Saturday, February 22, 2014

Hike 2014.008 -- White Rock Canyon Trail to Liberty Bell Arch and the Colorado River

Hiked Saturday, February 15.

I had hiked here just about one year ago. Additional details on finding the trail head and the hike can be found there.

I enjoyed that hike. Wished I had a longer telephoto lens on it, though. The overlook down to the Colorado River, you're probably 1200 or 1600 feet above the water. So, this time around, I had a 500mm Tamron catadioptric telephoto lens to play with, and this seemed like the perfect place to try it out.

The Tamron is actually an old lens to me. I've owned it since either the late 1980s or early 1990s. It was mated to an "adaptall" Canon FD base, and I used it with my old 35mm film cameras.

That lens, like the rest of my 35mm collection, has mostly only seen the inside of a camera bag for the last ten years, at least.

But then I came across a mention of an adapter to allow Tamron Adaptall mounts to attach to Nikon autofocus cameras. The resulting mating will not allow autofocus, or even metering or aperature priority shooting. Still, for about $20, I could regain the use of a very long telephoto lens. So I bought an adapter about two weeks ago, and got to try out the contraption on this trip. You've already seen the Kelso Dunes shots. Here are some along the Colorado River.

In the meantime, the other pictures are all from my hike to Liberty Bell Arch and the Colorado River.

The first one is from the trail before you've go get nearest the arch. You're looking sort of southerly with that one, so you have the arch is in its own shade. Kind of like the detail you can see, what with the various large chunks of rock looking like they're about to tumble right off.

The second shot is relatively early in the hike. I thought this rock structure looked a little bit like old pictures of the Crazy Horse memorial in South Dakota, just as they started blasting away the massive sculpture.
Next up is a view from right after the mining remains (got a picture of that in my linked post). You're at a high point, with a fairly long descent into the intervening area before you climb back up towards the arch. The arch itself is in the fin that points right at you, a little right of center. You can't see the arch, but you can see a little bit of sunlight hitting the butte right of the fin, which, of course, is shining through the arch's opening.
Then you've got a shot of the arch from the "sunny" side. The color's much nicer, of course.

On the trail, after passing the arch, you've got a few switchbacks before you reach the crest of this rise, and then venture on to a nice flat area with views down and across the Colorado River.
In this post, there's then a trio of shots looking across the river. The first is a relatively wide-field view. the next one zooms us in maybe 3x "normal." That's followed by one giving you about a 6x view across, letting you see the camp on the other side and some kayaks in the water.
Finally, there's a view through my 500mm catadiop-tric, giving you the equivalent of about 15x magnifica-tion. You can see the kayaks nicely in that one. That's followed by a close-up of the camp, with the boat and the tent.
I then backed off some on the magnifica-tion, to show the boat in context.

The next shots start up somewhat later, after I've already gotten back to the White Rock Canyon, and am now heading down the canyon. The volcanic walls are tall, and the canyon is sometimes quite narrow. I've got one shot of a group heading back up the canyon, to give some idea of the scale of these walls.
The trailhead sign near the start says it's 2.2 miles from U.S. 93 to the Colorado River. Since the split of the trail towards Liberty Bell Arch is only about 1/2 mile down from the highway, I'm figuring on about 1.8 miles roundtrip from the junction to the river and back.

Pretty substantial loss and then gain of altitude on the way down to the river, and even more so if you headed up to the Colorado River overlook after Liberty Bell Arch.
So I was pretty beat by the time I reached the river.

At the river, I saw that a Boy Scout troop had decided to make their camp at the mouth of White Rock Canyon.
It's a scenic spot, but not where I would have camped. I have this disaster mentality that would have me thinking, "If Hoover Dam breaks, I'd be swept all the way to Mexico," so I'd want to camp above the dam's altitude. Yeah, I'm weird like that.
Nonethe-less, I overcame my irrational fear of a cata-strophic dam failure long enough to shoot dozens of pictures, many with my long telephoto. Hard to keep focus with that, but there's a few mixed in.
But my favorite action photo from down there was at about 135mm, with the telephoto lens foreshortening the distance between the canoe and the narrower walls of Black Canyon, up closer towards the dam. So I decided not to post any long telephoto shots from down here.

It's a pretty consistent flow of boats going downstream. I assume the canoes and kayaks get towed back up the river by some sort of motorboat. Otherwise, it would take some pretty serious paddling to make it back up to the put-in point.
I have heard wildly-ranging estimates of how long these hikes are. I'd estimate about 9 miles total, but I could be off by quite a bit. It was a pretty tiring hike, either way. For most folks, I expect they do either Liberty Bell or the Hot Springs. Relatively few do both in one day.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Hike 2014.009 -- Bonita Falls, San Bernardino National Forest

Hiked Sunday, February 16. This hike was a little shorter than what I normally count as a hike. On the other hand, Hike 2014.008 (not yet posted) was basically two hikes in one.

I hiked here once before, at the end of 2011. Been thinking about stopping here on the way from a Las Vegas run one of these days. Finally did it this weekend.

Bonita Falls is a dramatic, beautiful waterfall. It's also highly accessible--a short 2 mile roundtrip after a short, ten minute drive from I-15.

That accessibility is a blessing and a curse. Unfortunately, a lot stupid people with no appreciation for nature or consideration for anyone other than themselves have spray painted rocks, logs, and cliffs with a wide variety of stupidity.
So if you can tune out the graffiti, and the often loud rowdies hollering at each other in the canyon, it's a nice place. Otherwise, it's not so nice.

Detailed directions on how to get to the trailhead are included on the original post I linked.

Interestingly, some descriptions of this hike describe two "treacherous" stream crossings on this hike. In real-life, there's no need to make any significant stream crossings. Cross Lytle Creek at the bridge that heads into Green Mountain Ranch. (BTW, they apparently are a destination for mountainesque weddings). Don't actually enter Green Mountain Ranch, especially with your car. Instead, after crossing the bridge, bear right at the boundary fence, and stay outside the private inholding.
After the fence turns to the west, you should also turn to the west, heading up the boulder-strewn canyon bottom. This is a "tributary" to Lytle Creek, although, unless you're coming after a big rain or a major snow melt, the canyon is dry.

At the first reasonable trail on your left (about 1/2 after turning up the canyon), head up the incline. It's no more than 1/4 mile up the canyon to Bonita Falls. Most of the time, there's no water coming out of this canyon. It all seems below ground higher up the hill, and makes its way underground to Lytle Creek. No stream crossings are usually required to get to this waterfall, at least not until you're basically at the falls.

And it certainly is a big falls. For some perspective, note that the second picture on this post is a crop of the first picture. It's made larger so you can see the guy standing up near the edge of the falls. He's barely visible in the full-frame version.

I've heard numbers on up to about 160 feet for this big falls. There are apparently several more large drops higher up that canyon, though they would appear inaccessible without technical climbing equipment. Certainly, I would not suggest trying to work your way around the falls.

Less than two miles for the day. Short hike, but a nice interruption to the long drive across the Mojave.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Hike 2014.007 -- Kelso Dunes, Mojave National Preserve

Hiked Friday, February 14. I just hiked this place two weeks previous, but I forgot my camera. So I decided I'd stop by here on this next trip past the Mojave Preserve, as well.

Unfortunately, with a relatively late start and the longer drive from the LA area versus from the Las Vegas area, the strong shadow at the dune crest was gone by the time I got there.

It was also hotter than expected: mid-70s on up to low-80s. That's a little crazy for mid-February.
So it was a shorts and t-shirt hike, with my funny floppy hat. It's still a pretty short distance. And, while warm, it was not HOT. So I tromped my way across the sand again.

Actually having my camera this time, I took plenty of shots. As noted earlier, the shadows weren't as dramatic as last time. But I had plenty to occupy myself with shooting. Lots of grass, shadows of grass on sand, sand ripples, and details of the sand.

I also got to experiment some with a "new" lens I had. It's actually an old lens: A Tamron 500mm catadioptric telephoto lens. "Catadioptric" means it uses mirrors and lenses to fit the long focal length into a relatively short package.

I bought this lens years ago, for my Canon 35mm cameras that I no longer use. But after some poking around on the Internet, I discovered that adapters could be had to fit this old Tamron "Adaptall" mount to my Nikon dslr. It would not have autofocus, of course. Also, the lens if a fixed aperture lens, so there's no adjustment possible with the f-stop: It's just a plain f/8.
Obviously, it has no vibration reduction technology. Further, while it's a 500mm focal length for a 35mm camera, it turns out that on the smaller photo sensor of these dslr (as opposed to a "full-frame dslr," which would cost a lot more), I'm actually getting the equivalent of 750mm. That's a lot of magnification to try to hand-hold.

Yet further, because the camera gets no feedback from the lens, you can only shoot in full manual mode. Nothing you can do with the aperture, but you can/need to set the camera's ISO ("speed") and shutter speed. Ideally, you want something around 1/1000 of a second, to try to minimize the blur from camera shake.

These long telephotos have what they call shallow depth of field, so the part of the image that's in focus is only a very short range in distance. So, put all these factors together, and using this particular lens to good effect is going to be tough, even under the best of circumstances. I'm thinking maybe with a monopod, I might have some luck using it for shooting waterfowl, though.

On this trip, I used it to shoot some long-range shots of my car, from the crest of the dune, a distant structure near some powerlines, and a far-off set of rocky outcroppings. Oh, yes, and the German tourists on top of the crest. That one, and the last photo on this post, are with the super long telephoto. I'm not thrilled with the results, but considering that it only cost me about $20 to make the old lens usable on my new camera, I am still pretty pleased.

3 miles for the day. I'm well behind my blogging, now. I'm up to 9 hikes for the year, and have blogged only three of them. And one of them was hiked twice! Got some catching up to do.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Hike 2014.005 -- Kelso Dunes, Mojave National Preserve

Hiked Monday, February 3. Second hike of the weekend. I took Monday off from work, allowing me a long weekend to spend some time with my wife and also get a little hiking in. Unfortunately, I forgot my camera at home, and only had my very poor-quality cell phone camera to take pictures. They're not only blurry and often hazy, but the color is off.

The Kelso Dunes trail-head is about 8 miles south of Kelso Depot, where the main visitor center for Mojave National Preserve is located. From paved Kelbaker Road, it's three miles on a gravel road (generally suitable for passenger cars) to the parking area. A vault toilet and interpretive signs are at the trailhead.

The actual hike is also advertised as "about three miles" roundtrip. Probably depends on which route you take and how long you wish to walk amongst the dunes.

Once you leave the parking area, the initial part of the trail is well-defined. However, soon there is no formal trail, as you're going over sand, which blows across the footprints each night. The highest dunes are allegedly 600 feet tall. I'm not sure where they're measuring that from. I suppose the total altitude gain from the trailhead may be close to that, but you're not 600 feet above the area immediately around the dunes.

Normally, you want to visit sand dunes near sunrise or sunset, with the low sun giving you nice shadows and textures. Of course, in the winter time, the sun never gets very high, anyway. The hike is also easier in the winter (though harder than the distance would suggest, because you're walking up sand). In the summer, bring lots to drink, and a hat and sunblock. The sun bounces off the white sands, and would burn you pretty quickly.

The third photo was taken nearest the start of the hike, with a well-defined trail. The first was near the top of the tallest dune, looking towards the Providence Mountains. The second was on the way back, on the flatter area. Lots of various creature tracks along the way, at least where they weren't obliterated by footprints.