Thursday, April 25, 2024

The Car Wash at Sunset

 Last post, I was out in the middle of nowhere (as usual) searching for a giant funnel. Once I found it (it was late afternoon), I set up "camp" (tarp and sleeping bag), and had a lot of time to kill waiting for the Milky Way to rise at about 4 in the morning. So what to do? Fortunately, not far from the funnel is an area called the "car wash", where old car bodies are frozen in time, buried in sand in a desert wash (hence the name). It's a strange site, and makes for some fun photography. And it sure makes you wonder about all these old cars: What are they doing in such a remote location, and how did they get in the wash??
Well, I have a theory. If you look closely at the historic "trash" piles on the property near the car wash, you will see much of it is auto parts. My theory is the person or people who lived here back in the day salvaged the old cars for their parts. Perhaps he/they would use them to repair vehicles of the miners working in the area? So my theory is this was an early version of an auto salvage yard.
The cars that make up the "car wash" are actually just old car bodies... no motors, no transmission, no tires or rims. Just the bodies, picked clean. Not having all the "innards" would make them much lighter, and I can imagine one of those huge desert flash floods pushing these car bodies into this wash. Washed into the wash, so to speak. And here they remain all these years later.
Baby blue Cadillac.
Somebody left the lights on!
One nice thing about spending the night out here is I can photograph these old cars at sunset. The few visitors that hike out to this remote spot can't stay for sunset unless they are willing and able to hike back to their car in the dark, which is challenging, and not something most sane people would choose to do.😷 
Time to vacuum out the car!

My sleeping bag is around here somewhere. Good night!
Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you enjoyed the old cars!
Linking with Skywatch Friday

Thursday, April 18, 2024

March Milky Way Madness

 You might think I'm crazy ( Sometimes I think I'm crazy.  After driving 10 miles on a terribly rutted and washboarded dirt road that nearly shook my Jeep apart, I started my solo hike. I struggled to put on my very heavy backpack with food, water, sleeping bag, and camera gear. No tent (some call this "cowboy camping"), because that would add even more weight. What do you need a tent for, anyway? Well, some would argue to keep snakes, scorpions, tarantulas, and other critters from climbing into your bag with you, but I decided not to worry about that. Don't sweat the small stuff.
I had a plan. There's this old mining site in Joshua Tree National Park that I've been to once or twice before. At this site there's this thing that looks like a giant funnel (seriously!). Not sure how it was used in the mining operation, but that's exactly what it looks like. I had this idea stuck in my head where I go out during a new moon and shoot the Milky Way, and try to orient it so it looks like the stars are pouring into the funnel. It was a long shot that it would turn out the way I was envisioning it, but the only way I was going to get that image out of my head was to go out there and give it a try.
About 3/4th of the way to my destination, there's this gate. Kind of funny because the fence is gone on either side, so the gate is serving absolutely no purpose, but kind of cool that it's still standing. It also serves as a marker for an old road, leading into and out of the mining area. The old road is mostly non-existant these days. Oh, and notice those clouds? They are the enemy of Milky Way photographers!
Rusty deliciousness!
A pile of rocks in the desert always make you stop and wonder...
Bonus points if you can correctly identify what this used to be!
I eventually find my way to what's left of the "Gold Rose Mill." Center right is a large vat or tank. I'm no expert, but they used to mix cyanide with crushed ore in these vats. The cyanide efficiently extracts  the gold from the ore and is collected. The problem is that cyanide is toxic and can have substantial environmental impact (think contaminated drinking water, fish kills, and harm to agricultural areas). Do you see the soil berm against the tank, and even the plume around it without much growth that looks kind of peach-colored? That's cyanide tainted soil. I honestly don't know if I'm at any risk being out here on a windy day, but you probably wouldn't want to spend a lot of time out here.
This large ramp is about 20 yards from the tank. Just an educated guess, but wagons or old trucks would probably go up this ramp to dump their ore for processing. The Dale Mining District is not too far away, and perhaps this mill processed the ore from some of those mines.

View from the top of the ramp. See those big concrete structures on the left? There was big machinery here of some kind. My guess would be a stamp mill, which is used to crush ore. Makes sense: Drive up the ramp, dump your ore to be crushed, then put the crushed ore in the vat to be mixed with cyanide to extract the gold.
Here's what I came for: The Giant Funnel!!
Near the giant funnel is this old rusty truck cab.
I climbed in to take it for a spin. It was a tight squeeze! 
Not far from the Gold Rose Mill/giant funnel/old truck cab is an area I'll call the Gold Rose well. Again, just an educated guess, but I'm thinking there was a well and pump on this concrete slab. The tank to the right was probably a water tank. There was also a good sized cabin or house at this site (gone now), and there is corrugated metal sheeting all over the place, along with old car parts. The metal sheeting was either used for cabin construction, or perhaps at one time the well had siding and a roof, with the metal sheeting attached to those iron poles.
Having thoroughly explored the area, there wasn't much more to do. I hike back to the Giant Funnel area and decide I'll do two Milky Way attempts (one over the funnel and one over this old truck cab). But I'm not feeling very optimistic with all those clouds! It's about 6pm, so I eat my PB&J sandwich. Then I put my tarp and sleeping bag down and wait. By about 8:30pm I climb into my bag and try for sleep, but it doesn't come. The optimum Milky Way time is about 4-4:30AM. My phone alarm is set for 3:30AM. I toss and turn all night, and I don't ever remember falling asleep. Every time I check my phone, time seems to be moving glacially slow! By 3:15AM I'm stiff, sore, and grumpy, and decide I can't lay in this stupid mummy bag on the hard ground another second! But guess what? The sky is clear! That's really good luck, so now I get down to the business of focusing my camera in the dark, taking multiple images for stacking later, taking foreground shots using my headlamp for light painting, and all the other fun stuff that goes into Milky Way photography.
I'm pretty happy with this photo. Actually, I'm very happy to have captured anything at all. The clouds could have easily sent me home empty handed. I had a clear, dark sky with decent visibility. My camera settings were: 17mm focal length, f2.8, ISO 10,000, 10 second exposure. Using such a high ISO, I was pleased that there wasn't too much noise in the photo. Keeping the exposure to only 10 seconds keeps the stars sharp.
I would have loved to have had the giant funnel angled over a bit, so it looks more like the stars are flowing in and out of the funnel, but it was too heavy for me to push. All in all, I'm very pleased with this one, and what a beautiful Milky Way! 
I was finished by about 4:20AM, and the thought of getting back in my cramped mummy bag and trying (again) for sleep seemed like a waste of time. I decided to pack everything up and hike back to my car in the dark, just using my headlamp and phone GPS. It's not an easy hike in the dark, but I made it back. What a night. Wow, was I exhausted! Crazy as it sounds, I'm pretty sure I'll be out again for next month's Milky Way to do it all again!!
Thanks for stopping by!!
Linking with Skywatch Friday.

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Pictographs & Petroglyphs

 Somewhere in Joshua Tree National Park on a cloudy day. I won't share exact locations because we came across some Native American rock art as we explored the area. Let's go take a look!
A threatening sky, but no rain.
This fence was built a very long time ago, using whatever spare branches they could scrape together (slim pickings here in the desert). Amazing that all these years later the fence still stands. On the other side of the fence is the original Bill Keys property (160 acres) that he homesteaded in 1910 (the Desert Queen Ranch). It was likely Bill Keys himself built this fence.
Area closed. No trespassing. Caretaker on site (I doubt that!).
Guillotine rock (my name). A geological oddity. You do NOT want to do any rock climbing above that razor-sharp rock edge!
The first site we found had an interesting mix of pictographs and petroglyphs. The pictographs (red dye) were very faint, while the petroglyphs (rock etchings) were more visible.
Same photo as previous, but using dStretch to enhance the color. Most of it looks like a big red smudge, but there is definitely a pictograph to the right of the smudge (circle with a line through it). Above and to the right are petroglyphs, and more petroglyphs below.
An exciting find!
A nearly toppled-over Joshua tree. Look at all those juvenile Joshua trees growing out of the original trunk! Reminds me of all the kids hopping on Papa's back for a piggyback ride!
A beautiful little alcove!
Why does that Joshua tree in the foreground look so tall???
The going gets a lot rougher with some rock scrambling required. We're all wondering how much farther should we continue? We definitely don't want to be back in these rocks when the sun sets.

Onward! Our persistence pays off. We find a large rock overhang with a second rock art site. We were initially disappointed as none of us can see any rock art. The others start to leave but I call them back. There's a circular indentation in the rock with faded red marks inside.

Yes!! dStretch confirms the pictograph.
It's no wonder we nearly passed up this site. The pictographs are extremely faded (above). How many sites like this have we passed by on our many hikes?? Photos below enhanced with dStretch.
It's interesting that we come across a pictograph with a circle and a line through it, which is very similar to the first site we came across today. This circle with center line motif has a little head or banner at the top. We find another that's almost identical (photo below) except the center line stops at the bottom of the circle. What all this means is anyone's guess, but I've seen this same motif (with minor variations) at other sites throughout the park (one I can think of is about 75 miles from this site).

The end to an awesome day of exploring and discovery!!
Thanks for stopping by. 
Linking with Skywatch Friday.
Addendum: Below is a photo I took in November of 2019 of a motif with circular shape and centerline bisecting it. This location is far removed (about 75 miles) from the hike above, yet the motif is very similar.