Thursday, February 28, 2019

Snowmageddon 2019

Dang, we just missed it! Every once in a while we get snow flakes falling at our desert house, but it never sticks to the ground. That is, until last Monday night (2/18). Locals have been referring to it as "snowmageddon 2019" and people will remember it for a long time to come. Even at lower elevations in 29 Palms there was snow. Here's a photo my neighbor took on our property on Tuesday AM. The old pickup truck is "yard art", as are the two vintage water tanks.
We missed it by a day! We had to leave the desert and drive home on Monday, so no snow photos for me! The higher elevations in Joshua Tree got significant snow, local roads were closed, and (yes, hard to believe) the schools in the high desert were closed Tuesday for a snow day!!

I did manage to get out to the desert earlier this week for a hike with a couple friends. Almost a week after the snow, on a blue-sky sunny day with highs getting close to 70 there were still patches of snow left on the ground!

And below, the three of us under an arched Joshua tree (I'm on the right). Photo credit to a random hiker who just happened to be walking by at the right time.


This cloud appears to be lost!

A little editing fun to make this red barrel cactus really stand out!

Gorgeous views to the north from this point on the trail. It's called Boy Scout Trail, and I hiked it once before with Cousin Scott here. I love this hike because I can hike from deep in the park all the way back to the house. Our neighbor dropped us off, and away we went. Also, it's all flat or downhill going this direction, so a fairly easy hike.

Pat (unsuccessfully) trying to clear the trail!

Nothing better at the end of a long hike than thick steaks on the BBQ, great weather, and a nice view!
 
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Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Cow Camp Revisited

My one and only visit to Cow Camp in Joshua Tree National Park was way back in May 2016. The most direct route (straight to the dam) is not allowed because the land below the dam is administratively off limits, and is fenced off.
Caretaker? What caretaker?? This sign was in the middle of nowhere. Closest caretaker would probably be over at Key's Ranch, about a mile away. But the point of the sign is clear!

So to get to Cow Camp, you need to go in the back way, crawling over/under/around lots of boulders in between two rocky peaks. It quickly turns your legs into noodles! It's a hidden spot in the Park. Not on any maps, and it appears that nobody goes there. Also, I checked in with a park ranger to see if the area behind the dam is off limits. I was pleased to learn only the "footprint" of the water is off limits. So stay off the flat area (see photo below) and you're OK.

Cow Camp has a fascinating history, including being associated with cattle rustling in the 1880's and 90's, and it rivals Barker Dam (one of the busiest spots in the park) for water holding capacity and natural beauty.

Here's what it looked like on my first visit. Bone dry, and kind of a disappointment. I made a mental note... someday I need to visit again, hopefully after some rain, and see what it looks like when there's water behind the dam.

So here's my someday photo. Taken a couple months ago after a summer with higher than normal rainfall. Now that's more like it!! And with all the recent rain (and even snow), the water behind the dam is likely a lot higher now (Cow Camp trip #3??). If you look closely, you can see banding across the dam and the rocks indicating how high water levels have been in the past. Looks like the water can get MUCH higher, which would turn this into a small lake!




A true oasis in the desert!


At the far end of the water behind the dam, the tall grasses make it hard to believe you are still in the desert.

Bighorn sheep remains. Likely taken down by a mountain lion.

Freshwater snails totally blanketed the muddy areas.

A cool looking cave not far from the dam. No easy way to climb up and explore, so cave depth and contents will remain a mystery. Mountain lion den? Here kitty kitty!

Straddling Cow Camp Dam. Look at how the dam builders, all those years ago, used the huge boulder as part of the dam structure, almost like a big plug. Interesting, wouldn't you agree?

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Thursday, February 7, 2019

As the Sky Goes Dark

Cousin Scott shared some pics he took from one of our recent hikes. I say recent, but I guess about three months have passed already. Where does the time go? I have very few pics of myself hiking (I usually hike alone), so it's kind of fun to look back at these and check out some of the places we explored.

It's no wonder I'm stiff and sore after a day of hiking. I tend to want to explore every alcove and shallow cave I find, hoping to discover a pictograph or petroglyph or who knows what. This one appears to be a little snug!


I tend to squeeze every second of daylight possible before ending my hikes. As the desert sky goes dark, it does some pretty amazing stuff!

Here's the sky well after sunset. If I were driving home now, I would have missed the shot.

As you can imagine, the only problem is you end up hiking back to your car in the dark, which can make navigation a challenge. Scott was following behind me (I'm wearing a headlamp). No tripod, and an exposure time of 0.56 seconds. Pretty amazing shot for hand-held! A little blurry, but I love the photo (I had some fun playing around with this image and added stars for effect). And yes, we eventually did find the car!

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