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.