Joshua Tree National Park: Scary Beauty!?!

We drove in the east entrance of Joshua Tree National Park. The park is huge and with varied landscape. At first one notices rocks that seem to have bubbled up from within the earth and are now laying around at various angles. It is easy to have an urge to climb some of them, and you can if it is one of the 10,000 climbing routes in the park. The rock here is called White Tank Granite, comprised of feldspar, quartz and biotite minerals. The igneous rock was pushed up from deep within the earth, forced into the over-lying rock about 135-150 million years ago …. dinosaur time. There are numerous trails to hike; we selected the Arch Trail. At this moment in time it is an arch. However remember, this is only a moment in the geologic lifetime of the arch. Erosion will continue and someday there will be no arch! (I have included 2 photos of the arch so you can get a sense of its size when you locate the man in the photo!)

See the size of this arch!

The 3 minerals mentioned above were a molten mass of magma forming the granite. There can be other minerals pushed into cracks, taking form in fractures, and more resistant to erosion thus forming what are called dikes. Precious minerals are often found in these areas. See the fracture line with the more resistant rock in the photo below? That is a dike.

Every time I visit this park I remember the cholla cacti forest. Thousands of cholla cacti grow in a particular area and you can walk on a trail in this forest of cacti. Although you may wish to touch the cacti … do not … the barbs on their needles will stick with you and hurt! (We carry a hair pick when we mountain bike in areas with cholla just in case we accidentally hit this cacti.)

The Joshua tree is seen more often as you continue your drive west through the park. In reality it is not a tree at all, but a yucca plant. It is a strange looking plant and anyone with an imagination could probably conjure up all sorts of stories especially if telling it in the dark! Arms seem to squirt out of the plant at crazy angles; the trunk is formed in time from the dead leaves folding down on itself. They grow to a max height of 40 feet and have been known to live hundreds of years! Here are a couple of photos of the trees:

We passed many campgrounds requiring reservations. There is a 14 day limit and more important to know: no water is available. Every campground was full and obviously this seems like the best time to be in the desert … whether on the lower Colorado Desert or the higher Mohave Desert … both are in this park.

Our final stop was Barker Dam. The dam was originally built in the 1900’s by ranchers needing water for their stock. Years later the natural water tank was expanded with catch basins for rainfall and run-off and eventually a dam was built. There was so much water at that time it was known to have covered 20 acres of land! Unfortunately, cattle ranching died out because rainfall decreased. It sort of makes you think about watering holes for wildlife and to wonder with our current drought worries how long they will last. Now just the dam and a water trough are evidence that water used to be here. I imagine certain times during the year water does collect here and more than the 8 birds I saw on this visit do come through. Here are photos at the dam:

There are many places to spend time in this park. Some trails have pictographs providing evidence of Native American tribes being in the are, evidence of very clean air with beautiful lichen growing on the rocks, and along the road plenty of signs to explain what you are looking at. We could leave the park by either the north or west entrance and since we have been here other times we headed out the west entrance. When you decide to visit: plan for the weather and remember to bring snacks and water … go and enjoy this unique area of the world! 

Lake Fulmor: Gem in a Californian Forest!

What is interesting about Lake Fulmor is that it is just off the scenic Highway 243 in the San Bernardino National Forest. I can imagine this a busy day use area when the weather is very hot in the Palm Springs, California area! It does take an hour drive to get here, but people could visit for hours, picnic, fish for trout, walk the half mile trail around the lake and relax in a beautiful setting! There is a handicapped accessible trail and beautifully built fishing pier for all to enjoy! Major construction was done in building that pier!

Birds were numerous here … no doubt they were enjoying the water as much as we enjoyed looking at it. This water is not for swimming and if you visit during July and August you may see an algal bloom. The blue-green algae growth is a natural part of a lake’s ecology even though you may feel heart-wrenched as fish have difficulty breathing. A fish kill can result. In the fall the lake will return to normal. Again, it is a normal cycle that occurs on lakes this size.

Lake Fulmor
Sturdy fishing pier and rock-walled paths.
That rock is HUGE!

A Mountain Hike Near Idyllwild, California

Once again we used the All Trail App for what looked like a straight forward hike: Idyllwild South Loop, a 2.3 mile loop with 650 feet ascent. Hiking in the San Bernardino National Forest allows us a higher altitude to escape the Palm Desert heat!

We drove to Idyllwild Park, paid a day use fee and walked around a meadow near the parking area. Informative signs about the Cahuilla tribe migrating from the Coachella Valley to the mountains in this area to stay cooler, sort of our plan too! The Cahuilla hunted many small animals with arrows, did not hunt mountain lions or bears, and never ate eagles or ravens because they were used in sacred rituals. They ate various plants with acorns their primary food source. Some plants were used for medicine. Information about their basket-making, homes and sweat houses was also interesting. They had great respect for each other and the land: plants and animals.

An interesting legend involves a stone monolith as seen in the photograph below:

Notice the stone monolith: Tahquitz Dome or Lily Rock

According to legend, an evil shaman, Tahquitz, was tricked into entering a cave by a great Cahuilla warrior, and is now sealed behind the rock. The trapped evil shaman may still be up to his evil ways as present day rumblings and disappearances are sometimes attributed to Tahquitz. The monolith is referred to as Tahquitz Dome and/or Lily Rock.

We found the start of the Idyllwild South Loop trail with the use of the app, yet on the ground it was not named that ever during our hike. There are many trails in this area: Perimeter Trail, a multi-purpose trail, a campground area, thus at the start there was a bit of confusion. What I did know was to go left per an All Trail reviewer’s note about the Idyllwild South loop. Since I read the suggestion I decided it was a good way to approach the hillside … a steep ascent at the start of the trail than returning that way. That was fine by me, except we never saw the trail named Idyllwild South Loop!

When in doubt, at some intersections, we navigated via the app assured we were completing a loop and returning to our car in a few hours! Best idea was hiking the steeper side first and really enjoy the way down without climbing over so many rocks as we had done on our way up. The air was cool as we climbed higher, yet the sun was warm!

Nice vistas along the way as we climbed higher into the pines and could look out across the land. Supposedly on a clear day one can see all the way to the Pacific Ocean. This day was not so clear but you could see quite a distance! It was beautiful! I think there was probably much more to see on this trail but most my time was spent being sure we were on the correct trail! It was a good short day hike, but I still cannot figure how these trails get named on the All Trails app since we never saw the name of the trail here.

Here are some photos from this hike:

American kestrel
American kestrel flying overhead
Acorn woodpecker
Squirrel
Love the mountain areas!

CA Desert Hike Reinforces Importance of Preparedness!

We set off to visit Coachella Valley Preserve on a 4.4 mile loop hike: Hidden Horseshoe Palms and Pushwalla Palms Trail. It seemed like a perfect plan. We each had snacks, water, lunch and appropriate hiking gear for a moderate hike. We followed the recommendation: best hiked September to April, yet November and December temperatures were still mid to high 80 degrees.

The heavily-trafficked trail at the entrance of the preserve was an uphill well-trenched path with a sign indicating the direction for Pushwalla Palms, but no trail sign for Hidden Horseshoe. So we hiked the main trail believing we would see a side trail to Hidden Horseshoe. In time we were at a high point looking down on palm trees and thinking, that may be the Hidden Horseshoe trail down there! My guess, at this high point, was the unnamed side trail near the entrance of the preserve was the loop trail. How were we to know that I am not sure. I am never on an outdoor adventure walking and watching my location on any app each step of the way, but maybe if I had been I would have known early on the unsigned trail was the one for us! It did not look like the trail we were on would hook up with what we supposed may be a Hidden Horseshoe trail since we were on a high point and seemingly an endpoint. Since trail signs were few and far between it now became obvious we should not have hiked to the high point, yet this social trail to the top surely had been popular!

The problem with any social trail appearing to be a main trail is it may not be the correct trail to be on at all. In the desert especially, people can wander and walk almost anywhere; through the years others will follow and a trail becomes worn and looking like a main trail. (If you are a hiker, please use designated trails in a park.)

With some thought and use of the All Trails app, because I had downloaded this loop trail before coming here, we were able to orient ourselves to some degree. The downside was no consistent GPS in the desert! Thankfully when we stood at the high point GPS marked our location; we knew where we were. With the downloaded map and compass on my iPhone, we had a good idea the direction we should head. Did it seem unsettling at times? Yes! But we had water, snacks and daylight to figure it all out. We eventually hiked through Pushwalla Palms and along the foothills of a ridge. I knew we needed to get to the other side of this particular ridge and we should see a road and possibly even our car. At least an hour later we saw our car in the distance and could breathe a sigh of relief in knowing we would be fine.

As with all hiking, it is important to always be prepared! I remember a friend of mine in New York State’s Adirondack Mountains telling me she’ll hike a trail that looked to her like a parallel path of the main trail. To me, it looked like a fork in the trail. I made my decision and she made hers. Long story short, hours later I saw her again! I was on the main trail and she was on a side trail to elsewhere before she realized her error. Things can happen so quickly when in environments with so many unknowns. I got thinking about that NY situation realizing I forgot to pack my headlamp and long sleeve shirt even on this hike. My habit was to have a headlamp and a wool long sleeve shirt, but in the desert hike I sometimes forget to be as prepared as I should be. Nights get cold in the desert, and I was glad to not have that experience with this hike! Our loop hike was an adventure and good reminder to take the desert seriously. The sunny blue sky and almost barren landscape does bring challenges different than a forested area. All require preparedness and as hikers it is our responsibility to be safe!

Hike safely everyone! 

Photos from the hike:

Why you carry plenty of water; this is the only water we saw all hike!

Green Heron Using “Bait”?

On my last few visits to various wetlands green herons have been seen. They are fun birds to watch, as they stalk slowly along a water’s edge to catch an insect or small fish. I was surprised to learn these birds sometimes use “bait”. I have never seen one yet drop a feather or small twig on the water’s surface to lure fish within its strike zone, but I will have to keep my eyes open in the future! Very interesting information!

An AZ Canyon Visit During Covid

Canyons are deep gorges where rivers run, or once did flow, over and through rock with great water pressure. The weathering and eroding of the surrounding rock through hundreds of centuries created steep sides and often narrow passageways within what we ultimately refer to as a canyon. Even if a river is not currently flowing through a canyon, precautions need to be taken to assure yourself in not entering a canyon that may be subject to a flash flood while you are there. The rains may be happening a days worth and miles away upstream so always research the geography and weather of an area and/or hire a guide familiar with the canyon you wish to hike. Death can happen if you are caught in a canyon during a flash flood! 

I visited Lower Antelope Canyon in Page, Arizona during Covid; unfortunately we are still in the throes of that virus/pandemic these days. Entrance tickets to this canyon are only available from the Native American family business operating the canyon on tribal land. The Navaho were proud of the vaccination rate of their people, yet even so they operated their business at 35% of their usual capacity to keep themselves and visitors to the canyon safe. This allowed us to be in groups of 6 people and we were required to wear a mask at all times in the canyon; yes even while taking photos of each other. The rule was if anyone in the group of 6 took off their mask we all were not allowed to continue on the tour.

Lower Antelope Canyon is beautiful! When one thinks about a river flowing through for millions of years creating this geologic formation it is really amazing. On this tour we walked to the entrance and down a few flights of steps all on ladders. Within the canyon walls we were within narrow passageways and wider areas, but as we would look up the steep walls we knew we were walled in with sunlight peaking down on us in the majority of places.

So many beautiful spots to photograph and depending on the light it changes every minute. Here are a few more photos:

At the end of the canyon tour we climb some ladders and emerge from a crack in the ground. Notice the woman’s hat and the next photo it is the same spot without her there. Can you imagine so long ago looking over the landscape, seeing the crack and then wondering what was below? It is how they discover these places and I love imagining what I would feel like being the first explorer here …wow!

In the past I visited Upper Antelope Canyon. It too was beautiful! But, on a tour with 20 plus people there, I know I did not get the same sense of awe as I did in this canyon with a smaller group. With a large group it was difficult to hear the guide and really feel the space in the canyon. Our guide at Lower Antelope Canyon told us the business owners are considering their guide’s input to not return to the large groups when Covid is no longer a concern. Guides enjoy the smaller groups, especially when their goal is to be educational and informative, and there is no doubt in my mind the general public do too! If you get a chance to visit these canyons, do so and remember your camera!

Hope this gives you a sense of size!

Hiking at Grand Canyon National Park … I Love it!

Whenever I am within 150 miles of Arizona’s Grand Canyon National Park I have no reason not to visit! A recent quick day trip allowed my friend and I to hike a few miles on the rim trail, socially-distanced from other people, and to view wildlife and the canyon’s grandeur once again!

The Covid pandemic is still unfortunately our reality! Signs are posted everywhere to remind people face masks are required inside various shops, hotels, shuttle buses and some viewpoints overlooking the canyon where people cannot socially-distance themself from others. Another sign I saw and had never seen before was designating an area for people to exercise their Constitutional First Amendment Rights. No one was in the area on this day.

I have hiked to Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the canyon a few times. When I am at the rim, I love looking over the canyon’s edge to locate certain points, such as Plateau Point, Indian Garden, South Kaibab Trail, Ooh-Aah Point, etc. If you were interested in hiking to Plateau Point, plan a full-day to hike down the Bright Angel Trail, then take a side trail to it just before reaching Indian Garden. It is still a bit of a hike out to the point, although it does have the flattest terrain of your day. At Plateau Point you’ll be overlooking the Colorado River and it’s a nice place to have lunch. It’s a long day to hike 12.2 miles. Or you may choose to hike only 600 feet down to Ooh-Aah Point on the South Kaibab Trail. Any hike in the canyon, remember to double the time for your return to the rim, bring water and snacks, and take breaks as needed. All can be accomplished with good planning.

Find a trail off to a point which is Plateau Point!

From Yavapai Point on the rim trail, one can see the Colorado River. With our current drought concerns, lowered water level at Lake Powell and less snow-melt into the rivers feeding this river, there has been much discussion and hopefully productive actions taken since we are far beyond a rain-dance solution to assure citizens of Arizona, California, and Nevada of a continued water source. You hear of places where water restrictions are required and this will be a larger, continued concern if we are not careful with our water management. 

As we look below the canyon’s edge, one can see the Kaibab Trail Suspension Bridge. Look closely, it is there! It’s an important bridge used by trail riders and mules to carry supplies to Phantom Ranch. Just before the pandemic there was a dedication of the 1928 trail and bridge construction. It was amazing construction and remains in use today! 

Look at the bridge and that is where you walk to cross the river.

I usually hike down the South Kaibab Trail to Phantom Ranch, crossing the Kaibab Trail Suspension Bridge …. Campout or stay in a cabin/dorm …. then return a couple of days later on the Bright Angel Trail to the rim. I love seeing the Bright Angel trail because it brings back so many memories of good times I have had hiking the canyon! Looking closely for the zig-zag of the Bright Angel Trail just before the rim. Many day hikers will walk down from this point … but remember… double your time as that is what you will need to return to the rim! And please wear hiking boots, sunscreen and bring water and snacks!

See zig-zagged trail …you hike it!

There are interesting weather-worn trees and wildlife in the canyon. On our latest visit we saw mountain goats and elk. Condors are sometimes in the air. Just keep your eyes open and appreciate nature at its best! 

I wish everyone could visit the Grand Canyon. It is an amazing place to feel humbled by what nature can accomplish with no interference from humankind. I can only hope we do not destroy our planet. I want future generations to see this canyon with water. Currently recycling scarce water is happening as explained in this diagram:

My hope is for all to look across the canyon, on a clear day, to the horizon 60 + miles away and see Mount Trumball as seen in the photo below:

Off in the distance is Mount Trumbull … this was a clear day!

Water and air are so important and canyon visit should reminds us all of their importance. Be safe and enjoy the canyon!

License Plate Fun!

While growing up my family traveled various times of the year either north to a New England state or Canada and other times south to Florida. To pass the hours of travel while my Dad drove and my Mom navigated from the other front seat, my sisters and I would entertain ourselves in the back seats. I got motion-sick/car-sick so easily it was better for me to sit by a window and find license plates on cars from different states. How many would we find? What car had the most distant license plate? Where were the people in the car coming from, where were they going to and why? The activity meshed well with my daydreaming and helped pass many an hour during my adolescent family trips.

Now I drive my own vehicle on long trips, still noticing license plates, but with more interest in what people choose to put on their custom license plate (vanity plate/personalized plate). Is it an opinion, interest, or humor? What are they expressing and willing to pay additional dollars to have on their plate? 

For some fun, I have included some I have seen these past few months. As I look at the plate and the type of car, I try to create a story about each driver and why their choice was that particular plate. I’ll never know if I had guessed correctly, but it is my fun way to pass the driving hours in a very simple mind-bending way.

Plates on Tesla cars:  EVULTIN  and SUN GAS

Other plates: IM4UK,  XGEOCON,  GUDAYSR,  AWSOM1,  OMYGOTH,  TRUEGRC, HPYHLDA,  LABORRN, 

5NICKEL,  RANTING,  MYSTYCL,  VAXN8,  HUMNGBRD, FOXYOTE,  11GR8KD,  MS TEN,  AZTURTL, 

HPYBUMS,  OM NAMA,  XNTDTL, GMASBUS, WZUPDOG,  XOFISHO,  VIRIBUS, NHANCIN,  QUEENU, 

NJROUT3, L8RUNNR,  4BUDGE

How do you pass the hours when you’re driving? Audiobook, music or ??? I am curious!

Not all cars I see have a license plate, but I can bet there is a good story behind this car and its driver!

A license plate may have helped me with this car and driver’s story!

Do You Know What a Kula Cloth Is?

Well we have been down this path before in discussing the world of pee and poop, but with so many people getting outdoors I wanted to go one step further than my other blog posts, Pee & Poop, We All Do It and Women Can Stand To Pee. Of course, check them out if you have not already done so!

I do not want to repeat myself so let’s move on with my latest info. If you are needing to poop in the woods, please follow this instruction:

For those of you camping in your van with no toilet within it or at a dispersed camping site where there are not even pit toilets for your use, consider purchasing a “toilet”, put the poop/solid waste bag in it and dispose the bag after your use.

Another “toilet” possibility for your purchase and use:

And what is the Kula Cloth? I was at my favorite store, REI and saw this sign:

It is important to pack out all toilet paper you use. Or use less TP for pee times; this antimicrobial cloth allows you to use it all day, then wash it at the end of the day! Less toilet paper being used and we can certainly pack this out, wash and re-use the next time!

So, do your part in keeping our outdoor lands fecal and toilet paper/solid waste-free and try the Kula Cloth for your pee times so less TP is even needed. Thanks!