Saturday, November 29, 2014

PBC (November 2014): Where the streets have no name

It's hard to believe it's the end of another month and so it's once again time for P.J.'s Photo Blogging challenge.  This month's theme was "Where the streets have no name."  I thought about this for a long time... well, not really that long since I live less than an hour away from an area that is huge, desolate and most of the streets have no names - the Mojave desert.

So, without further ado, here's my thoughts and photos on the theme, "Where the streets have no name."

1.  Sandy, dirt road

The weekends in November are usually dedicated to geocaching for me, mainly because the weather is perfect, not to hot, not really cold yet and there's an endless supply of geocaches to be found, especially out in the desert.

This particular road was one of many I've traveled on this month that has no name associated with it, although it might have a number designated.  I took this shot right after we'd parked my van at the side of the road.  The road was getting more and more sandy and the conditions were such that if we'd taken the van much farther in, we probably would have gotten stuck in this sand.  Eventually, this road petered out entirely and turned into a river wash, so it was a very good decision on our part to hike to the last 6 caches that were out here on this "road."

2.  Coyote skull

Part of the allure of the desert is that critters of any kind are rather hard to come by.  However, this month while geocaching, I've seen coyote skulls and tortoise shells sans tortoises unfortunately.  I've seen numerous tortoise burrows, startled jackrabbits out of their burrows while hiking through the desert and have stumbled across snakes and spiders of various sizes.

This particular skull was nicely intact and cleaned of anything that other animals might find of interest, so it was just bleaching out in the sunshine as we walked by.  It's not uncommon to come across bones - the desert is a fairly harsh place - but this is probably the first time I've seen a coyote skull out there.  I know they exist out in the desert as I've seen live ones from time to time.

3.  Tarantula

The day before Thanksgiving, my friend Craig and I decided to hike a series of geocaches out in the desert east of HWY 385, north of Victorville called the Peace Symbol. The caches are laid out to look like the cartoon hand in a V symbol for peace.  If you click on the link, you'll see what I mean.

While out there, we passed several dirt roads, but had decided from the beginning that we were going to hike the entire way.  We'd gotten the upper portion about 10 days before that, so it wasn't like we were going to be doing the entire thing all in one day.  It took us from 8:24 in the morning, until 4:30 in the afternoon, but we hiked 14.25 miles and found 79 geocaches on the day, definitely a highlight for me hiking as I've never hiked that far or for that many geocaches all in one day.

On the way, we spotted a small gopher snake sunning itself.  We took several photos of that little guy and then moved on and then as we were nearing another cache on the eastern side of the Peace symbol, I spotted this tarantula just walking along.  Interestingly, it halted once we got about five feet away it and it seemed perfectly content just to stay there motionless while we took photos.  Because of the length of the hike that day, I didn't bring my regular camera along.  This particular shot was taken with my iPhone 5s.  I'm impressed with the quality.

4.  Desert storm

This particular shot was taken on November 1st well before I'd even seen the theme for this month, but I feel it tells the story of the theme nicely.  I was hiking, solo this time, north of Palm Springs, California near the town of Desert Hot Springs.  It was very windy, as it is most of the time in the area.  The mountain passes are liberally sprinkled with windmills that generate electricity.  

In Southern California, we have two deserts, the high desert and the low desert.  This area is in the low desert.  Sparser vegetation is usually the key, but it also has to do with elevation.  Once you start seeing Joshua Trees (see the first shot above), you're probably in the high desert.

Palm Springs is in the low desert and gets less rainfall than the high desert does, which is one of the reasons there is less vegetation.  Not on this day however as that storm more quickly through the area and dropped rain hard and fast.  Out hiking, the best I could do was put my camera under my sweatshirt and move as quickly as I could from cache to cache.  I couldn't stay dry, because the wind was blowing hard enough that the raindrops were pretty much moving horizontally.  Once I got back to my car, which was parked alongside a nameless dirt road, the westward side was totally wet and clean, while the east facing side of the van was dry as a bone.

5.  A circular road

Most people recognize the circular nature of the seasons.  I look at it as a road we travel through life. Each one's road is slightly different depending upon their perspective.  Here in Southern California, one of the hottest months of the year is September and that heat, sometimes triple digits, can persist into October.  We've been having 80 degree weather this entire Thanksgiving week.  

No, I'm not trying to rub it in, just pointing out the differences in our roads.  Back east, fall starts the leaves turning sometimes as early as late August.  Out here, our leaves have started to turn, but will continue to turn throughout much of December and January.  I have a deciduous tree in my back yard that for the last couple of years has not shed its leaves.  Go figure that one out.

I actually thought about using this shot while I was on my morning bike ride and heard a song entitled "Roads" by Chris Mann.

There are roads in this life that we all travel
There are scars and there are battles where we roam
When we are lost or wherever we may go
They will always lead you home

There are roads that have led me to another
To a friend or to a lover I have known
For every turn is a year that I have grown
As I walk along these roads

And so ends another entry in the photo blogging theme, "Where the streets have no name."  I hope you have enjoyed these shots.  Please stop by P.J.s blog and scroll down to the bottom to see a list of other bloggers who have taken on this theme as well.

An aside to P.J.  You asked whether you'd like me to guest blog on your site and the answer is yes if you'd like to use that piece I wrote, I'd be happy guest post.  For some reason, the reply function is working over here, so I figure I'd let you know this way.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

John Muir camping trip - Part 1

So the hope was that I'd be able to write more than once every other week, but that doesn't seem to be happening, so bear with me as I continue to take you through last summer.  Kind of funny actually that we're almost in winter and I'm still writing about summer, but that's how it goes sometimes.

Anyway, the first weekend in June I had volunteered to help my friend Craig in his quest to hike the John Muir Trail, from Yosemite Valley to the top of Mt. Whitney and then down to Whitney Portal. Craig had everything planned out, so it was just a matter of me going along for the ride and enjoying everything.  We took his truck and my van up to Lone Pine, California, where we were going to leave his truck at Whitney Portal.  Whitney Portal is the major trailhead leading up to the summit of Mt. Whitney and where Craig would be coming down from after his 211 mile hike over two weeks.

So the first day was mostly driving in caravan style as we worked out way up to Lone Pine.  Since Craig is also a geocacher, we caches along the way, mainly because we didn't have any set itinerary outside of making sure we ended up in Yosemite on Sunday, June 8th so he could get his permit to hike the trail, which would begin on the 9th.

We couldn't have asked for better weather, for camping and photography.  There were just enough clouds that I was able to get some pretty spectacular shots.  The shot of Mt. Whitney was taken from the road leading up to Whitney Portal.  No threat of thunderstorms, just puffy clouds that helps enhance the shots I took that day and on subsequent days.  The second shot was taken from an overlook just west of the Mammoth ski area looking over the Ansel Adams Wilderness.  The jagged peaks in the middle of the shot are called the Minarets, which was the original name for the Wilderness back before Ansel Adams, the famous photographer passed away.   

After dropping off his truck at Whitney Portal, we headed up to Mammoth.  Sometime during the day, we'd made the decision to camp at Devils Postpone National Monument.  By the time we got to Mammoth, it was close to 8 o'clock in the evening and starting to get dark.  We got down to the Postpone and the campground was closed.  I think it actually opened a couple of days later.  We found out that many of the campgrounds were closed, or were opening up the weekend that we were there.  Fortunately, Reds Meadow campground, just a couple more miles down the road, had just opened up the day we got there, so we had a place to stay that night.  We pulled into the campground, pretty much in complete darkness, pitched the tent, ate dinner and then hit the sack.  We had a big day planned for the next day.

To be continued.....

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

A repeat post

Dear friends,

I posted this back in May 2012. I still think it's appropriate today and so I'm repeating it for today. I doubt it will make a difference, but I'll feel better after posting it, so that's what counts right now.

I have many friends, due to the social media giant Facebook, plus other sites.

In fact, any site where there's a discussion board, you can learn about people that share similar interests. I've also been able to connect with a lot of long lost friends because of these social networks.

One thing I've found through the years is that people like to spout off on discussion boards about their political leanings. This, in my opinion, is a bad thing. Mainly because most of the time, all those political discussions do is cause arguments to start. And although a good flame war can be very entertaining from time to time, it's not something that I relish, nor something that I seek out.

I like you as a friend. I liked you when we were in school together. We talked about a lot of different things, but we really didn't talk about religion or politics. Those were the things we were told as kids that we shouldn't talk about. Hmmmm. Maybe our parents were right.

I would prefer to maintain these friendships in the coming years. Talking politics makes that more difficult. Social media has brought many of us closer together and helped us reconnect with our past friendships that we let drift apart over the years. I would really love it if I didn't know the political affiliations of my friends. I just want to be friends with them. Now, that might make me appear to be like an ostrich with its head buried in the sand. At the moment, that's OK with me.

So here's my plea to all of my friends and I fully expect to be flamed for this, but I'm going to say it anyway. Please keep your politics to yourself. Think about what you're posting. There's too much vitriol out there to add to it. Your position on almost any political or religious subject is not going to convince anyone on the other side to change their position on the given subject. All it's going to do is cause an argument where everyone will believe they're right and the other person is wrong.