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.