Monday, March 28, 2011

Borrego, Day 1: Palm Canyon

We spent a long weekend in Borrego Springs celebrating Bill's birthday, starting off with a hike in Palm Canyon. Wildflower reports had not been too encouraging, so we were pleasantly surprised to find plenty of flowers in bloom. Temperatures during our trip were well below normal for this time of year. The story was that some near-freezing temperatures that came after a warm spell had affected the flowers and cut down on the fields-of-flowers experience one might expect after a rainy winter.

A beehive on the ridge above the trail attracted lots of attention. Those yellow, vertical, torpedo-like shapes are the honeycombs. The dark area surrounding the combs was swarming with bees, which were easy to see with binoculars. A local told us that this hive has been there for several years--we would have missed it if it weren't for the knot of folks looking up by the side of the trail.

Thanks to the heavy rains this winter, the streams and waterfalls were full and flowing.

The approach to the palm grove, and a view of the treetops. We had not planned to go all the way to the trees, but made it there nevertheless.

Palm Canyon is a very popular hike, and we have found two ways to beat the crowds: go on a weekday, and start out in the late afternoon. On this day we started at around 4 pm and got back around 6 pm. (We take it slow and stop a lot to take pictures.) Everyone else was on their way back down while we were still going up--and then, we had the descent to ourselves.

The evening light on the mountains through changing clouds was magnificent. I had a conversation with the bird on the right, after which he posed for this picture.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Kelso Dunes & Monzogranite

We came, we saw, but we did not conquer. That is our story of visiting the Kelso Dunes. Imagine climbing up 600-foot mountains of completely soft, yielding sand, pulling your shoes out with each step. We felt like old people!

That said, we did make it partway up, and we did enjoy the view. The dark grains of sand are different minerals that collect at the dune crests--a combination of magnetite and amphibole. (The light-colored sand is a mixture of quartz and feldspar.) To the right, lizard tracks.

We were there on February 28, and there were no signs of wildflowers yet.

Along the Kelbaker Road before the turnoff to the dunes is a wonderful area of monzogranite rocks--the same type of rocks that dominate Joshua Tree National Park. We parked by the side of the road and took off overland--our primary goal being to get closer to the formations below.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Cima Road, Mojave National Preserve

On our way back from our most recent trip to Tecopa, we turned east at Baker and headed up the I-15 between 20-25 miles to the turnoff for the Cima Road. We had never been on this road before--it extends down through the Mojave Preserve to the Kelso Depot.

As you approach on the I-15, and then head down the Cima Road, the largest Joshua tree forest in the world extends pretty much as far as the eye can see. The trees are a different subspecies from those in Joshua Tree National Park--thinner trunks and more branches.

Our first stop along the Cima Road was Teutonia Peak. We had intended to walk up this trail towards the peak, but didn't make it too far--it was 43 degrees out with a stiff wind. Even though we bundled up, it still felt darn cold.

We spent more time directly across the road from the trailhead exploring an area of interesting rocks.

Down the road a ways, you eventually get to Cima itself--which consists of a pay phone, an abandoned-looking general store (open only on weekends--we hear the proprietess is a real character) and this abandoned building next door. There's a derelict sign by the pay phone, see below, that says: "Preserve our desert..." Fortunately the land in the preserve is in better shape than this sign!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Lava Beds, Mojave National Preserve

I am captivated by the volcanic landscape at the Mojave National Preserve--the quiet, the open spaces, the sense of geological time. This photo was taken at the Lava Beds from the top of a ridge of volcanic rock, overlooking a long, dark ribbon of lava rocks (to the left of the wash) with cinder cones in the background. There are over 30 cinder cones in the area, with the most recent lava flow estimated at just 8-10,000 years ago.

Barrel cacti thrive among the lava rocks, providing bright spots of red color in all directions.

A stretch of the Mojave Road passes right through this area. This remote road is a historic travel route--used by the local Indians, then the Spaniards, then settlers into the 19th century--and now used by four-wheel-drive adventurers who want to re-experience a bit of history. (It takes 2-3 days to traverse the 138-mile route--it's rough going, for experienced off-roaders only.) You can learn more about the Mojave Road by clicking here and here

There is a trove of petroglyphs in the area. They are etched into the lava rock and are reminiscent of the petroglyphs we saw at Little Petroglyph Canyon. Note the snakelike line in the middle and the six dots in a row at the far right. Below, a tortoise-like figure and some human figures.