Thursday, June 29, 2023

East Wash, Mark's Arch, and "Big Eyes"

 I know, kind of a crazy title for a post! This is a hike I did back in April in east Joshua Tree. What I'm calling "east wash" is a remote wash I've wanted to follow up into the rocky hills. I've tried twice before, but there are multiple parallel washes in the area and I always seem to end up in the wrong one!
On the drive out, I took a dirt road detour up to this mining area (it's about 1 mile from the Joshua Tree National Park border). I was driving the Jeep so I thought "what the heck, why not!" On the topo maps it is marked only as "open pit mine" (no other name). I don't know anything about it, other than it is no longer active and it looks dangerous. Lot's of steep sandy hillsides to slip off of and fall to your death. Allow me to make a quick side comment, and then I promise to get you to photos from the hike!
I know very little about mining, other than a miner or mining company stakes a "claim" which is generally on public land (in this case, BLM land). This gives the miner or mining company sole rights to mine the land. Makes sense so far. What I don't understand is why the miner or mining company is allowed to just walk away from the claim without cleaning up their mess! Seems like the government should require the mining operation to return the land to the way they found it. Perhaps they should put a deposit or a percentage of profits into an escrow fund used for clean up at the end of the claim lease. If they want their deposit back, they need to clean up the land. To clean up this open pit now would likely cost millions of dollars in taxpayer money. Meanwhile, the mining operation is long gone and they pay nothing. On to their next claim. Good deal for them, but terrible for everyone else! OK, end of editorial.
I think the wash is straight ahead. To find it requires some solid navigational skills.
Ah, this is better. Definitely a desert wash, and the one I was looking for!
There are high, dramatic rock formations along the west side of the wash.
Alien rock formation.
The wash becomes nearly impassable in this area. I stop to admire the wildflowers and that beautiful rocky spire. I'll proceed a little further and will then need to veer west. I'm hoping I can complete a large loop rather than go back the way I came.

Coyote den? And check out that boulder teetering up on top!
Afternoon golden light.

Heading due west, something just barely catches my eye as I'm passing by. It's white in color, which my brain says doesn't really belong here. Perhaps a large piece of quartz? Can you see it? I decide to check it out.
It's a bleached out bighorn sheep skull! It looks like it's been sitting here for many years. A cool find anywhere in the Park, but especially out here, where there's little water and no current sheep population to my knowledge.

View from inside, looking out.
I continue on, leaving the sheep skull just as I found it. Shortly after that discovery is this huge pointy boulder. Reminds me of a giant arrowhead, or perhaps a prehistoric shark tooth!
Did I mention it was a perfect day for a hike? Beautiful clouds and not too hot. Soon this area will be scorching and much too hot for day hikes. As I head north towards my car, I want to find an arch my friend Mark told me about.
And there it is: Mark's Arch!

View from under "Mark's Arch".
As I stop to admire this beautiful view and golden hour light, something compels me to turn around. And what I see amazes me!
What a incredible rock formation! It appears to have two large eyes, about equal in size, and very photogenic. Keep this rock formation in mind as you will be seeing it again in a future post.
View from inside the creature's right eye!

Hiking out here, I always have the Coxcombs nearby to keep me company!
Thanks for joining me on what turned out to be a really fun hike.
You will be seeing more of "Big Eyes" in the near future!
Linking with Skywatch Friday.

Thursday, June 22, 2023

A Partial Win

 We have two large undeveloped parcels of land in our city that we've been fighting over for years now (parcels are adjacent to each other and are old oil property). The smaller of the two, which is the east parcel, has been set aside as open space and is now partially open for hiking (yeah!!). That's where I'll be taking you today, and it's a significant win for open space advocates. The larger parcel to the west is still slated to be developed, which will be a very sad loss if it goes through. Of the two, the west parcel is the most "wild" and has the best views.
This is a photo of the placard you see at the beginning of the hike. Not sure why they are calling this "West" Coyote Hills. The larger open parcel is to the west, so I'm refering to this one as the east parcel. 
For the most part, you hike dirt roads. I prefer trails. I picked a good day for a hike. Cloudy skies and cool temperatures with the clouds giving way to blue sky from time to time. And the highlight was all the plants in bloom! Well, one of the highlights. Read on!
Another highlight... coming across this shallow grinding hole (with a rock in it, which I'm pretty sure someone just placed here) and the larger grinding slick on the right. I find these out in the desert all the time, but never in my home town!

Red and yellow blooms under a pretty sky!

Lots of mustard in bloom.
A tribute to the early Basque shepherds that worked these hills many years ago!

Pass the Mustard, please!

Nearly everything is in bloom!
Belladonna, aka deadly nightshade.
The bees were drunk with pollen!
OK, this really was the hike highlight for me. I expect to come across snakes in the desert, but NEVER in my hometown! In all my years here, I think I've only come across one other snake, and it looked like it had been recently run over by a mountain biker, so this is my one and only healthy snake sighting. A beautiful 3' gopher snake. Sitting right in the middle of the trail. So glad I didn't step on him! I made sure he made his way off the trail and into the brush, then I continued on my way.

Thanks for dropping by and for your comments!
I'll keep you posted regarding the fate of the second parcel of land (fingers crossed!).
Linking with Skywatch Friday.

Thursday, June 15, 2023

Tropical Vacation

 We are definitely not in the desert! Think hula girls and leis. We took granddaughter Lilly to Waikiki last week. My wife and I have been to Hawaii many times over the years but it's been a long time since our last visit. We still remember the time we took our adult children to Hawaii when they were the age Lilly is now (about 10): A few days in Maui, a few days in Kauai, and a couple days in Waikiki. To our surprise they were bored in Maui and Kauai, but absolutely loved Waikiki! They loved the beaches, surfing, shopping, fun things to do and see, etc., etc. OK, lesson learned. Let's take Lilly to Waikiki for a week. It wouldn't be my first choice (or second) but Lilly will love it!
Perhaps the highlight of our trip... I had to shorten this video in order to post it, but this was a loooooog ride! As the surfers say, "Dude, we were stoked!" So much fun to see Lilly riding the waves in Waikiki. She was fearless, and liked it so much she took a second day of lessons and is now in the market for a surfboard. But I guess I should start at the beginning...
For my Skywatch friends... we took Hawaiian Airlines out of Terminal B (LAX). This huge window at the end of the terminal had this sky painted or somehow affixed to the glass. It was a very cool effect because you can still see through the window, but at the same time, it gives the impression you are looking out at these beautiful clouds. In reality, it was a foggy overcast morning.

We had a mixed city view/ocean view from our hotel balcony.
Lilly took this photo while floating on her donut. The beach was right across the street from our hotel. This part of the beach had a breakwall, so no waves. Like a giant saltwater swimming pool!
There was a concrete pier directly across from our hotel. A fun place to drink our morning coffee and eat a little breakfast. We met a nice retired gentleman who lives in the area and feeds the birds here every morning. He gave Lilly some bread so she could give it a try.
Now that Lilly is a surfer, we had to take her photo in front of King Kamhameha!
Another highlight from the trip: Taking Lilly on the Diamond Head Crater trail. I hadn't hiked it in years. Lots of steps and uneven surfaces, but if you can manage, it's a wonderful hike!
Lots of steps!
An old bunker (Diamond Head was used by the military during WW2).
Spiral steps
You pass through a number of tunnels.
More steps... 
And more tunnels!

But finally the payoff... the BEST views of Waikiki of anyplace on the island!
Our week in Waikiki was almost over. As much as I was looking forward to getting back home, I sure was going to miss these tropical skies and beautiful beaches!

Go Lilly, go!!
Linking with Skywatch Friday.
Thanks for stopping by!!