't he coiled and rattling? He didn't look healthy to me. I wonder what special significance Native Americans might attribute to finding a sick, near dead rattlesnake in a shelter like this? Bad spirits or some kind of negative omen?? That's what it felt like to me, and we made a hasty exit.
As Lilly and I hiked back to the Jeep, the skies were lighting up nicely. A great opportunity to capture some Skywatch shots!!

A short but beautiful hike. Thanks for stopping by!!
"Leave only footprints, take only pictures"

Linking with Skywatch Friday.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Diamond Pictographs

This post begins where The Elusive Diamond Pictographs ended. Yes, I'm out searching again for the rock art referred to by some as the "diamond solstice" pictographs. I don't give up easily. I've also emailed my friends Pat Tillett and Elliot Koeppel. They both told me I was right there, very close, and shared additional information with me about the location.

Armed with new information, I headed back out. But Keys Ranch Road was closed due to recent flooding from thunderstorms. So I had to make the longer (but more scenic) hike from the Barker Dam trailhead. It also occurred to me that there might be more water behind Barker Dam. I had hiked it about a month ago with my granddaughter and it wasn't much bigger than a mud puddle!

I've never seen as many lizards as I did on this hike!

Barker Dam is no longer just a mud puddle!

I could hardly believe this view. It looks like a stream running through a pretty valley! In fact, it's water flowing through the dam from recent rains, and the "stream" only lasts for 200 yards or so. Still, very beautiful and not something you see in the desert very often!

Interesting old wooden trough just below Barker Dam. As I hiked beyond this spot, I heard a loud rattle from a rattlesnake just past that scrubby bush on the left side of the water. Extremely thankful that he gave me a nice loud rattle or I might have stepped on him and you wouldn't be reading this post! He slid away quickly into the bushes, so sorry, no photo available.

A strange old watering trough. Keep in mind this area had livestock (cattle) grazing back in the day, which is why the dam was built. Look very closely at the top of the dam... it says "1939 June".

A closer look at the "stream" and the wooden trough. Looking west.

I must admit that I got so caught up with all the water behind Barker Dam, the stream flowing below the dam, and the wild and beautiful sky, that I spent way too much time taking photos. I found myself pressed for time (again!!) on my way to the pictographs. It crossed my mind that maybe I should save them for a future hike rather than risk hiking back in the dark. But that thought quickly disappeared and on I went 😊

As I rounded the corner on my way to the pictographs I saw my old friend "sliced bread rocks" and I knew I was close! As I searched the area (I'm keeping things a little vague here so as not to divulge the exact location) I FINALLY came across...

... the "diamond solstice" pictographs! Most pictographs fade and disappear with time, but these still look fresh and well preserved. One can't help but wonder what special significance they had to the Native Americans that made them all those years ago!

There's been speculation that this sunburst design might have something to do with predicting seasonal cycles that were so critical to Native Americans.

I wonder what this one means??

View from inside the diamond pictograph alcove.

Another view from inside. Look closely and you can see the diamond pictographs center left.
I was feeling great about this hike and very fortunate to be able to see the diamond pictographs. As is often the case on my hikes, by the time I got back to the Jeep, it was getting dark. On the drive home, I missed my usual turnoff (the dirt roads are unmarked and hard to see in the desert, and my night vision isn't what it used to be!) Anyway, I made the mistake of turning up a seldom used sandy "road". No problem with my Jeep, but the soft sand would have been a problem in a 2WD vehicle. As I headed up the road, I saw something squiggling along the road in front of me...
A sidewinder rattlesnake! I've never seen one before, but their sideways motion is unmistakable. Wow, two rattlesnakes in one day!! This shot was captured using the headlights on the Jeep for lighting. I took a few photos, said thanks, and we both went on our way!

Linking with Skywatch Friday.
"Leave only footprints, take only pictures"
Thanks for stopping by!!

Thursday, September 6, 2018

The Vultures are Circling!

I was sitting in the sand under the scorching desert sun with my back against a large boulder. There was a trail in the sand because I had been crawling for the last 1/2 mile. My empty canteen had been tossed to the side of the trail about a mile or so back. I scanned the horizon, and all I could see was a rocky mesa and hundreds of vultures circling overhead. I raised my fist and yelled "I'm not dead yet!!! Damn you!!!" But vultures can somehow sense pending death, and their patience is legendary. These vultures weren't going anywhere, no matter how much I yelled!!
Sound like something right out of a vintage Hollywood western? Well, it is! On my last hike, I saw huge numbers of vultures circling overhead. Vultures don't, in fact, circle above dead or dying things. Check out this link if you're interested in reading more. But I must admit, when I see vultures off in the distance, my first thought is usually "I wonder what died?" When I see them overhead I usually chuckle and think to myself "I must be in worse shape than I thought!!" Chalk it up to watching too many westerns as a kid!

Got to enjoy this beautiful moon for the entire hike.
Vultures cruising the thermals with the moon in the background!
Vulture over Barker Dam

Linking with Skywatch Friday.
"Take only pictures, leave only footprints"
Thanks for stopping by!!