Sunday, November 30, 2008

Exploring Joshua Tree National Park - Desert Queen Mine

The park has a great mining history, and numerous mines can be found-both accessible to the public and in areas that are closed to the public. One that is easily accessible is the Desert Queen Mine. A good dirt road goes about 2 miles to the trailhead, and then a very easy, short hike takes you to an overlook above a pretty deep canyon. Across the canyon is the mine - and you can see at least 3 of the mine shafts. This mine was worked as recently as the late 1960s.

Don is at the overlook, standing next to one of the old cyanide tanks.

A trail leads down to the canyon bottom and then up to the mine.

Don almost stepped on this tarantula, right in the middle of the trail! He (she?) was about 5 inches wide.

Just above the overlook are the ruins of what looked like a big winch for hauling ore and/or supplies up from the mine.

Don is walking down towards the remains of a rock cabin.

Exploring Joshua Tree National Park - Live Oak and Ivanpah Tank

The desert DOES have water; and there are enough rains to support all kinds of vegetation. The early settlers figured out that if they dammed up the larger washes, they could hold enough water to support cattle or farming. This large tree is a live oak, which is a rare thing to find in a desert. It grows where it is because it gets enough water in the wash. As you hike downstream from the live oak, you come to the first little tank, which looked to be about the size of a backyard swimming pool, but only a few feet deep.

As we continued the hike downstream, Don noticed this little arch.

About a quarter mile below Live Oak Tank (which I forgot to photograph) we came to Ivanpah Tank. It had a dam that was much larger - perhaps 30 feet wide and about 10 feet high on this side. On the downstream side it was about 15 feet high. So the body of water that backed up behind it would have been probably 40 yards wide and up to 10 feet deep at its deepest. We saw evidence that it had held water recently - the datura plants were in abundance and there were some small damp mud flats.

One thing you can see in this photo is something we could never escape - the contrails of all the airplanes flying overhead to and from Los Angeles, Ontario, and San Diego.

Exploring Joshua Tree National Park - Arch Rock

No, this isn't Arch Rock - it's a cool-looking rock on the Arch Rock trail. It's been weathered by wind and water and looks to me like a giant eye.

This is Arch Rock, visible from the mid-point of the trail.


I love these rocks.

Exploring Joshua Tree National Park - The Oasis of Mara

Our next stop was the Visitors' Center near the North Entrance in 29 Palms. Behind the Visitors' Center is another nature trail that goes around the Oasis of Mara. Back in the late 1800s and early 1900s this was a lush oasis, with water gushing out hundreds of gallons a minute. Since most oases are along fault lines, this was no exception. The Pinto Mountain Fault runs underneath, and when it shifted, the water source was redirected. There's still some water, enough to support the fan palms, but it's all well under the ground.

Exploring Joshua Tree National Park - Indian Cove

We took the trailer to Joshua Tree National Park this week, and camped at Black Canyon Campground. The campground is a really nice one - isolated from the town of Yucca Valley but close enough if you need to go into town for supplies. There are lots of roomy sites that are big enough for trailers and RVs, including 6 nice pull-throughs in the middle. We decided to try as many little hikes as we could to get some good exercise and to see the variety of sights in JTNP.

Our first hike was the nature trail at Indian Cove, which is surrounded by mountains made of granite boulders.

We saw quite a few of these odd features, and it was only after we stopped and looked closely that we saw thousands of ants coming to and from the center holes. We learned at the visitor center that the ants drag seeds down into the hole, and then take the empty husks back outside, making the mounds.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

It's Been A Long Wait

In January of 2005, I put this bracelet on. It says THINK BLUE 11/04/08. I've never taken it off - and have proudly explained to anyone and everyone who asked about it what it said and meant. I told myself that eventually I could take it off for the right reason - President Barack Obama.

I told my sister this morning that I'd have a "ceremonial removal of the wristband," and would cut it into little pieces. So, there it is.

I can't wait to see how our country changes and how the world reacts to this. I really don't know what else to say - except that watching Jesse Jackson cry tears of joy said it all just now. I am so proud to be an American.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Bachelor Loop

As you head north out of Creede up the Willow Creek Canyon, the first stop on the Bachelor Loop is the confluence of East and West Willow Creeks. This is where the original town of Creede was located. At right are the ruins of the old Creede jail.

This is a view uphill at the Commodore Mine, which has 5 different levels spread out over 200 miles underground. The mine is the southernmost mine along the Amethyst Vein, which runs for many miles north of Creede. Ore production here ran from 1891 all the way to 1976. When I visited Creede in 1976, it was the last year of the mine's operation.

Looking north up the canyon towards more of the Commodore Mine.

This is a view up towards the two richest silver-producing mines of the Creede district during the 1890's. The lower buildings are the ore house and main support buildings of the 5th level of the Amethyst Mine. Uphill are several buildings of the Last Chance Mine. This area was also the location of the town of Weaverville. It's weird to think that thousands of people lived and worked up here.

This was perhaps someone's home or business in Weaverville.

At the northernmost end of the Amethyst Vein is the Equity Mine - which is close to the Continental Divide and sits at nearly 11,000'. Production here was from 1912 to 1970.

High up above Creede, spread across a wide "park," is the townsite of Bachelor. It is estimated that around 1200 people lived here - there were are dozen saloons, 4 hotels, 5 grocery stores, a meat market, 2 barber shops, 2 bakeries, several restaurants, a school, a jail, city hall, and a Catholic church with a parsonage.

As you look west from the parking area, this is one of the few remaining ruins left in Bachelor.

Looking south across the Bachelor townsite, I snapped this photo of a building thunderstorm. By the time we got back to Creede, it had moved northward and was raining on the town.

Don looks for more ruins in Bachelor.

Creede - Underground Mining Museum

In 1990, the town of Creede opened its underground mining museum. There's a gift shop, community center, restrooms, fitness room, and the museum - which consists of a "track" underground that circles the community room, with numerous stops that show a century of mining history. You can take a guided tour, or you can use a CD player that takes you to all the stops and explains everything. At right is an example of single-jack, where the miner tries to drill a hole by hand.

In the "lounge" area, where miners take breaks and eat lunch, is the "honey wagon." It was only emptied about once a week! Can you imagine eating lunch sitting next to this?

Example of a single-person elevator.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Slumgullion Earthflow

I've always been fascinated by the Slumgullion Earthflow. It's a geological event of great importance that happened in relatively recent time. At left is Mesa Seco, part of the Cannibal Plateau (more about the "cannibal" part in another post), which is the headwall for the earthflow. You can see where it just broke off and slid down. Lake San Cristobal was formed by the dam created by the Slumgullion Earthflow.

This is a section of the earthflow that geologists consider to be still active. They can tell that this is so be observing the leaning trees and measuring the movement of large sections of the earthflow, much like you would measure a glacier. When I was here in 1978, there were still markers like a fence across the earthflow, but they've since been removed.

This is a great diagram of the earthflow.

This photo on the interpretive sign was taken from the east-facing canyon wall.

Maybe I'll have to try this recipe!

Lake City, surrounded by mountains

Lake City is one of Don's favorite places to go, because of all the fabulous fishing opportunities. One of them is Lake San Cristobal, Colorado's second-largest natural lake. (It's not a reservoir, and is currently the center of a lot of local controversy about that fact.)

Grassy Mountain, on the left, and Red Mountain on the right.

Five 14'ers, or peaks over 14,000 feet, are close to Lake City. In the picture at left, the biggest one (in the center) is Uncompahgre Peak, and two peaks to the left of it is the Wetterhorn.

It's a little hazy, but that's Lake City in the center of the photo, with Crystal Peak above it.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Mirror Lake

Just a few miles from Taylor Park lies this lovely little alpine lake - Mirror Lake. It's on the way up to Tincup Pass, and sees crowds of ATVs and dirt bikes go by.

The fishing pressure is pretty high because it's so easy to get to, but you can't put a boat on it, and Don was the only one out there with a float tube. He had great success, catching lots of rainbows and cutthroats. He even caught a couple of brook trout out of this lake.

Taylor Park - Views that go on forever

Sometimes you just get lucky as to where you park your trailer. We reserved this site back in March, not knowing that we'd soon buy a trailer with a huge window in the slide. This was a back-in site, and if we'd had a typical trailer or motor home, the "back" of it would have faced this view. Ours did, but we had the big picture window in the slide to look out at this scene.

This is at Lakeview Campground, overlooking Taylor Park Reservoir, about 25 miles northeast of Gunnison. We have electricity, but no water or sewer. No problem. With a view like this, who can complain about anything?

Don has fished the upper Taylor River numerous times, and about 7 miles north of the lake are the Potholes, which he likes to float in his tube. One day was spent on Spring Creek, the next canyon over to the west. We've also gone to Crested Butte - seems I just have to go at least once each time we camp at Taylor Park. There are great little stores, a coffee shop with WiFi, and a shoe store that's sold me all 3 pairs of Keens. This year I got an open-toe thong Keen. They're the only non-Birkenstock shoes I can wear. We ate a wonderful lunch at the Brick Oven - and now I have to try to duplicate the hot Italian sausage sandwich Don ate.

Late afternoon/early evening, after a mild thunderstorm, we watched the clouds move in and sit on top of the Collegiate Peaks to the north. If you enlarge the picture or look closely, you can see how the clouds have rolled over the tops of the peaks and are spilling down the south-facing slopes.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Monarch Pass

One of the "easiest" passes over the Continental Divide to drive (compared to Wolf Creek Pass, which I think is one of the most difficult), Monarch Pass tops out at 11,312 feet. We've gone over it several times, and we like to stop for a break at the gift shop/cafe. This time, I bought a necklace and some fudge (maple nut - the best!). We decided that since we weren't in a hurry, we'd ride the tram that goes to the top of a nearby mountain. It's a small, short ride but the scenery from the top is fabulous. This shot is of Mount Aetna (the tallest), and Taylor Mountain to the right. Monarch Pass is where Dad and I started our ill-fated backpacking trip along the Continental Divide back in 1977. We got about 3 miles into it, and ran into deep snow. It was too deep to continue so we gave up and hiked back to my truck. His truck was parked at Marshall Pass, so we went to fetch it and he went back home to Texas.

This is looking west from the top towards Gunnison. The large dome in the middle is called Tomichi Dome, formed by the pushing up of a lava intrusion millions of years ago.

This was taken as we were coming down the tram.