Saturday, January 30, 2010

Favorite Pictures of Animals--Reptiles and Birds

One amazing thing about the desert is the amount of wildlife. Most people think of the desert as a dry and lifeless, sandy and remote area of land but it is really an incredible wellspring of life. There were very few days that I did not encounter some type of animal and often the creatures I did come across were the highlight of my adventure. Here are a few of the birds and reptiles I saw on my outings.

I saw a lot of hawks this past year but couldn't get any real good pictures of them. They fly high and fast and I wasn't able to get the camera on them but they are a pleasure to watch.

Roadrunners are a different matter. I could probably take a hundred pictures of them. In fact, I have a pair that live on my street that I see almost every day. They are fun to watch and when you see one you know you're in the desert.

Hummingbirds are another desert bird that are difficult to photograph for an amateur like me although they are plentiful. These guys move FAST and when you think you've got a good picture they're gone. I was lucky to find this one actually perched for a second while I got my camera ready.

Hummingbirds are usually seen around flowers as this one hovers near this Palo Verde.

One of the best bird sightings of this year for me was this juvenile Great Horned Owl that Carl Garczynski and I saw on a hike in Joshua Tree National Park. He showed very little fear of us and Carl suggested that we were probably the only humans that he had ever seen and didn't know what to make of us.

Here he is just a bit closer.

Probably my favorite bird sighting this year was this Falcon that I saw near the start of the Art Smith Trail. He had a freshly killed Chuckwalla in his talon and had must have had a nest nearby because he hung around for a while even after leaving this spot.

Lizards were the most frequently spotted animal during my year of hiking. I probably spotted lizards on at least 75% of my outings. Most of the time I just let them be but Nikolas wanted to catch one so I let him. He also wanted to take him home but I insisted we let him go.

This Desert Iguana was lucky to get away from being caught. He was spotted on a hike when I had three boys along but he managed to escape.

Banded lizards, like this one, were the most plentiful and easily recognized.

Other than running under rocks the most frequent thing I saw lizards do were push-ups.

I saw a couple of Horned Toads (or Horny Toads as we called them when we were kids) and of the lizards I spotted, I most wanted to take on of these home.

I know frogs aren't really Reptiles but I didn't have enough amphibians to up them in their own category so this one goes here.

One of the most frequent questions I got about hiking every day was, "Have you seen any rattlesnakes?". Hiking hundreds of miles over three hundred and sixty-five days I saw one. Amazingly, I saw it on an evening in August when I thought it would be WAY too hot for a rattler. It was way too hot for me and I had Gatorade.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Bullseye Rock and Mad Women Spring


On my last hike of the year I went to the Bullseye Rock area in the Indian Canyons. I wanted to go beyond there to Bullseye Flat and Mad Women Spring but the canyons closed early on December 31 and I really didn't feel comfortable going up into that rugged area alone. I'm old. Years of domestic bliss has not softened my adventurous spirit but my body is another story. Having someone along would be good in case I tripped over my cane.

So I went back with Florian, a guy I met in an online forum for Mount San Jacinto, with the goal of making it all the way to Mad Women Spring and the rock cabin I visited over 17 years ago.

The trip report on my first visit up to Bullseye Rock can be found here.

Bullseye Rock is a huge monolith and there are no easy ways around it. It is not that steep so it's possible to find a place to just go up the face.

But once you're past it, the traveling doesn't' get much easier. There's a large boulder field that has to be navigated through.

A couple of deer run through Bullseye Flat but I only got a picture of one.

All along this hike there is a wealth of Indian artifacts and dwellings. This rock shelter is one of the most interesting I've found.

There are a number of bedrock mortars here.

This one is quite deep.

There are also cupules which are generally more for ceremonial use than food preparation.

Another large bedrock mortar.

Under this overhang could have been a sleeping area. Just move a few rocks and bedtime.

Just around the corner is the kitchen area with lots of pitch from fires on the roof. I don't know how those ghosts appeared in this photo because I didn't see them and the picture before and after this one are clear. My wife thinks the image on the right looks like a lady holding a child.

This is the picture I took almost immediately following the ghost picture. There are no ghosts in this one so I guess they only hang out in the kitchen.

After leaving the rock shelter and the ghosts behind, we tromp up a steep and rocky hillside until we come to the rock house at Mad Women Spring.

A closer look at the backside of the cabin.

The inside of the cabin is a bit dusty but there are some tools left behind and it's obvious that someone's been up here since my last visit. They put a new roof on the thing.

There are also many provisions although it doesn't appear that any are particularly new.

Here's another view of the rock house with its shiny "new" roof. From reading the log book the roof is about ten years old but it still looks great.

The spring is just a drip but it's enough to ensure the water tub is full and clear. The tub is also "new". It may only be a couple of years old. Not many hikers come up here. The most recent entry in the log book is about two years old and several parties came in by helicopter.

I have plenty of water left in my water bottle but if I didn't there's an ample supply here.

Florian makes his way down Bullseye Rock as we head back after a successful adventure.

It sure will be nice to get back on flat ground.

This is a very interesting little place in the world and I hope to get back soon. Next time I'm going to wear long pants because my legs look like they were in a vat of cats. I can only imagine what else might be left to be discovered in this mysterious and seldom visited section of the San Jacinto Mountains.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Favorite Pictures of Sunrises and Sunsets

Having to work for a living often required that I hiked at the beginning of the day or the end. The advantage of this was that I saw more sunsets than at any other time in my life. I probably also saw more sunrises, too, but I don't consider this to be an advantage. I really would have rather been sleeping.


Nikolas sitting on rocks above La Quinta
Clouds above San Jacinto
The sun has already gone down above Pushawalla Canyon
Aerial cotton candy above the Art Smith Trail
A cloud halo above Mount San Jacinto
Clouds hover over the Desert Divide
This is one of my favorite shots and I had it as my desktop on my computer for weeks.
More clouds and sun and mountains
The temperature was as warm as this looks.
Getting ready to head home just before dark.
One thing that surprised me was how many clouds we actually have in the desert.
Not really a sunset but the glow from one.
Sunrise over Lake Tahoe and Fallen Leaf Lake
Mount San Gorgonio. It was over 100 degrees when I took this one.
Sunset Palm
Halo around the sun
Clouds over La Quinta
Not a great picture but a great start. This was the sunrise of the first day.
Sunset at Joshua Tree National Park.

Sunset over the San Joaquin Valley

The last sunrise I saw this year just may be the last sunrise I see in years. I have no idea the next time I'll have to wake up that early but hopefully it'll be no time soon.