Thursday, January 31, 2019

Majestic Arch

Let me fast-forward to my most recent desert hike, which was a little less than two weeks ago. Actually, more of an adventure than a hike! I'm typically a few months behind on my posts (if not more), but this was such an awesome hike that I can't wait to share the photos, and hopefully, a bit of the experience.

Let me set the stage... I'm about 2 or 3 miles into a hike in the rugged Joshua Tree National Park Wilderness Area. I'm following a remote wash through the rocks, following a route I had planned out beforehand using Google Maps. This is my first time hiking this specific route (although I've done a lot of hiking in the general area), and one never knows if the route planned out using satellite view on a computer screen is actually passable. I've left a printed copy with my wife so, worst case scenario, she knows where to send the posse if I don't return. As I'm coming out of the small wash that I've been following SE through the rocks, it joins with a larger wash. Here's the view.
As I pause to take in the view, I spot something on the hilltop in the distance. Do you see it? Middle of the photo at the very top of the rocky hill, straight ahead.

I'm sure it was much more obvious with the naked eye vs. these photos, but as I hiked down this wash, I couldn't believe it. A large arch up on top of the hill! Just sitting there for all the world to see! We photographers get really excited about arches because they are so photogenic. Doubly excited because, in this remote area, many of the arches haven't been documented and cataloged, so it's like discovering something for the first time. Undoubtedly other hikers have spotted this arch, but I wonder if anyone's ever been able to hike/climb up to it?

Just a little further up the wash, making my way toward the arch, I come across another desert tortoise shell. Poor guy, looks like a full-grown male (by the size and shape of the shell) and I wonder how he met his demise? This is the third tortoise shell I've found in the last 6-8 months. He's still a little on the stinky side, so he hasn't been dead long. I take a GPS reading of the location so I can report him to the NPS (the Park ecologist has asked me to keep track of shell locations).

As I move closer to the hill, I totally lose sight of the arch, but I know it's up there somewhere. The climb up the rocks to the arch looks steep. Really steep, and I don't see any easier approaches. As I scope out the climb, I'm thinking about the risk. Foremost in my mind is I'm deviating from the hike plan I left my wife. I wonder if anyone would every find me if I get injured? I'm pretty sure that would be the end of Spare Parts and Pics!

Going up!! I decide to proceed up the rocks, one rock at a time. I know, probably a stupid decision, but the arch is calling to me. I tell myself, if things get too difficult, I can always turn around, right? I decide to leave my pack and hiking pole at the bottom of the rocks, with the hiking pole strategically pointed in the direction I'm climbing. Another calculated risk. I won't have water or other supplies if I make it up to the arch, but it seems like a fair trade off so I can reduce my weight. I only have my camera in its harness as I begin my climb.

The views climbing up are amazing!

Can you hear me cursing under my breath?? That's because I've climbed up the rocky mountain, only to find I have "section 2" to climb to get up to the arch! And section 2 looks about as steep as section 1!! Distances are deceiving, and these rocky hills often have a way of tricking you and keeping there secrets, well... secret.

Off I go... climbing section 2. As I pull myself up over the last few rocks, I get my first close-up of the arch.
Interestingly, it looks like it's actually two large rock formations. There's the arch itself, and next to it on the right, a large rock that looks kind of like a lizard or dragon. From a distance the two rocks look like a single rocky structure.

Here's the shot of the day... up close and personal with "Majestic Arch" (I chose this name... the views from this location and the arch itself just caused "majestic" to jump into my brain). It really does look like the adjacent rock is a dragon or lizard, guarding the arch against intruders! On the back side of the arch (looking east), it's a sheer drop off of quite a distance.

I'll stop the narrative and just let the photos tell the story of the beautiful views from inside and around Majestic Arch! But as I take in the views, the little voice in my head says "remember... it's always harder climbing down!"
360-degree views. This is looking NE

Looking SE

Deep inside the arch, with a view out either side.

View east

View west
 
Diagonal view, with just a bit of the arch visible

Side view; no visible arch


Photo credit: S. Wessel
I'm always looking for arches!!

Linking with Skywatch Friday.
Thanks for stopping by!!

Note: Keeping the location of this arch secret, and strongly recommend you don't go looking for it or try to climb up to it!

40 comments:

  1. So much beauty in these rock formations. Good for you … all that climbing! Oddly enough, the two rocks joined as a single rocky structure reminds me of a turtle without the shell, although large enough to be a dragon.

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  2. Kudos to you for finding this beauty!

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  3. That is indeed spectacular.

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  4. You made me nervous with your deviation and leaving your supplies but you had to have made it home ok or there wouldn't be a post! Gorgeous photography as usual. So many beautiful vies. Do be careful in your climbs - I look forward to visiting you each week.

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  5. A fantastic write-up. Love the enthusiasm in you. Hope I too get opportunity to profusely hike Western ghats when relieved of karmic debts :)

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  6. Glad to got up and down safely! Those views are stunning.

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  7. The rock creature next to it is pretty fearsome... Very sad to read of the mess left by &#!+heads during the government shutdown. Your pictures are incredible. I know--- I say that every time.

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  8. Wow totaly Awesome. Now if you wife is anything like mine she would have kittens seeing me do that saying I was taking stupid risks and not to do it again, but then she tends to come with me. I would love togo some where like that to take photos. I think you need maps like our OS ones they are way better than google

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  9. No polar vortex in the desert then. Hope the dead turtles has nothing to do with pollution or changing climate but I cross my fingers.

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  10. Hello, what a great hike. I love the arch and the other rock formation looks like a lizard to me. It is sad to find the tortoise shell. I love the views and sky, beautiful photos. Happy Friday, enjoy your weekend.

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  11. My ab fab is the 8th pic. Lovely rock formation and beautiful skies. You managed to get jet liner in the pic. Spot on.

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  12. And you always find beautiful arches ~ Lovely series of photos ~ wonder what happened to the tortoise but you always have divine photos!

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

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  13. You are one amazing dude!!! Your images are always so crisp and well-exposed/composed. I look forward to weekly posts...kudos..

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  14. wow, fantastic, holy cow!!

    New mantra...always opt to make the arch.

    Some wonderful shots in this post. I can see why you were so excited.

    Packing my bags now.

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  15. Awesome is a word that should be saved and only used for occasions like this. In the Majestic picture, the arch looked like the tail of the dragon. And while you were climbing up over those rocks, I was worried about the trip down. And, finally, what did your wife have to say about this side trip?

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  16. Wow the lengths you go to for a great shot! Love the arch! Coincidentally, I published something similar - Rainbow Rock - on my blog post of Jan. 31 - it's the last photo. Entirely different terrain - and I didn't do any climbing!

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  17. How's Joshua Tree looking since the shutdown? I heard some tourists made a mess. I hope the reports I heard were exaggerated.

    Amazing pics. Definitely worth the climb.

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  18. Beautiful shots, and I'm so glad a search party didn't have to go looking for you!

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  19. Easy for me to say, but it was worth the climb and risk.

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  20. Beautiful pics of a beautiful site!!! I love the lizard rock!!! Your pics of the arch and through the arch are wonderful...looks like it was a perfect day too!!!

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  21. Well, obviously you made it down safely! What a gorgeous arch. And those views! I could stare at your photos all day.

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  22. Stunning, and warm, and amazing,but I will join those begging you to be more cautious - even as we enjoy your beautiful photos. Yes, it was worth it this time, but please be careful!

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  23. You always have beautiful skies in your pictures! Great shots.

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  24. Hi! A real fairytale landscape :-)) Happy weekend!

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  25. Magnificent! Love your sense of adventure! Bravo!

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  26. A wonderful accomplishment, hiking all the way up to the Majestic arch! Beautiful sight! Have a great weekend!

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  27. I also love to observe and take pictures of arches, whether made by nature or by man.
    Magnificent photos.
    Have a nice weekend
    Best regards
    Maria
    Divagar Sobre Tudo um Pouco

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  28. OMG! Spectacular images every single one! It's almost like you were on a different planet SPP! What a climb and so relieved you made it back to share it. I agree that the one rock looks like a dragon, to me the arch looks like the dragon's tail 🐉 The views through the arch are unbelievably beautiful.. was an experience just seeing these images, I can only imagine what it would have been like to be there. Bravo, excellent work!

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  29. No worries here about me climbing those arches. So thankful for you, who does, and takes his camera!

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  30. Stunning shots, incredible scenery and a wonderful hike. I didn't know that there were turtles out there.
    Have a wonderful weekend!

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  31. Beautiful scenes. To me, "Side view; no visible arch" looks like a cat. Maybe I've been on the internet too long.

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  32. Oh my gosh Peter ...Arches do make amazing photo ops and these were incredibly beautiful. It’s amazing to me that you spotted it from afar. And also my heart was in my throat thinking of the risks you took! Be careful out there, I sure would miss Spare Parts and Pics ))).

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  33. Once again, your persistence as the intrepid explorer has been rewarded. Too right that you should get to name it! And terrific pictures, as always. So glad you are on the planet to find these fabulous rock formations and share them with us via your blog!

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  34. lol, interesting things you find on your hikes :) Love it!

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