Thursday, March 26, 2020

Monolith Alcove

Let's see if I can manage to get our thoughts off of the Coronavirus for a few minutes and transport you out to the Joshua Tree desert. I don't know about you, but I need a break from the gloom and doom.

A year ago to the day, I was tromping around east Joshua Tree looking for something called "Monolith Alcove". I had a rough idea where it was, and because the alcove is unique looking, I figured it would be easy to find.
A year ago we had something of a "super-bloom" happening. Even out in east JT, where rain is less than most other areas in the park, things were very colorful. As I started my hike, I stepped carefully to avoid stomping on flowers. Not an easy task!

What an interesting rock formation. What really caught my eye is the rocks on the ground. They don't look "random"; they look arranged. I wonder if those rocks were moved away from the rock formation to clear a space? Could this spot have been used as a shelter, or for some other purpose? It looks that way to me.

If you follow my blog, you already know that East Joshua Tree if full of interesting rock formations, arches and alcoves.

Ah, here's my first glimpse of Monolith Alcove. It's hard to get a sense of scale, but trust me, it's very large. I had nicknamed it "bigmouth alcove" before I learned it had already been named.

A closer view. You have to climb the rocks over on the right side to get up into the alcove. I've scoured blogs, photo sites, and asked local experts about rock art in this area, and I always get the same answer... Monolith Alcove. It was thought that this is the only significant rock art site in the entire area. That's why I was so excited to find what I've called the Water Dagger Petroglyph area... which includes the petroglyph, pictographs, bedrock mortars, potsherds, grinding slick and mono, and of course the water source. So it turns out there's a lot more going on out here than we thought a year ago when I made this hike! Let's take a look inside Monolith Alcove.

Definitely something here. Dstretch gives us a better look...
Wow, lots of interesting pictographs here. The middle one reminds me of a 4-lane highway! I can't recall seeing one like it before. The diamond pattern is one I've seen at multiple sites in Joshua Tree. Let's get in a little closer.

Pretty sure I can just barely make out a couple of faint handprints (below the upside down U shapes). There are other faded pictographs as well.

As I sat looking out from this alcove, I thought about what a privilege it is to see this site, and the rock art inside, made all those years ago. Even more special because so few have seen it!

As we start our hike out, we'll go by a few of the arches in the area.

Linking with Skywatch Friday.
Stay safe, and wishing everyone good health.
Looks like the next couple weeks could be extremely challenging.
Thanks for stopping by!!

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Sheltering in Place

I just returned from a trip to buy groceries. Who knew going to the grocery store could be such a nail-biting experience! People are stressed. Really stressed. Even the decision whether or not to go is a tough one. Do you really want to come in close proximity with a lot of people right now? But what choice do we have??

Social distancing and sheltering in place are terms we have become all too familiar with. I did a little social distancing earlier this week. I drove out to my favorite area for a hike (east Joshua Tree National Park). I hiked for 5 hours and 39 minutes. I didn't see another human being. I didn't even see footprints from another human being. Social distancing in this area is epic. I did see a desert tortoise, however.
A wonderful example of sheltering in place!
More accurately, the desert tortoise saw me. As he pulled himself into his shell in this defensive posture, there was a loud hissing sound (caused from air escaping). I literally jumped, assuming it was a snake. That's when I spotted this guy. A big, beautiful desert tortoise, and the first live tortoise I've ever seen out in this area, which is notoriously hot and dry, even by desert standards. I got down on my belly to take this photo, then waited quietly for about 10 minutes, thinking he would come out of his shell. He didn't, so I said thanks for the photo and continued onward.

The drive out. Look at those clouds! I knew it was going to be a great day for a hike and taking pictures.

I rarely stop on my drive out to a hike, but I couldn't resist on this particular day. It's been a long time since I've photographed any of the little homestead cabins in Wonder Valley (which I pass by on my drive out). Here's what this cabin shell looks like on the inside.
A sofa sleeper! Looks like the only thing sleeping here are pack rats. I'm guessing what's left of this little cabin won't be standing much longer.

Here's another one. I like the way it looks in b&w. Let's have a look inside...

Strange and disturbing. The dripping hand prints are the color of blood. I'm really hoping it's just paint. I didn't stay long.

My final detour on the drive out to my hike was this view of the Sheep Hole Mountains. The hike turned out to be a great one, and I will be sharing photos with you in the near future. Until then, stay safe and healthy.

Linking with Skywatch Friday.
Thanks for stopping by!!

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Dynamic Skies in the Desert

It's raining here. The Corona virus seems to be taking over the world. The stock market is in free-fall. College classes are cancelled (on-line only). The Coachella Music Festival is postponed. Professional sports are cancelling their seasons. Stores are out of toilet paper. Life as we know it is radically changing, but we still have Skywatch Friday. Thank goodness some things remain the same! 

Just last week the world seemed a brighter place. Some pretty desert skies (all photos taken right outside the door at our desert house). The day had been cloudy. We had relatives visiting and I wanted to get a photo of everyone before the sun went down. I have an old couch I keep in the garage, and I pulled it out on the driveway. It would make a nice central point for a few photos. But I barely had the couch in place when my granddaughter jumped on it, gave me a big smile, and struck this pose.
I couldn't resist the temptation to take a picture! I consider myself very lucky to have this little photo muse always ready and willing to have her picture taken.

Cousin Curt, his wife Beth, Cousin Linda (behind couch) and Lilly all having a good time. We eventually did get all ten of us on and around the couch for one of those family photos we will long cherish. With the three "moms" all in (or close to) their 90's, we may not get this opportunity again.

As the sun started to set, the light became very pretty. I think this is what photographers call the "golden hour". This mountain is about 15 miles away from where I was standing (looking north) and is part of the 29 Palms Marine Base. It was really something how the sun seemed to be selectively lighting it up in beautiful golden colors.

Seemed like no matter which direction I pointed my camera, the sky had something interesting to say!

As the sky darkened, I thought I was done taking pictures. I put my camera away, but looked out the window a couple minutes later. The clouds had gone from white to pink. I guess I put my camera away too soon. Time for one more shot!
Until next week,
let's all try to stay safe and healthy.
Thanks for stopping by!!

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Aiguille de Joshua Tree

Aiguille - noun - A sharp pinnacle of rock in a mountain range.

Cousin Scott and I were out looking for something called the "Aiguille de Joshua Tree", also called the "Finger of Hercules". It's a rock climbing destination in Joshua Tree National Park. Neither of us are rock climbers, but I thought in might be fun to photograph this rocky pinnacle. It wasn't hard to find, and after a little exploring, there it was!

I decided to challenge myself and see how far up the "finger" I could climb.
So far, so good.

Starting to feel a little wobbly at this point!

Pretty good, but also scary.

OK, you guessed it. The photo above it totally photoshopped. There's no way I'm standing on top of that rock! I only got as high as the photo before it, and even at that I felt like I was pushing my luck.

I found a somewhat comfortable place to sit on the rocks and took a couple photos with my phone.

A wonderful view, and pretty late afternoon golden light! Look really closely and you might be able to spot Cousin Scott in the two photos above.

A couple more photos of this beautiful aiguille.

Impressive, wouldn't you agree? Let me leave you with some wild and crazy shots of climbers on the Aiguille de Joshua Tree. I didn't take any of the photos below. Just Google "Aiguille de Joshua Tree" and these are the images that come up. I'll do my best to give credit to the photographer or web site. Enjoy!
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According to Robert Miramontes' excellent publication Joshua Tree Bouldering, the Aiguille de Joshua Tree has a "horrible landing". That's climber speak for a jumble of sharp rocks below the pinnacle. That means that if the young lady's hand slips in the photo above, it's very likely to result in her death. I just can't get my head around how people stand upon, and hang off of, this rocky spire. I'm pretty sure you have to be under 30 years of age, and still have that good old feeling of invincibility, to do this sort of thing. A feeling that left me many years ago!

Linking with Skywatch Friday.
Thanks for dropping by, and be careful out there!!