Thursday, June 25, 2020

Wind & Rocks

I'm used to seeing beautiful skies out in east Joshua Tree. I guess I'm spoiled. Yup, definitely spoiled. Today started out like many others, with a solid blue sky. The only difference was high winds were predicted for late afternoon.
I wasn't following a trail (this is designated wilderness area), just following waypoints across open desert en route to a destination, and looking for interesting rock formations along the way.

About an hour or so into my hike, I noticed the wind picking up. My only thought was that it might mess up my sky, wrecking an otherwise beautiful day for photography.

I noticed what looked like clouds moving in, but realized these weren't clouds. These were areas of blowing sand and dust.

As I passed the rock that, from this angle, looks like an old man with a big nose, the sky was losing much of it's blue color and the wind was getting stronger. A little disappointed, I continued my hike.

I hiked by the old fire ring that, based on the wood decay and rocky breakdown, appears that it's been here a VERY long time!

The photos above look like they were taken on a foggy day. Definitely not the case, as there was flying sand and dust everywhere!

The big thing I learned on this hike was that as the skies started to white-out, it made it easier to concentrate on the rock formations and textures. Normally I'm very focused on the sky backdrop, and it's a big part of how I compose my photos. With the sky effectively neutralized, it forced me to focus 100% on the rocks. In the second photo, I see some "eyes" carved in the rock. Let's go check it out.
Getting closer. Let's climb the rocks...
There we go. Very cool! Almost like having a version of Skull Rock out here in east Joshua Tree. But given the remote location, very few people have seen this skull rock!

A small, interesting shelter.

Rocky textures in b&w.

Looking down!
The rocky textures and patterns seem to really stand out against the neutral sky.

B&W works well for these conditions.

It wasn't until the sun was setting and the wind was really blowing hard that concern entered my mind. I wondered if there were ever times of complete "white-out"... when the sand was blowing so hard you couldn't see the surrounding hills to navigate. Much like hiking at night. As I pushed against the wind, I hoped it wouldn't come to that. I spotted an alcove, and the thought crossed my mind that if things got too bad, I could shelter in there for a while.
The alcove reminds me of a tortoise shell.
Inside, the alcove was calm and perfectly protected from the wind. However, I didn't rest for long. I was quickly loosing daylight and still had a long hike back to the Jeep.

Sunset during a desert sandstorm!
After safely making it back to the Jeep in near total darkness, I checked my phone. There was one of those emergency alerts sent out to all local residents regarding a High Wind Advisory. Stay off the roads if possible. The 40-mile drive back to the house in my open Jeep in high winds and blowing sand was a real white-knuckle experience!!

Thanks for joining me on another desert adventure!
Stay safe and stay healthy.
Linking with Skywatch Friday.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Wonderland Overlook

The Wonderland of Rocks is one of the most amazing places in all of Joshua Tree National Park. As the name implies, it's just a huge jumble of densely-packed rocks. The rock climbing is world class, and the hiking and photography are excellent. It's an intimidating area to hike, and few tourists venture in beyond Barker Dam. The boulders and rock formations make hiking in a straight line impossible. For the most part, there are no trails to follow. I've only scratched the surface with regard to my own exploring of this amazing area.
It's pretty easy to spot the Wonderland from an airplane window seat (or looking down in satellite view using Google Maps, above). The lighter-colored granite rocks in the Wonderland form a distinct border with the rest of the park (red arrows show east and west borders). In round numbers, the Wonderland is about 5 miles in length (north to south) and about 1.5 miles wide.

A few posts ago (here) I mentioned I was out looking for some Native American rock art, but try as I might, I never found them. I did find many beautiful flowering Nolina, and also this amazing rock formation.

I think I see a face.

I can't help but wonder if this rocky projection wasn't part of an arch or land bridge a million or so years ago. I'm basing this observation on the way it's sheared off at the end with lots of rocky rubble underneath it. 

After scouring the myriad of rocks for possible pictographs and finding none, I noticed what looked like a possible viewpoint (center of photo above). Let's go take a look.

Some beautiful views and rock formations on the hike over. I still see what looks like a viewpoint, so let's keep going...

Just a little further...

Ah, perfect! Now that's a view!! You can clearly see where the "regular" desert stops and the lighter Wonderland of Rocks granite starts.

Some friends who have hiked the area said this area is called the "Wonderland Overlook". I just stumbled across it by chance. The photos don't really do it justice. They were taken midday with a so-so sky. Imagine how beautiful it would be at sunset!!

On the hike back, I spotted this huge boulder with a flat, smooth top. Let's go explore...

A nice view! My car is down there somewhere.

Late afternoon light highlights this prickly pear cactus.

Here's the old road I'm be following back to the car. That ridge in the mountains is what we have just hiked down.

Pretty little fishhook cactus in flower.

Nolina bloom in b&w.
Linking with Skywatch Friday.
Stay safe. Stay healthy.
Thanks for stopping by!!

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Majestic Arch Revisited

I first "discovered" Majestic Arch in January of 2019 and I posted about it here. I have "discovered" in quotes because I know of at least one person who had spotted the arch (from a distance) prior to my stumbling upon it. But I know of no one who had ever climbed up to it. Anyway, I remember thinking that this might be my one and only time to make the climb. I'm not getting any younger, and this arch is tough to get to!

I shared my discovery and photos with a few trusted friends who regularly hike in the area. They ended up making the climb to Majestic Arch a few months later. They chose a different approach... claimed to be easier but added distance to the hike. That piqued my interest. They also placed a register under the arch so any future explorers could document their visit. That also piqued my interest. Fast forward to October 2019. I'm very curious to see if anyone has visited the arch since the register placement and also curious (and hopeful) that I can find an easier climb up to the arch.
The drive out.
The hike in. I know, I know... I should stay focused on my goal of reaching the arch, but this alcove looks interesting. Let's go check it out.

A nice shady spot to rest, and a nice view!
Can you spot the arch?
Unfortunately, I don't see an easier way up to the arch. I'm sure it exists, but I don't want to use up a lot of time and energy looking for it. Up we go!

Getting closer. Now all we have to do is climb up these very steep rocks. The arch is up there somewhere!

We made it! A goal for this hike is to explore the rocks around Majestic Arch and see if I can find an easier approach to take when it's time to go down. That might be the approach my friends took when they climbed up. They views from atop the rocks are great, but I see no obvious route that looks easier. Here are a few more view shots from the rocks surrounding Majestic Arch.

Wow, imagine how incredible it would be so see the sun set from up here! But I sure wouldn't want to climb down in the dark. Let's go check out the arch and see if we can find the register.

Ah, still there, and as beautiful as ever!

It didn't take me long to find this plastic container with sign-in notebook and pen under some rocks. Cool!! But no signatures, other than from my friends that placed it here. Not a surprise, given the remoteness and difficulty of getting to the arch.

 A favorite shot... from deep within the arch looking out. Like a pair of eyes looking out upon the world!

I'll leave you with this short video clip of the view from Majestic Arch. Thanks for joining me on another adventure! 

Linking with Skywatch Friday.
Stay safe. Stay healthy.