Thursday, March 31, 2022

Clouds & Rain

 I know, most of you don't get too excited over a little rain. But S CA is so bone dry and parched that we love it! We started out this week with a gloriously rainy Monday morning, some clearing in the afternoon, and then more rain overnight. I only wish it had lasted for a few more days, but happy for whatever we can get.
Tree tobacco in bloom
It was during the break in the afternoon rain, when the sun seemed like it was fighting with the clouds to dominate the sky, that I couldn't resist going out for a walk, camera in hand.
To the NW, downtown LA was in a haze. 
For the most part, there wasn't much in bloom. But at the top of the property, wow, lots of yellow flowers. Beautiful!!

Google Lens (something I just discovered) tells me this is called "Sticky Monkey Flower". There's quite a bit of it flowering in the area, and the hummingbirds seem to enjoy it! 

Hiking back, I saw this big jumbo jet flying through the clouds!
Linking with Skywatch Friday.
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Thursday, March 24, 2022

Surprise Tank

 I almost didn't do this hike. I found myself with a free afternoon and decided last minute to go for a hike. We had had recent rain during an otherwise dry year, and I was thinking how nice it would be to see water in the desert. I decided to check out Surprise Tank, which is a short hike and, in theory, should be perfect since I only had a few hours. I've posted about it at least twice before. Most times it's dry, sometimes it's a mudpuddle, and rarely it's full. Let's go check it out.

After stepping out of the car, I got a huge blast of cold air. Really cold! I didn't expect it to be nearly this cold and windy when I left 29 Palms. I didn't have gloves or a knit hat, so not well prepared for a cold weather hike. I decided to proceed, rationalizing that I can always turn back if I get too cold.
Turns out I got lucky. After hiking about 1/2 mile, I noticed the wind had died down and the hiking was comfortable. And a big bonus: The sky and clouds were gorgeous!
Surprise Tank... nearly full!

This juniper grows on solid ground during most of the year.
There's a certain beauty to the randomness.



Hidden jewel in the desert!

The boulder hill on the right was used as a military lookout for a short time during WW2. Click here for details.
Queen Mountain, with Geology Tour Road on the left.

The drive home
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Thursday, March 17, 2022

Looking for the Wolf Moon

 I'm a couple months behind on my posts. I recall this day in mid-January... almost, but not quite, a full moon (called the "Wolf Moon"). It was scheduled to rise at about the same time as sunset, which is always a nice time to take pictures. So I headed over to Clark Park, where I can get some good sky views, and was immediately... disappointed. Too many clouds! The moon was pretty much obscured by all the clouds, although I did manage to get a fleeting glimpse.

Even though the moon view was mostly blocked by clouds to the east, I still had the sunset to work with to the west, and it didn't disappoint.

Heading up these steps will give me nice views of the sky.

My friend Elliot over at Exploratography tells me the mustard plants are blooming over at Clark Park, so I need to go visit!

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Thursday, March 10, 2022

Majestic and Shadow Arches

 When my friend Mitch invited me to join him on a hike to Majestic Arch, I was all in! It had been a while since I had visited, and it's always a challenging hike/climb to get up to the arch. Another big plus: Mitch's friend Kevin would be joining us. I had never met Kevin, but he is a local legend in Joshua Tree, and is one of the most accomplished hikers/climbers/photographers in the area. He's also authored one of the best hiking guidebooks out there (40 Classic Day Hikes of Joshua Tree National Park). 

I didn't take a single photo until after making the climb up to Majestic Arch. This is looking back at the route we had taken. It gives you a good feel for the ruggedness of the terrain. 

Majestic Arch, in all her glory!


You can crawl under the arch, and there's a shallow cave that goes back into the rocks. From here, the two openings under the arch remind me of eyes... as if I'm looking out through some prehistoric skull!

The views from Majestic Arch are excellent. About the only plant life up here are these little stunted green plants, barely clinging to life. Juniper, or Pinion Pine perhaps? They remind me of little Bonsai trees!

Kevin (on right) and I discussing matters of great importance!

Kevin & Mitch
We reluctantly decide it's time to leave Majestic Arch and agree to try climbing down the west facing rocks (we had come up on the east side). No photos here either. I personally was just focusing on getting down without killing myself! The west side is steeper but shorter. After a successful descent, we pass "Alien Arch" (below).
Mitch discovers this weird ground-level arch. From this angle, you can't even tell it's an arch. Note Mitch under the arch taking pictures (he blends in). 

From underneath, this arch has a very alien feel to it!
Rather than head straight back to the cars, we decide to take a small detour to visit Shadow Arch. On the way there, we come across this interesting arch (or double-arch).
We also happen upon this shell from a desert tortoise. Unfortunately, these are fairly common to find, but actual living tortoises are very rare. I can only surmise that their populations are on the decline.
After a bit more looking, we find Shadow Arch. This is the view of the arch looking south. I ask Kevin and Mitch if it might be possible for them to climb up there so I can take their picture. It was meant as a joke.

Kevin make the climb up with ease. I guess I shouldn't be surprised, given his extensive background in rock climbing.
Mitch gets an "A" for effort, but quickly determines the risk outweighs the rewards. I can tell just by looking at it, it's beyond my abilities!
Late afternoon golden light on Shadow Arch, looking north.
Smoke Tree
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