Saturday, May 19, 2012

Desert Mystery +Nature Track outing

 Imagine this on the sharply cut bank of a desert wash. What do you suppose it might be? It has the look of something organic although there are no animals evident and no green chlorophyl, so if it is growing it must be fungal.  The length of this splotch is about a foot. So what does that leave us?
This is simply a blown up section of the first photo to provide you with more detail. I continue to think it looks organic and I am still puzzled about it's source. The hole suggests a center of activity, but there was nothing moving. If you have ideas, please do comment hear or email me with your  theory! (

Chia in the foreground growing in a Joshua Tree desert wash. So much chia and somewhat skunky smell I've not noticed where there are smaller quantities.
Lunch for the weary Nature Track adventurers  away from school sitting in a field of cream cups!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Joshua Tree National Park!

This little 2.5 inch squirt (above)was nearly road kill before Brett popped him off the blacktop. This second tortoise (right pic) was tempting fate on the road saved by Brett in the same hour! The law says don't touch except in emergency. Pancaking fits the description.

Joshua Tree is turning into a regular retreat. Last year I visited twice and we were back again.  I especially like the Jumbo Rocks Camp ground where you see the trailer. This location offers a interp trail with skull rock and many other scenic rocks, so it's worth a stop even if you aren't camping! Hiking at Joshua trees is always rewarded with unusual formations and surprises at each turn.  We got one of the last large campsites, required for the Bigfoot. 

 After finding few queens of the desert at Anza Borrego, we weren't expecting much at Joshua Tree. On the southern approach to the park a winter flood provided enough moisture to produce some attractive blossoms. Up and down the washes we were able to find nearly 40 species of flowers, bushes and cacti in bloom.

Chuparosa is a favorite in its usual red, but on the right is the seldom seen yellow variant too! Always fun to find rare botanical beauty! I shot photos of the amazing fields of chia sage, but my pics were less than inspired. Having heard of large harvests collected by the native Americans I was excited to see for the first time enough chia to merit an effort.

In 29 Palms our lecture and tour on botany and geology scheduled for 30 minute. More than 3.5 hours later we were begging for more. The presenter was most accommodating in answering our numerous questions pertaining to the drying of the desert, Mojave, to the little earthquake pressure ridges. The little boat you see here is a rarity where water was once widely abundant and now evaporated and dwindling.

On the ride home we finally found date shakes at Charley Browns. The man ahead of me declared this to be a fine place if you left your fat/cholesterol/salt/etc. concerns behind. They featured the ever exciting and wildly sought deep fried Twinkies though the brand went out of business a few years ago. At least the sign was there! We also found they offered vegan fare as well as chocolate bacon! So much for the superlatives.

Thanks for coming along for the trip. Let me invite you to suggest Santa Barbara Fire Song (Free)  especially to the young people in your life as another fire season is nearly upon those of us living in SoCal:

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Borrego Springs sits in the center of Anza Borrego State Park in southern California. Shielded by the rocky mountains to the east, this desert area affords pleasant winter weather without the crowds of Palm Springs. The fact that the small village is surrounded by park land and at a distance, BLM land keeps some of the aspiring development in check. We return each year anticipating the desert bloom and the opportunity to hike the many trails exploring canyons and oases with Washingtonian fan palms. The campsite we like has been open each of the last three years when we rolled into camp. In the shot from Inspiration point you might be able to spot our trailer at the left end of the loop.

We shared our recent trip with Brett and Nancy Stearns who take another approach to desert "roughing it" at the Inn. Our own camp is far from our old backpacking trips with easy access to restaurants, markets and shops. The local natural history group provides outings and education and this year a tour of local gardens. Seemed like half the village turned out to visit 6 desert gardens. One has to be brave to let the public in to view the landscaping lovingly developed for personal tastes. Mine don't run towards faux Roman marble statuary, but I didn't take Latin either! The lovely pet cemetery has clear meaning to the owners and bit less for me. The less "gardened up" the more I liked the landscape and there were some nice touches. I'll think twice before inviting everyone to my back yard!

We explored the palm oases and then went looking for the Pumpkin Patch. I got the directions pleasantly confused so we found a few extra hollows and washes that weren't in the day's plan. Along with Stearns, we invited some camping neighbors Jim and Carry from Utah along for the day's field trip. You can read the description over Carole's shoulder (click the photo for detail) of how these accretions form and are emerging from the desert floor. I expected to find modified mud balls and was pleased they are unique and unusual at about 200 pounds apiece an as solid as though cast from concrete!  We bounced on up the sandy wash through BLM land looking for a sand dune. At the proper location we decided it was there, but had a fair amount of flora covering it and not the naked sort we were imagining. Arriving at the highway we noted there was no obvious way to leave the wash and make our way back to Borrego Springs and the wash continued to the Salton Sea. We scaled the side of the wash in the truck and found a legit ramp to the highway!

As for desert bloom, we were rewarded in remote places with the wild  annuals and a few cacti beginning their blossoming. Glorietta Canyon was quiet and offered ghost flowers and a variety of others, all small and in reduced expression given the small amount of rain this year.

Check out my post about my publications for this spring under last month's posts. Also, I would lke to recommend my friend's blog for those of you interested in international travel, essays on burglary, banker's math and other topics of interest. Snow Crash,  from Richard Sherman of Hawaii.