Thursday, March 28, 2024

North of Lost Palms Oasis

 This is a hike I underestimated, and that can be a dangerous thing to do. On Google Earth, the area looked interesting, with some huge rock formations that called to me. I carefully mapped out my route and transferred it to my phone. I figured 4-5 hours should be plenty of time to explore the area, which turned out to be a significant underestimate. Join me as I explore the challenging terrain north of the Lost Palm Oasis trail.
I started at Cottonwood Spring where I picked up the Lost Palms Oasis trailhead. The oasis here is full of palms and cottonwoods. A very pretty oasis in the desert, and one of only a handful in the entire park!
Not surprisingly, Native Americans were here first. This mortar is at the beginning of the trail and is one of the deepest I've seen in the park. They say the deeper the mortar, the more it was used and the older it is.
Following the Lost Palms Oasis trail made for easy hiking at the start. The low elevation here means no Joshua trees, but the ocotillo cactus are an added bonus!
I veered off trail a few times to check out rock formations. This looks like the remains of a fire ring.

Giant cracks, as if something hatched out of this rock. Yucca Man, perhaps??!!
Once I left the trail and started exploring the rocks to the north, this is the type of terrain I was up against. Beautiful but challenging, and I woud often hit dead ends and have to double back. It made for slow going.
Can you spot that tiny little piece of the Salton Sea at the top of the photo? I was surprised to be able to see it from here. It's about 20-25 miles away.
Big nose!
Tiki head in profile!
So many interesting rocks to explore!
B&W version. Interesting textures and shadows.
Another Salton Sea view.
I did this hike back in December, and I took this photo at 4:12PM, with the sun starting to set behind the high boulders. If memory serves, sunset was about 4:45PM. To get to the places I had marked on my route would take at least another hour, probably longer. I vividly recall the feeling of urgency to leave. Head back now. I would be very lucky to make it back to the trail before sunset, and I did NOT want to be hiking back in these steep, rocky hills in the dark!
I was worried I wouldn't have time to get back to the trail before dark if I followed my route back the way I came. I needed a straight line "short cut" back to the trail. The problem is, with these huge rock formations and steep-sided washes, a straight line is impossible to follow. A "short cut" also increases the risk of getting turned around or lost. I decided to take a modified straight line approach and just do the best I could.
Hmm... Straight line through here? Nope, one of many detours.
What a huge sigh of relief when I finally stumbled upon the trail! Elation! This must be why people like to push and challenge themselves... for this feeling you get when you successfully finish the challenge. It was after sunset, but just enough ambient light to make my way. At this point, I stopped, drank some water, and put my headlamp on for the remaining couple of miles (on trail) I needed to hike to get back to the car.
Back where I started... Cottonwood Wash, with the big Cottonwood tree in the wash! 8.5 miles, but it felt like at least twice that distance. With a surprising amount of elevation gain (820'). Next time, I'll be careful not to underestimate the hike!
Thanks for stopping by and joining me on this adventure!
Linking with Skywatch Friday.

Thursday, March 21, 2024

A Quick Trip to Morro Bay

 It's been years since I've been to Morro Bay, and I'd forgotten how very beautiful the area is. Unfortunately, it's a bit of a drive... 4 hours one way (that's assuming traffic is cooperating). From where I live, I need to navigate up into LA, and out the other end, which is never easy. If it weren't for that, I think it's a place we would visit often.
Checking into our hotel, this is the view from the lobby (taken through the glass window). What an awesome location! If you're not familiar with Morro Bay, it's located on California's central coast and is famous for this huge geological oddity called Morro Rock. The bay itself is beautiful, as is the coastline to the north and south.
Dinner at the hotel on our first night. I had totally forgetten it was St. Patrick's Day. I ordered a beer with my fish & chips and was shocked to see a green beverage served with my dinner! Family, a great view on the water, and green beer... doesn't get any better than this! We liked it so much, we ate dinner here again on our second night!
Cloud bank and light fog on our first night in Morro Bay.
On the morning of our second day, I walked down to the lobby around 7:30AM to grab some coffee and saw this pretty view (cell phone shot). I like how the sun is lighting up Morro Rock, and decided I would bring my big camera down to this spot a little earlier the next day and try to get a photo at the exact moment Morro Rock is first lit up by the sun.
Lilly & I rented a kayak. It was something we had never done, and turned out to be easy and fun. I'm sure it helped that the bay was perfectly calm with no waves or current! As we paddeled around in the harbor, I asked her if money were no object and she could choose any boat in the harbor, which one would she want??
Being a huge Taylor Swift fan, the decision was easy!
Dog beach (we had our dog with us), and a nice view of Morro Rock looking south.
A beautiful sunset on the evening of our second day.

I woke up early on the morning of our final day because I wanted to get that photo of Morro Rock at first light. Well, one thing about photography, you can plan all you want, but there are no guarantees!
It was so foggy, I could barely make out the boats in the water right in front of me! What a radical overnight change in the weather! That's OK, I rarely get a chance to take pictures in the fog. I cranked up the ISO on my camera and stated taking pictures.

This otter came cruising by in the fog.

Hope you enjoyed this quick getaway to a really pretty area on California's Coast!
Thanks for stopping by!!
Linking with Skywatch Friday.

Thursday, March 14, 2024

Yucca Man vs. Augmented Reality

 You've never heard of Yucca Man? I'm not surprised. You might say that Yucca Man is to the Mojave Desert what Big Foot is to the Pacific Northwest. Big Foot is much better known, while only desert rats seem to be familiar with Yucca Man. Here's what Microsoft Copilot has to say about Yucca Man:
Yucca Man is a myterious creature that allegedly inhabits the Mojave Desert and has been sighted since the 1970s. Here are some intriguing details about this enigmatic being:
1. Origins and Sightings:
  • The Yucca Man is described as a hairy creature that roams the desert.
  • Reports of sightings extend as far west as Palmdale and Edwards Air Force Base.
  • Unlike traditional Bigfoot sightings, the Yucca Man is said to be huge, scary, aggressive, fast and threatening.
2. Characteristics
  • The Yucca Man shares similarities with mythical creatures like Bigfoot and Yeti.
  • It is believed to exist in the Mojave Desert, a vast and rugged region in Southern California.
  • Descriptions vary, but it is often portrayed as a large, bipedal beast with glowing red eyes.
3. Possible connections
  • Some speculate that the Yucca Man has ties to Native American legends.
  • It's presence near Edwards Airforce Base adds an intriguing twist to the mystery.
Whether legend or reality, the Yucca Man continues to haunt the desert, leaving curious minds wondering about its existence and origins. 🌵👣

 A friend of mine messaged me with a "photo" of Yucca Man that was generated by Microsoft Copilot. That intrigued me and is the genesis of this post. I didn't know Copilot could generate images, much less an image of something as obscure as Yucca Man. I had to try it out for myself. I prompted Copilot to generate an image of "Yucca Man in a Joshua tree forest with large boulders at sunset" and this is what it came up with.

Pretty creative, don't you think? As a side note, I really enjoyed your comments from last week's post about AI generated images. Personally, I'm worried about what AI will do to photography (and lots of other areas) when it becomes virtually impossible to determine AI from a real photo.
Copilot's ability to generage images of Yucca Man got me wondering: Are all AI generators created equal? In other words, do they all generate similar content when using the same prompt words?
I entered the same prompt words into Photoshop ("Yucca Man in a Joshua tree forest with large boulders at sunset") and the above photo was generated. Clearly, the Photoshop AI algorithms have no clue who or what Yucca Man is!!
Out in the Mojave Desert, Yucca Man has somewhat of a cult following. You see him from time to time on posters and adds.
There's even a Yucca Man craft beer. I'd like to try it if I can find it for sale somewhere, and at 13% alcohol, everyone starts looking like Yucca Man!
You might be wondering just what exactly is a Yucca? Well, check out my photos below (100% real photos!). They are sometimes confused with Joshua trees, but Joshua trees are, well, trees! Yuccas are commonly found in the 3-6' size range. Yucca leaves are longer than those on Joshua Trees. Also, on JTrees, as old leaves die, they fall off the plant. On Yuccas, they turn brown but stay attached to the trunk, giving the plant a more wholly appearance.

Quail on a Yucca.
Thanks for stopping by and listening to me ramble on about Yucca Man and AI generated photos! Until next time...
Linking with Skywatch Friday.

Thursday, March 7, 2024

Desert Light

 On our last trip to the desert, we were driving home from a short hike and the sky was exceptionally beautiful. Also rapidly changing. There was rain on the horizon. I was so hoping I would be home in time to grab my camera and catch some of the beauty, and it turned out, I barely made it! Shortly after taking these, the sky clouded up and the magical light was gone!

Hope your week is going well, and thanks for stopping by!!
Linking with Skywatch Friday.