Thursday, February 9, 2023

Government Wash - Boat to Nowhere

Hiked Sunday, January 29.

Having seen this boat numerous times in articles detailing the "drought" in the West and the falling water level at Lake Mead, I decided I would go and have a look at it, myself.

All I knew was the refernece to "Government Wash." And, on numerous drives through Lake Mead National Recreation Area, I had seen a sign for Government Wash. Never drove down that road until this weekend.

Wasn't even sure if it was paved. But it turns out it is. In fact, this must have been a major watercraft launch point in the past, because there's a massive concrete boat ramp leading down to where the lake used to be. MASSIVE! Wide as a freeway!

Except, today, it's about a 1 1/4 mile walk down the wash to reach the waterline.

Erosion into the former lakebed by runoff has eroded parts down at least eight feet in the past 10-20 years that the bed has been exposed.

The main wash led to a flatter area, within sight of water. Grass had grown in, covering the clay and silt near the water. The lake bottom, meanwhile, had dried into small "cells," so you had to be careful when walking that you didn't fall.

From near the water, I could see a boat, laying flat, far to my left. Meanwhile, far to my right, was the upright boat made famous by it's dramatic visage.

I first went to the famous boat, walking through weeds. I flushed a fair amount of waterfowl as I made my way towards that boat (last shot in this post).

Walked along the exposed shoreline, took many shots of the boat, then returned to the less-famous boat on the left, atop the various high points between me and the main body of Lake Mead. Turns out Government Wash is connected to that body by only a narrow strip of water.

My Alltrails recording amused me, as it showed me walking all over upon the waters of Lake Mead.

Something around five miles, total. Just going to the boat and back would ahve been less than three miles. If you ddrove off the pavement and could mind your way, it's even less than that. Several high-clearance four wheel drive vehicles were within sight of the boat. Even a low-clearnance, two-wheel drive vehicle could probably get pretty close. But since I'm hiking as much for the journey as the destination, I was fine with my route.

Lots of campers and RVs out this way, by the way. This area is a designated for free "dry," dispersed camping. It's not protected, however, so no shade, and the wind can be fierce.

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Comet ZTF from Lake Mead NRA, NV

Hiked and photographed Saturday, January 28, 2023. I had hiked out here (the Redstone area) previously, and have also done night photography from near here, as well. But finding some interesting rock formations I found in the daylight was difficult in the dark. You can be just 20 yards away and not see some of these formations. So I when came out here again last month, I dropped some pins (waypoints) with my Alltrails app, then saved the activity, so I could find these places in the dark.

It worked. I got to the parking area about 30 minutees after sunset, walked south, and easily found my first target, the "space alien with eye" formation I called, "Space Alien Arch." That's the first photo, above. Jupiter is the bright object. This is looking to the west, so the skyglow coming from the Las Vegas Valley is pretty obvious.

I then headed north a bit, to my second target. The comet is actually in this shot, as was my intent, but it had not tail and was so small that it is almost imperceptible. It's above the two stars at the end of the Little Dipper, about half way up the photo, about 20% in from the right edge

Then I walked back to the parking lot and set up my tracking mount. Set it up dual saddle, with my 80mm f/7 refractor on one side, and my Nikon D3500 with 85mm f/1.8 lens on the other.

My initial shots showed quite a bit of trailing, indicating a poor alignment. So I got behind my mount and adjusted both the altitude and the azimuth alignment. Shots after that showed no apparent trailing, at least not at the scale I was shooting and enlarging.

The telescope shots were about 60 seconds at ISO 2000. Nice thin trail visible. Very happy with the result.

I also discovered that my D3500 produces very violet stars, quite different from my D780 (which was attached to my telescope). Not sure if that's due to a setting I made or just the way the sensors are calibrated, or perhaps if one or the other has or doesn't have an IR and/or UV cutfilter built in. Definitely like the D780 representation of stars, better.

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Comet C/2022 E3 ZTF

Comet photo taken 1/22/2023. Facerock shot was 1/21/2023.

Went out to Joshua Tree last weekend. Took a short hike and some post-sunset nightsky shots. Then came back early Sunday morning to catch Coment C/2022 E3 ZTF. My first time using a telescope I bought back in July for possible astrophotography. I already own an Orion Sirius mount, which is plenty to handle the 80mm f/7 refractor. I added a .8x reducer a month or so later, for wider, faster collection of photons.

Not particularly skilled with my technique. I eyeballed polar alignment with Polaris, set up my telescope, then scanned with my binoculars to find ZTF. After I found it with the binoculars, I tried without success to point my telescope on target. The equatorial mount is not very good at sweeping an area, and I didn't have an optical finder attached to my telescope.

So after about twenty minutes, I gave up, swapped my dslr for the eyepiece, and starting taking 30 second exposures of the general area, to find it photographically. After another twenty or so minutes, I finally did find it. I centered, and started shooting off exposures of 30-120 seconds, mostly at ISO 1600. Not technically good shots, but I was satisfied.

Later that morning, over breakfast, I downloaded some shots to my phone and edited the .jpeg in Lightroom for mobile. Best result here.

Also with this post is a shot I took at Facerock, the previous night. Thirty seconds at ISO 1600, 20mm f/1.8 lens. I've shot here before, and I like face!

Despite being only about 1/4 mile from the road (maybe 1/2 mile walking), it's been empty the last few times I've shot. Most folks crowd near the road, or on the other side of the road, at Skull Rock.

Click on the photos for larger versions.

I may post some daytime shots from the Split Rock trail, later.

Sunday, January 15, 2023

B1 Bombers from Altadena, January 2, 2023

On January 1, most years, but January 2 when the first falls on a Sunday, there's the Tournament of Roses Parade in the morning, then the Rose Bowl game in the afternoon. Most years, I think to myself, "I should have gone up there to get a photo of the military flyby" that happens just before each parade, and just around National Anthem time of the game. For many of the most recent years, it's been a B-2 Spirit (stealth) bomber. However, this year, witht he B-2 temporarily grounded, the Air Force sent two B-1 Lancer bombers. A friend observed that it was funny that this meant substituting two B-1s for one B2, as though it was a math problem.

Traditionally, the parade starts at 8am in Pasdadena, from the corner of Colorado and Orange Grove, and the Rose Bowl game starts a few minutes after 2pm on the afternoon of the game. The latter will likely change in the new era of college football.

I didn't have the motivation to get out of the house in the morning, but did decide to try to get up to Altadena before kickoff time.

I debated between the hills above Altadena (Pasadena-adjacent) or the hills above Monrovia (well to the east, but the planes appear to follow the foothills out that way after leaving Pasadena). Settled on Altadena. I headed up from Rubio Canyon, then took the first left up towards the Sam Merrill Trail.

Ended up in a bit of a rush, as there are a lot of road closures and traffic issues between my home and Altadena on the day of the parade and ballgame, but made it to the trailhead about 1:30pm. Husteled on up to the Sam Merrill, and went to the first place with a view to the south. Pulled out the camera and waited.

The approach was pretty quiet, but they spun up their engines and afterburners after their flyover, and gave me some decent views, despite the distance. Probably 2-3 miles away for most of these. I shot using a 100-400mm zoom, and cropped pretty severely. Processed on Lightroom for Mobile. Not knock-your-socks-off amazing, but I had fun, and you could see the afterburners, especially in the third shot.

Still plenty of hikes to blog from last year, and even a few from the year before. But that was my first hike of the New Year.

After the flyby, I walked back down into Rubio Canyon, then back up to view some of the waterfalls of Rubio Canyon. Very nice season for waterfalls, so far. Only had my dslr and telephoto, though, so no handy shots to post here.

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Kolob Terrace Road, October 10, 2022

Mostly just a drive, although I parked the car and walked around taking pictures enough to accumulate over 10,000 steps on the drive. The first shot was at my turnaround point, with a nice view in all directions and grazing sheep in the fields around me.

The second two were very near a spot I stopped a number of years ago. I guess it always lights up and looks great around now. Same as last time, it triggered a "Wow," and I had to stop. Someone else was shooting family shots in the same area, and I tried to stay out of their way.

Kolob Terrace Road breaks from UT-12 while still early in the canyon, and heads along the west end of the terrace, overlooking the valley that is home to Cedar City. Spots of color stopped me on the climb, but the real show as after the road leveled out, beyond the front, and started weaving within the aspen. Small homes and cabins were scattered among some of the trees.

This last shot was actually taken the day before, in Cedar Breaks National Monument. It seemed a little early for fall foliage there, and there were only a few spots with color. I had initially planned to drive up to the Monument the next day, with the light to my west. But decided (correctly, it turns out) to check out Kolob Terrace Road, instead.

Click on the images for larger versions of the shots.

Sunday, November 13, 2022

Cahuilla Peak via Araby Trail and Henderson, Shannon, Berns and Garstin Trails, Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument

Hiked November 6 and 7, 2022. Been too long since I last posted, and I have many hikes and trips to blog. Just a little tricky with my schedule. THese hikes were from last week.

Hiked on consecutive days. On this trip, I stayed at the Travelodge in Palm Springs, a bit north of downtown. The trailheads are no more than two miles from the motel, just off of East Palm Canyon Drive (CA-11B).

On the afternoon of the 6th, I left the motel and headed "south" on CA-111B, East Palm Canyon Drive (on this segment the road travels west to east). Turned right (south) on Araby Drive. Using google maps to reach the trailhead as indicated on, I was informed that I had arrived shortly after crossing the sandy wash. This was about 2/3 of a mile from CA-111B.

I parked off the left side of the road, and saw a trail marker on the opposite side of the road. This is the Henderson Trail. Followed those signs briefly through the sandy wash (Palm Canyon Creek), as it worked its way around a private holding, then followed the trail out of the wash and across the pavement (I believe that's Landsadale Road).

There were both occupied homes and old ruins of homes within view of the trail. After about 3/4 of a mile, a sign for the Shannon Trail split up hill. That was the way to Cahuilla Peak. Tops off at about 1522 feet, or about 1200 feet above the starting point.

The earlier portion of the trail provides views to the north. The massive Bob Hope house is visible once you get a clear view to the east. After significant climbing, you reach a crest, and a junction with the Berns trail. A bit north east here takes to you the peak. A stack of rocks marks the summit.

For my return, I took the Berns trail southwest, soon connecting with the Garstin trail, then eventually reconnecting with the Henderson trail, just before reaching the residential areas below. The Henderson trail runs up and down some as it stays in the volcanic hills rather than running along the wash bottom. About five miles for this loop.

The next morning, before driving home, I decided to explore this area from the other side. I took the Araby trail, which is another way up to Cahuilla Peak. Confusingly, however, you don't take Araby Road to this trailhead. Instead, you stay on 111B about 1/3 of a mile past Araby Road. Immediatey after crossing the bridge over Palm Creek Canyon, make a right. There'll be a green road sign saying Southridge/Rim (Drive), and also have a brown sign saying "Hiking Trail." Immediately after turning right, a small parking area, large enough for 12-15 vehicles, will be on your right.

From the parking area, another "Hiking Trail" sign will send you briefly up Southridge Road, before thre trail shoots off, on the left side (if you're facing uphill) of the road.

This trail runs above a lot of mobile homes on your right, and larger permanent homes on your right. It's private property on either side, so stay on the trail and respect the privacy and property of trail neighbors.

This trail runs up the canyon on the opposite side from the Bob Hope house, before eventually placing you right south of the house. From the angle, a large water tank behind the home is obvious, as is a putting green with several sand traps on the west side of the house (not visible from west, due to foliage).

The Araby trail hits the Berns trail at the ridge, and the Berns trail heads west, to Cahuilla Peak. Perhaps slightly longer to the summit than via the Henderson, Shannon, and Berns trail, but shorter than the return via the Berns, Garstin and Henderson trails. Large portions of both trails are within the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument.

I suspect the trail is mainly used by locals, but plenty of tourists to Palm Springs are also there for the outdoor recreation. On the Sunday afternoon and Monday monrning that I hiked, there were usually other hikers or joggers within view, but the views were expansive, so it definitely didn't feel crowded. Good climb, but not very long, so not that strenuous, at least not when the weather is temperate.

Note that dogs are not permitted on the trail within the national monument boundaries.

Saturday, September 3, 2022

Redstone, Lake Mead NRA, NR, in May 2022

These are from the Redstone area of Lake Mead, just off of Northshore Drive Took these end of May/early June. Headed out here on Memorial Day weekend, and walked around in daylight, looking for possible foreground objects for some Milky Way shots. Came back the next weekend in the dark. The funny thing was the places I found in May in daylight, I could not find in June in the dark.

That's because I used my AllTrails to record my walking in May, but forgot to shut it off when I got back to my car, so I had a ridiculous recording that I ended up deleting I'll have to walk this area in daylight, again, and properly mark my shooting locations for nighttime location.

The general appearance of Redstone is similar to Bowl of Fire, except that, because it's so much more accessible and gets more visitation, you don't have many places with the fine and fragile sandstone structures in Redstone that you get in parts of Bowl of Fire.

The more I walked around, the more small windows and arches I found. Then, of course, I could walk to the other side of the arch and snap another shot.

I really wanted to try to snap this guy with the Milky Way, but couldn't find him, in the dark. Definitely something I'll be looking for, next time.

This is the arch you could see from near the parking area. I walked to and through this arch on a previous trip. This time, I also scoped it out from the other side, on a long loop walk around this section of Redstone. But, apparently, this shot didn't make the cut!

Further south and east from that arch were some interesting water-erosion features.
Wavy layers in the sandstone blocks.
Also, lots of "blueberries," like they found on Mars.
Finally, the night shot I took, when I came back. The Milky Way was barely rising, but I did like the effect. I was planning to get back here a few months later, with the Milky Way higher. Not successful, however. As has been the case for a while, lots of hikes remaining to be blogged.