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.


  1. Another great post, Paul. I really enjoy reading your blog and seeing your photos as they take me on a journey to places I have never visited. -Monica

    1. Thanks Monica. Most of these shots were taken while geocaching, so it's possible to visit them since you're in the same area.

  2. My mind is blown away by these... absolutely blown away. I can't get over the first one - I can see Walt and Jessie from Breaking Bad driving down it. Ha ha! What an amazing place you have to explore. The skull is AWESOME. I never pass a skull on my hiking adventures without taking a picture of it! So so good!

    1. Thanks Katherine. I do enjoy hiking out in the desert. It's flat, although I'd prefer a 5 miler in the mountains I think.

  3. My first attempt at leaving a comment disappeared into the nether. Hoping this one does not...

    Your first two selections for this month really align with my perception of what it must be like to wander in a desert - blue sky, lots of sand and strong shadows. I think you did a really good job of conveying a sense of the place.

    As for the final photo - the one that accompanies the verse - I particularly like the fact that you opted to focus on the edge of the leaf facing perpendicular to your lens, rather than the more obvious choice of the second leaf over from the left that roughly parallels your lens. In my opinion, this choice creates a far more dynamic and compelling image. Really well done!

    And congrats also on getting so many geocaches in one day! I think you pretty much doubled our best day ever and you hiked a long distance on top of searching for so many hides.

    1. Thanks very much Denise. We worked extremely hard on that day to get that many geocaches. The goal was not to drive to any of them and with the exception of the drive into the area and the short 200 foot walk to the first cache, that was definitely accomplished. In fact, we could have stopped on the way out to grab a couple more caches, but opted not to because we wanted to keep the "purity" of the day intact. We ended up getting that particular cache the day after Thanksgiving.

  4. Fantastic photos again, Paul. The storm photo stands out to me in particular. I like the coyote skull as well. Thanks for sharing. I was wearing a t-shirt and shorts here yesterday, it's in the lower 40s today. Texas weather!

    1. Thank you very much Mike. I don't know if you know it or not, but right behind those clouds in that storm shot is a 13,000 foot mountain.

  5. I very much enjoyed your desert tour. Your photos are beautiful. I think I like #5 the best; and the song lyrics. Very though-provoking. Hope your geocaching travels were enjoyable this year.

    1. Thank you very much Lisa. I'm glad you liked the shots.

  6. Wow, Paul, You captured some great images and really did an amazing job on this theme. The shots are crisp and fit so well. My favorite, though, is the fourth one (with the first a close second). That fourth one -- with the color and everything else ... so amazing. That is a photo I would definitely hang up on my wall. Love those clouds. All your shots are awesome though. Great job.

    And as for the guest post ... I will be in touch about it shortly. I'd definitely like to use it!

    1. Thanks P.J. I've always enjoyed your photo blogging challenge. It's always enjoyable to see how people interpret different themes.

  7. The clouds in #4 blow me away. (no pun intended). Great collection that aptly reflects the theme.