Monday, December 30, 2013

Joshua Tree National Park: an oasis, some even better rocks, and a lookout

First thing on March 13, we visited a small oasis, the Oasis of Mara.  It's just a couple of small clumps of palm trees, but it was an important water source back in the day:

Next, we went to see the Arch rock and hike the trail around it.  Here's me and the Arch:

The best part of this trail was actually off the beaten path, in behind the arch rock.  We climbed over a rock, squeezed through a couple others, and came out to these natural paths in between some really cool rock formations:

Next, we went to hike the Skull rock trail.  Here's the skull:

After that, a lookout.  This looks to the valley southwest of the park.

Driving back towards the hotel, we passed through some groves of Joshua trees where they were particularly lush and tree-like:

... and that was March 13.  Next up ... March 14!  Can you believe it?  Coming soon ...

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Joshua Tree National Park: Rock Formations

I'm actually going to restrain myself and not show you as many photos as I usually do, partly because the landscape of Joshua Tree National Park is a little more uniform than many of the other parks I have been to so far.

Here are some examples of the ubiquitous rock formations found there.  They were formed underground during geologically wetter times, and the cracks and breaks were formed by water percolating down and dissolving minerals, and forming boulders out of what had been solid rock.  Then when more arid times came along, the loose sand that had been formed by this process washed or blew away in storms, gradually leaving these boulder towers upright and exposed:

Not everything is a rock, there are plants and trees too, although the average tree looks like it has seen better and wetter days:

More Joshuas, forming sparse forests in some areas:

Some ruins out in the desert.  They're related to gold mining in the area I think, and possibly attempts at ranching ... I don't have the guidebook up here with me to refresh my memory

Two landowners didn't like each other and one tried to block access to the other from crossing his land.  One of 'em didn't survive the conflict.  "Here is where Worth Bagley bit the dust at the hand of W. F. Keys, May 11, 1943."

Here are some abandoned vehicles in the same area, at the Wall Street Mill, where they crushed rock to remove gold:

Here are the ruins of the mill:

That's all for March 12 ... more to come soon ...

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Joshua Tree National Park

As the year draws to a close, I am feeling increasingly guilty that I still have never posted my photos from my trip last March to Joshua Tree National Park.  So ... today is the day ... that I start, at least.  It's not quite a New Year's Resolution, more of a training resolution ... but I will show you my evidence that I visited this very interesting place.

It's a very accessible national park, too.  It's around 3 hours drive east of Los Angeles, depending on traffic.  For most of that drive you are still in the built-up area of greater L.A., and even after you leave the city you are soon into more built-up areas.  The park is a gem sitting between the ex-urban sprawl.

So to start things off ... let's look at some Joshua Trees!  Our arrival day, March 11, we just did a couple of short trails around the western edge of the park.

Here's a close up of some Joshua tree foliage:

They don't grow very thickly in their arid conditions:

Some of them get pretty bushy:

This shows how close the park is to the surrounding communities - this is looking north, at the west end of the park.

So that is just a taste to start, but I am coming back very soon with more ... really!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Extreme Solstice

I'm heading into week three of a six week contract in the high arctic.  Grise Fiord is Canada's most northerly civilian community, and up here it is dark 24 hours a day at this time of the year.  The sun set on November 1, and won't rise again until around noon on February 11.

Even though I have been working in the arctic for over 20 years, this is my first time being so far north at this time of the year.  I call myself a "fair weather nurse", since I most often work during the light season (dig that 24 hour sunshine!), but the nurse I often replace wanted Christmas off this year, and I don't mind working the holidays if I don't do it every year.

I wasn't sure how I would do with it being dark 24 hours a day.  When I have worked in other communities with greatly shortened days, it has affected my sleep; I think my body got confused and thought it was several hours later than it was when the sun would set, and that threw off my internal clock.

Up here though, no problem at all.  In fact, it really isn't even hard to get up in the dark, since it is dark all the time.  In the south I always feel a sense of injustice when I have to get out of bed before the sun is up, but here, since it's not coming up anyway ... no big deal.  I don't miss daylight, either, and I had thought I would.  Maybe I can start applying for jobs as a submarine nurse.

There's just a hint of light in the sky around noon, it's kind of surreal, and sometimes the moon is shining somewhere behind the mountains so it kind of feels extra-terrestrial, with just a slight glow coming from all directions.

The only thing cramping my style is Chewy, Nippy and Chompy, the local polar bears who are spotted now and then.  I went for only one walk the first week I was here.  While out, the dog team that is tied up in town, by the bridge, started barking and howling a lot, but they just sounded hungry, so I carried on past them.  On my way back, they were still at it, and were targeting this one large, white, curiously bear-shaped dog.  They weren't going nuts though, so I just figured one of the dogs that are perpetually loose in town was an uninvited lunchtime guest.  Later on that day though, my neighbour posted a photo of the bear at the bridge ... oops.  I passed really close to it, too, but hey ... it is dark out!  I haven't risked any walks since then though, it's too dark to see them properly.

So no fatigue, no seasonal affective disorder, no sleep disruption, and as far as I know, no insanity ... although you may have to confirm that with my co-workers!  I head back south in mid-January, to the great white, bright south.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Baby Goliath is one year old

If I have any regular readers left (maybe a rellie or two ... maybe?), you may remember when we bought a little baby giant sequoia tree on our trip to Sequoia National Park last year.

This is baby Goliath in September of 2012:

And here he is one year later, October 2013:

He won't be terrorizing the neighbourhood from his pot for some time yet, but he sure grew!  The lady at the gift shop said he would double his size every year for the first few years.  He hasn't gained too much in height, but he sure is sprawling outwards a lot.  A well-fed, bouncing baby Giant Sequoia.  Be sure to check back next year for updates ...

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Pumpkin Spice M&Ms

Ha, my blog is turning into an M&M review blog.  Good thing they bring out new flavours as often as they do or the internet might never hear from me!  I do have other things on the go other than eating chocolate, but I have been a lazy blogger lately.

Pumpkin Spice M&M's - another good one!  Very vague pumpkin flavour with cinnamon and spices.  Nice and chocolatey, this one is a milk chocolate one.

They have another Halloween flavour out, Candy Corn White Chocolate M&Ms, but I didn't try that one.  It sounded a bit strange, even for someone like me who likes to try all the new stuff.  If I change my mind I'll report back.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

White Chocolate M&Ms

Well, I actually do have things to blog about other than chocolate, but my duties as an M&M reviewer keep getting in the way.  And no, I am not sent free samples to review, how I wish I was!  I find my samples free-range in Los Angeles department stores, and shell out my own hard earned money, all in the name of public service.

That said, we have another winner!

These are creamy and very tasty, very white chocolatey.  Recommended!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Raspberry M&Ms

I haven't reviewed any new flavoured M&Ms in a while.  I was happy to stumble across these at the local K-Mart in L.A.  Dark Chocolate Raspberry!

Verdict?  These are good!  I don't eat that many M&Ms, but these would rate buying again.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Salt Creek, Death Valley

This was just a short little walk around an interpretive trail.  It features something you don't see a lot of in Death Valley though ... water!

Here is one of the "100 feet below sea level" signs on the way there.  They have these signs on the highway at sea level and 100 feet below - I don't think they had one for 200 feet below, or if they did maybe it got stolen.

Yep, that's water all right!  We tasted it - just as advertised, it's salty!  In the spring this creek even has a salt-adapted fish that lives in it - they are there year-round but only come out and play in certain months, so we didn't see any.  We were there December 13.

Me on the boardwalk of the trail:

Oooo!  A sunbeam popped out for an instant, and Ed caught these next two photos:

And that was that; like I said, it was short.  Next we'll go visit the site of the old Borax works ...