Thursday, December 27, 2018

Mixed Up Sky

During our last desert visit a couple weekends ago, my granddaughter was looking out the window at the morning sky and said "Look, Grandpa, a mixed-up sky!" I thought that was a great description.
The sky colors were great, and the contrails were crisscrossing all over the sky, which is why my granddaughter thought things looked so mixed up. This photo doesn't really do it justice because it was taken with a telephoto lens and is just a little section of the sky. Does anyone else see tic-tac-toe lines?

OK, your move!! This shot was taken just a few minutes after the first one, focusing on a different piece of the sky with my telephoto lens. I often wonder if the jets flying around (especially the military jets from the nearby Marine base) do this on purpose!

The above photos were looking NE. Lets walk over to the other side of the house and see what the sky looks like to the west.
Taken just a few minutes later than the first two photos, this is a very different-looking sky, and beautiful in it's own right. The pink clouds and purple tinged mountains were striking, and the dusting of snow added to the beauty.

Wishing everyone peace and happiness as we rapidly approach 2019, 
and a Happy New Year!!

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Thursday, December 20, 2018

Surprise Tank Revisit

I first posted about Surprise Tank here, and the date of my hike was 3.26.17. A great hike, but it wasn't much more than a mud puddle behind the dam. Many of these old dams or tanks are dry during much of the year, so it takes a little luck, and a little planning, to catch them when they're full.
Not much water, although I felt fortunate to find any water. But I made a mental note that it would be great to revisit Surprise Tank when there was more water. Fast forward to 10.27.2018 when I made my second hike to Surprise Tank. Below is a photo taken from approximately the same area.
Big difference, don't you think? Water capacity still not full, but a lot more water than during my first visit.

Joshua Tree infinity pool?
Drum roll please... perhaps the first ever underwater photo taken at Surprise Tank in Joshua Tree National Park! I know what you're thinking... Why would anyone in there right mind want to take an underwater photo in this little pond? Good question, and I guess "right mind" might help answer it! 😉 There were some little critters swimming right up to my GoPro camera. Brine shrimp? (probably not... water is not salty enough). Freshwater copepods? (most likely).

On my cross-desert hike to Surprise Tank, I found these old bleached out bones.

If I had to guess, I would say jackrabbit. Probably met its demise at the hands of wiley coyote. But that's just a guess.
Bighorn Sheep track. There were quite a few tracks in the area.
The rock formations in the Surprise Tank area are really very cool. Here's a sample of some of what you would see if you visit the area.

I hope you enjoyed this little hiking trip to Surprise Tank in Joshua Tree National Park. It's always a treat to see water in the desert, and the rock formations are icing on the cake!

Oh, and I almost forgot... Warm Wishes for the Holidays!!

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Thursday, December 13, 2018

A Nice Day for a Walk

We had some much needed rain recently. The sky was blue and the air was clean, so I couldn't resist a walk. I decided to check out the old oil property that I've blogged about a couple times before: Here and here. I wasn't anticipating taking any photos, but couldn't resist a few cellphone shots!
The good news? The property is still undeveloped. The not so good news (depending upon your views): There are survey signs, little markers and flags, and even some newly plowed roads. There's no doubt in my mind that this area will soon be filled with roads, sidewalks, and houses.

I had some obstacles along my walk!

It's fun and relaxing walking these old roads that were used back when this property contained actively producing oil wells. Like stepping back in time!

Leaves of three...

The dreaded, deadly castor bean plant! These guys are considered a weed and commonly seen. The spiky fruit produces beans containing ricin. Yes, that ricin... the same deadly poison used in a famous political assassination involving a trick umbrella and in numerous terrorist incidents. So I give it a wide berth!!

After this property is developed, there will be some very lucky homeowners with incredible views! Of course, I would prefer the property stay open and undeveloped just as it is, but that's not going to happen. 😩

My favorite shot of the walk, and at this point I was really wishing I had brought my camera and telephoto lens along! This is max zoom on my iPhone, so not a great photo, but you can clearly see light reflecting off the ocean water. According to Google Maps, it's 15 miles (as the crow flies) to the ocean from where I was standing. The land beyond the ocean is Catalina Island, which is 42 miles. Pretty darn good visibility!

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Monday, December 3, 2018

Return to Lookout Alcove

This remote part of the desert has become something of an obsession for me. I first posted about it here. You can find a second post here. This area doesn't have the classic desert beauty that the higher elevation Mojave has, which gets more rainfall and has Joshua Trees. But it also doesn't have the crowds. Actually, it has almost no visitors whatsoever, and that's a big part of the draw for me. There's also the push/pull feeling I get, wanting to share cool things I find, yet hoping this area will stay undiscovered and rarely visited. For now, I'll keep the location vague.

The goal of this hike was simple: Return to "Lookout Alcove", one of the coolest alcoves I've found to date. Since discovering it, I couldn't stop thinking about a return trip. Making sure I could find it again and getting a few more pics is all I really wanted to accomplish. So let's go take a look!
It's not the easiest place to hike. No trails and lots of rocks. You follow the washes and do a LOT of homework on Google Maps before you go. I set waypoints so it becomes an exercise of follow-the-dots, and I leave detailed information with my wife about exactly where I will be hiking.

Ah, there it is. Bonus points if you can spot the alcove!!

Beautiful! If you continue to walk closer to the rocks, you lose sight of the alcove. But from a distance, it's quite a sight.

After climbing the adjacent rocks, here's what the alcove looks like. The flat light of midday doesn't do it justice. The alcove comes complete with a large side window and a smaller porthole opening, which is definitely an upgrade!

I would guess that in another few thousand years, this alcove is going to erode into a really beautiful arch. But none of us will be around to see it!

A selfie for perspective, achieved by propping my iPhone against a rock and using the 10 second delay. Thankfully, no wind suddenly kicked up and blew my phone down the rocky face! Unfortunately, the alcove isn't tall enough to be able to stand up when inside, but absolutely perfect for a cool, shady spot to relax. An awesome spot to throw a sleeping bag in for an overnight stay, and you won't get better views anywhere!

Having accomplished the goal of my hike and still having a few hours of daylight left, I decided to continue exploring the area to see what else I might find.
There were rocky alcoves...

And more alcoves....

Many of the rocky alcoves come complete with beautiful views!

There were arches (this one looks like a drumstick to me!)...

And more arches! Not sure you can call this second one an arch, but anyway...

This was a favorite find of the day. An upper level and lower level alcove, side-by-side. The ground floor alcove was deep and had the appearance of stone steps and rocks being arranged at the entrance. Then again, by this time, I had been hiking in the hot sun for a number of hours!
Closer shot of the ground level alcove...

And the view from inside looking out. Surprisingly large and roomy!

View from the upper-level alcove. Neither alcove had any sign of human activity, footprints, etc. I looked closely at the ground level alcove, because it was deep enough to have been a significant shelter. Only the rocks at the entrance seemed "arranged" to me, almost like rocky steps that had shifted over time. Add another one to the many unsolved mysteries of the desert!

What started as a modest hike with a simple goal turned into something much more interesting and memorable!

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