Thursday, December 31, 2020

Crown Prince Return Visit

Wow, hard to believe... last post of 2020! I don't know about your, but I'm looking forward to a new and improved 2021!! For today's adventure, we are heading to an area of Joshua Tree National Park that sees only light foot traffic. The few people that hike into this area are likely looking for the Crown Prince Lookout, which I've posted about here and here. The Lookout is fascinating because it was used as an enemy aircraft warning station during WW2, and the views are gorgeous.

We will visit the Lookout today, but that's not the goal of the hike. I've spotted some interesting looking rocks on Google Earth that I want to check out. I'm hoping to get lucky and find some signs of Native American habitation. It's below (south) of the Lookout, and it's an area rarely visited. I'm keeping the location vague on purpose. On my visits to the Crown Prince, I often look down to the area below the Lookout and think "one of these days." Well, I guess today is the day!
It's a fairly easy hike to get to the Crown Prince Lookout. Many consider the rocky climb in the photo above to be the most challenging part of the hike. Interesting that when this area was used as a military lookout (active from Feb. 1943 - Oct. 1943), stairs were constructed to make the climb easy.
Ya, that would certainly make things easier! I found this photo in Kevin Powell's excellent book 40 Classic Day Hikes of Joshua Tree National Park. In his book, he gives photo credit to the National Park Service. There was reportedly a trailer kept somewhere below the stairs for the volunteers to sleep in when they weren't on duty. I've never seen a photo of the trailer.

 Weird concrete block on top of the Crown Prince Lookout. I'm sure this had some function back in the day when the military was using this spot as a lookout.

Nice view. I never knew you could see the Wonderland of Rocks from here! I lugged my big, heavy telephoto lens with me today, so I might as well get some use out of it. I would guesstimate this to be about 10 miles.

An old tie-down located on top of the Lookout.

Leaving the Lookout and continuing on our journey, I was curious to see if this rock labyrinth was still in place. I came across it a few years back and reported it to the Park Service. They said they would remove it, but that obviously didn't happen. That's OK with me. I think it's pretty interesting.
Not far from here, you can see some old mine tailings and there are supposedly two small mine shafts. The challenge is they are hidden in the boulders and difficult to find. I found one some years ago, but it was full of bees, so I couldn't explore it.
After some searching, I was able to find it again, and this time, no sign of bees. This is the view from outside looking in. 

From inside looking out. It's just a shallow mine that likely didn't produce much, but interesting anyway. To think someone dug this out with a pic is mind-boggling!
I searched for the second mine, but was unable to find it. But a nice bonus to the hike was finding these pottery sherds! I was careful to put them back exactly where I found them before moving on.
Fish head?

The area has classic desert beauty and wonderful rock formations. As I was hiking down a steep hillside, I heard the distinct sound that sounds like nothing else on earth... rattlesnake! He slithered away quickly as I looked frantically around trying to spot him and hoping I wasn't stepping toward him or on him. He lodged himself in the roots and branches of a creosote bush, so no chance for a clear photo. I changed to my telephoto lens and this is the best I could do. 
Close crop showing the eye of the rattlesnake and his tongue darting out. I was keeping a safe distance. I never knew rattlesnakes could have blue eyes!!

View (looking north) of the Crown Prince Lookout

Bingo!! This is the cluster of rocks that I was hoping to find today, and my heart was beating faster as I noticed a large opening under the rock that might indicate a shelter.

The shelter is small but plenty of room if you're sitting. I saw no sign of rock art, but the placement of the boulders is interesting. Someone, either in recent times or distant times, had cleared the rocks out of the shelter. There's also an area that looks like an old fire ring, but no sign of soot on the rocks above. 
A second shelter very close to the first. Within this shelter there is something that looks suspiciously like a grinding stone. That's a fun find!

Interesting rocks very close to the shelters and part of the rock cluster that makes up this site. Again, I saw no rock art. Either none here or it's faded away over the years. But this area definitely has that "feel" to it. I was excited to find it, and I've never seen photos of it, so I don't think people are aware of this site.
Yawning dog? Howling at the moon??
I still had a lot of exploring to do, but I could check off the primary objective of my hike and just focus on taking pictures. I'll stop yakking and let the photos speak for themselves.

Wishing everyone a Happier New Year for 2021!
Linking with Skywatch Friday.
Stay safe and stay healthy!

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Heart Rock

It's not on a map. I'm guessing most rangers are unaware of it's location, but one of the best heart-shaped rocks in all of Joshua Tree National Park is very close to a popular campground (White Tank). White Tank also has Arch Rock, which is a very popular tourist destination and has a trail leading to it. All those visitors going to Arch Rock don't realize what they are missing when they bypass Heart Rock. I'm kind of glad it's not on a map and has no trial leading to it. It means if you are lucky enough to find it, you have a good chance of having it all to yourself!

This was a perfect hike for granddaughter Lilly and I. A little under a mile (one way), a chance to teach her a little about GPS navigation, and a really fun photo opportunity!

Leaving Heart Rock, we decided to take a more challenging route back to the car and see some different terrain. 

Linking with Skywatch Friday.
Thanks for stopping by, and stay healthy!!

Thursday, December 10, 2020

The Old Truck

It's certainly a mystery. What's this truck doing in this desert wash, miles from the road, in Joshua Tree National Park Wilderness Area (no vehicles allowed)? How it got here, who was driving it, and why they abandoned it sounds like a great storyline for the next Netflix movie!

Very strange. A shoutout to virtual friend G.S. for giving me some hints as to location. This was actually my second hike to this old truck. I was going to link back to my original post, but guess what? There is no original post!! Somehow, that hike must have slipped through the cracks and was never posted. Is it just me, or do the cracks seem to be getting wider as each year passes?

Let me start by sharing a few pics from the hike in. My goal for this hike was to explore some rocky areas near the truck that I had never seen, and then to end up at the old truck around sunset. 

I feel as if I'm being watched!

Lovely late afternoon light in this desert wash full of smoke trees.

The delicate purple flowers of a smoke tree in bloom.

Spaceship rock!

Window rock

Desert milkweed seedpods

I came across a number of rocky shelter sites that I had never seen before, so that was a treat. No definitive signs of Native American use, although the third photo (below) has a boulder just inside the shelter that looks suspiciously worn down! I thought I found a couple of bedrock mortars outside the shelter in the forth photo (below). After closer inspection, I think they may be naturally occurring depressions in the rock.

Even in the desert you can see vibrant green color!

It was about this time in the hike that my stomach was rumbling and I had the irresistible urge for some fudge stripe cookies. See the resemblance??

My timing was good, as I reached the old truck just before sunset.

This truck is going nowhere! It reminds me of the "International Car Forest" (photo credit Trip Advisor), but this one is all alone and seen by very few people. Certainly no graffiti problems!

As the moon started to rise and darkness was closing in around me, I couldn't help thinking about the long hike back in the dark, using only my headlamp and Garmin for navigation. I wonder if there's anyone still alive that knows the full story behind this truck out in the middle of nowhere!?? It's likely another in my long list of desert mysteries that will never be solved.

Linking with Skywatch Friday.
Stay safe and stay healthy!!