Thursday, January 25, 2024

A Quick Tour of NE Joshua Tree

 My friend Roger has a couple buddies who live in the desert and hike often, but had somehow never hiked NE Joshua Tree. Mind boggling to me, since I hike this area often and it's my favorite place to explore. Anyhoo, I volunteered to be the tour guide for this hike. Of course, you can't see the entire area in a single hike (not even close!), but you can hit a few of the highlights.
First stop: Scorpius Arch
Unnamed arch.
Mystery Arch... one of my favorites!
Mystery Arch

Underneath Mystery Arch
Looking out the other end of Mystery Arch
Motley crew: The five of us, with Mystery Arch in the background.
Another unnamed arch.

Roger patiently waiting to be beamed up!

Still another unnamed arch.
Local pictographs (dStretch enhanced)

Hello desert friend!
Ojo Oro Arch

Roger getting just the right angle on Ojo Oro!

I'm enjoying some shade under another unnamed arch.
We were running short of daylight, but fortunately had just enough time to go by one of my favorite rock formations: Jabba Rock.
See the resemblance?
There is a way to get up to that highest alcove, but it's been a few years since I've been up there, and I'm not getting any younger. Before I knew it, one of Roger's friends had scaled the rocks and made his way up. Can you spot him? Wow, he's got some serious rock climbing skills!
After great difficulty, I did manage to "climb" (crawl) to the upper alcove. Scary, but oh so worth it. The alcove is big and roomy. It would actually be a good spot to spend the night (just don't attempt to climb down in the dark!). And the views... WOW!!

Did I mention the VIEWS!!
Thus ends my "quick" tour of NE Joshua Tree. We are about out of daylight, and for some reason, none of my hiking partners are too excited about hiking back to the cars in the dark!๐Ÿ˜‰  Now for the hard part: Trying to get down off Jabba Rock without falling. Check back next week to see if I'm able to make the descent and post pictures of the hike back to the cars!
Until then... thanks for stopping by,
and stay safe and warm!
Linking with Skywatch Friday.

Thursday, January 18, 2024

A Nice Mix of Weather

 It's been a couple weeks since I've been out to the desert, but I did manage to hike in the local hills a couple times during the last week. We've been very lucky with our weather, especially when I look at the frigid conditions in other parts of the country and the world. I am indeed fortunate to live where I live, and I'm sending warm sunny thoughts to those of you suffering through cold, ice and snow. Hang in there!๐Ÿฅถ
Toyon berries frame the view out towards the Pacific Ocean. That's Catalina Island in the haze.
A beautiful day after an overnight rain.
Another view of Catalina Island, about 44 miles from where I'm standing.
Hiking trails in the foreground; Saddleback Mountain behind.
Left behind from the oil property days. I like the rusty and faded colors!
Look closely for the big cranes in Long Beach Harbor (and Catalina Island in the background).
A splash of color!
Moonrise and hawk.

I was surprised to come across this guy (gopher snake) on a cool, cloudy day. But look how skinny he is! Likely forced out of hybernation to look for a meal. Hope he finds something to eat soon.
Lilly taking a break on our walk home from Starbucks.
Good day, LA!
Thanks for stopping by, and enjoy the week ahead!!
Linking with Skywatch Friday.

Thursday, January 11, 2024

Sheep Hole Dry Lake: The Hike Back

 So yes, I made it safely back to the car (in the dark, using a headlamp to avoid walking into a cactus, or worse). Last week I shared photos from my hike to the Sheep Hole Dry Lake, and how I badly underestimated the distance (and thus the hiking time), which is why the return hike (shared here) was mostly in the dark.
A friend told me the mountain above is called Duct Peak. My car is about 3.5 miles away, toward the left side of the mountain. I have about 15 minutes of daylight left, so a good chunk of my return hike will be in the dark. No worries, it's a straight shot. I'll check my GPS from time to time for navigation (since I won't be able to see any landmarks in the dark). As my granddaughter would say: "Papa, you've got this!!"
Interesting ring around the sun.
And now for our word of the day (there will be a quiz later): PARHELION - A partial rainbow, often white in color, but sometimes quite colorful, looking like a detached piece of a rainbow (sometimes called a "sun dog"). Hopefully we all learned something new today!
Backlighting on these fuzzy creosote blooms caught my eye.
OK, it's really time to quit messing around taking pictures and start the long hike back to the car...
When your shadow gets this long, you know your daylight is limited!
"Mountain of gold": As the sun set and threw me into the shadows, this distant mountain was bathed in golden sunlight. It was an incredible sight!
In the opposite direction: Sunlight hitting Duct Peak.
Just a few minutes later, my "mountain of gold" is no longer gold, but the sky is still gorgeous. I know what you're thinking: I should stop taking photos and focus on my hike back to the car, right? But this time of day (just before and just after sunset) is my favorite for photography. To get these photos, it requires that you hike back to your car in the dark. When I hike with friends, it drives them crazy!
6:22PM: Dark out, but the camera can pick up light.
Last photo of the day (6:23PM): ISO 1000 (camera can see details that I can't see).
Now it's time for the quiz (do I hear groans??): What's the fancy word for a partial rainbow?? Don't worry, I can't remember either. It's called a parhelion (pleural: parhelia). Seems like a good word for a bunch of skywatchers to be familiar with๐Ÿ˜‰.
Thanks for dropping by!
Linking with Skywatch Friday.

Thursday, January 4, 2024

Sheep Hole Dry Lake

 I broke an important rule of hiking. Maybe the most important rule: Once you tell someone where you are going to hike, stick to the plan! If you don't stick to the plan, how can someone find you if you have a problem or injury?
I had my solo hike all planned out with the route on my GPS phone app. My wife had a screenshot of my hike and knew exactly where I would be. However, driving east on Highway 62, I had a jaw-dropping moment: As I drove past the Sheephole Mountains, I saw this incredible carpet of yellow flowers stretching off into the horizon seemingly forever (above photo)! I've driven this way many, many times and never seen anything like it, and figured it must be due to the recent rain in the area.
Continuing on, I parked at the Wilderness sign off Highway 62.
I crossed the highway and started my planned hike (the one my wife had a copy of), heading south along the back side (east-facing side) of the Coxcomb Mountains. But those darn yellow flowers wouldn't stop nagging at me, and I felt like I was missing a huge opportunity by not going back to the yellow carpet of flowers I'd seen on the drive out. On impulse, I turned and started hiking back to the car with the intention of changing the plan. Cue the dun-dun-duuuun! sound effect. That's mistake #1.
By the time I hiked back to the car and drove back to the yellow flowers, I had used up over an hour. I had about 3-4 hours of daylight left. My new plan (known only to me) was to make a quick hike out to the dry lake (the light colored area below the mountains in the photo above). It looks pretty close, right? I estimated about a mile or so (one way) of easy level hiking. Plenty of time. Again with the dun-dun-duuuuun! That was mistake #2.
If you remember nothing else from this post, remember this: Distances are deceiving. That's especially true in the desert. Of course, I knew that, but my brain didn't seem to be working on this particular day. Instead of leisurely hiking 2 miles round trip over a couple hours with plenty of time for photography, I ended up hiking 6.8 miles out and back to the dry lake, which took me 4 hours and 10 minutes. What appeared to be a flat, level hike was anything but. Critter burrows were everywhere. For every 10 steps I took, one foot would abruptly drop down into a burrow and throw me off balance, which made the hiking slow and difficult. I crossed multiple washes. There was a surprising amount of elevation loss to the dry lake, which means I would be hiking uphill on the way back to my car.
But the good news? Oh, what a wonderful hike! The flowers!! The sunset!!! The absolute solitude made it a hike I won't soon forget. Did I mention the flowers?
This caterpillar will develop into a hummingbird moth.
Just gorgeous. The yellow clumps of flowers (I believe they are called Cinchweed) reflecting the late afternoon light, with the Sheephole Mountains in the background. I did my best not to step on flowers. I'm sure it added extra miles to my hike as I zigzagged toward the dry lake like a drunken sailor.
The desert turned yellow (or perhaps yellow-orange, depending upon the light)! Sharing this one to show how extensive the Cinchweed bloom was on this day. This is looking S/SW, towards Clark's Pass. This entire area was covered!
Are we there yet??! It's taking much longer than I thought it would!

Looks like an old tobacco tin (Prince Albert?) next to a Cinchweed plant.
Finally!!! I make it to the dry lake. It would be amazing to see this after a heavy rain!

The sense of openness, solitude, and absolute quite are incredible!
Time to take off the pack, have a snack, drink some water and take a selfie!
This is called "parametric properties" in PhotoShop. I call it "having fun on the lake bed!"
Hiking is slow in the open desert, where you have to pick your way around cacti and creosote. It was 4:40pm and the sun was setting as I left the lake bed. It was 3.5 miles back to the car and I had about 30 minutes or so of twilight left. After that, it would be dark. It was painfully obvious I would be hiking the last couple miles in the dark. Thankfully I had a fully-charged headlamp in my pack and a GPS route to follow on my phone.
I'll finish up this post next week with some beautiful desert skies as seen on my hike back to the car.
Thanks for stopping by and sharing this adventure with me!!
Linking with Skywatch Friday.