Sunday, January 26, 2014

Cuyamaca Rancho State Park - Village Morteros and a Woodpecker

I believe the last post I made from the Cuyamaca mountains related to our hike up the Memorial Peak Trail to see the remains of the hundred year old plane crash near the top of Japacha Peak.
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In the early 1800's (and long before) there were many Indian villages in the Cuyamaca and Laguna mountains in Southern California. These villages were used by the Kumeyaay Indians as their spring and summer homes. They spent their winters in the local deserts (in and around what is now Anza-Borrego SP). 

There are mortars (used for grinding acorns, grains, etc.) that are easy to find and see in the park campgrounds and picnic areas. The rangers and volunteers will freely tell you about these. There are many more of these mortars that are NOT readily accessible at all and park officials (by law) cannot talk about them. The concentration of ancient artifacts we were headed to, was once part of the ancient village of Pisclim.


 A non-nondescript trail heading off into nowhere.

Nothing but dead-fall and vegetation. 


A nice scene that may or may not even be in the area. 

 Nothing...




 There is no trail here, but we do have an idea where what we are looking for is.

See? Even he's surprised to see us!


I get excited if I come across one of two morteros. Imagine how I feel when I run across a mother load like this...


This spot really gets a person to thinking about how many people were fed because of these mortars and for how many hundreds or thousands of years they were used. 


Obligatory black and white. 









We stopped counting at 75! I'm sure there were more in the vegetation. 


Yes, I know that you are surprised to see birds in my blog posts. There aren't very many pine trees this big still in the area (due to many fires). So, this tree was in our campground a few miles away. This guy is an acorn woodpecker. They drill holes in the bark, and then force an acorn into the hole. Eventually larval worms develop in the acorn and the woodpecker pecks it open and eats the larva. The woodpeckers act like a big family and can store thousands of acorns in a single tree. It's still like the 1960's to them and they have a communal life. They need a lot of birds involved, because you know who also wants those woodpeckers, right? Yep, squirrels! 

You can see many more wild birds by following this link to my friend Stewart's Wild Bird Wednesday extravaganza!


The next few are only here because I liked them. 







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Monday, January 20, 2014

Old Dutch Cleanser Mine - El Paso Mountains

I have a ton of backed up things that I want and need to post. I was going to start on that today, but this weekend I had such a great time cavorting around the El Paso Mountains (in the Mojave Desert), that I decided I need to work in the new stuff with the old.

The trip was organized by Death Valley Jim. Yep, first name Death, middle name Valley and last name Jim. Geez, and people used to tell me that I gave my son an odd name! No, that isn't his real name. You are so gullible! This trip didn't cost us anything, it was more like a "I'm going to go four-wheeling in the mountains this weekend and look at some cool stuff, come along if you want to." 

The name was earned, not given. Jim knows as much, or more about our SoCal deserts than anyone I know. Yes, that includes Death Valley. Get it? Not only is he an expert, he's an author and he's willing to be your guide in these places. If you are interested in that, or just interested in the subject matter. Please take a look at his webpage. I like him (for one reason) because we are interested in a lot of the same things. 
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Let me start off by saying, I don't know jack about cleanser (I don't even like soap).  However, in a effort to appear somewhat intelligent and well informed, I did a little research. At first, I was just going act like I already knew the stuff I'm about to say, but my wife said nobody would believe it. 




You might be more familiar with Comet, or Bon Ami, but Old Dutch Cleanser has also been around for along time. All of these products have one thing in common. They are made of "pumicite" (it is also put into cement as an additive)Old Dutch Cleanser started this pumicite mine in 1923. The operation here closed in 1947 because people discovered pumicite at ground level in other locations. So even though there is miles of this stuff still here, when compared to surface deposits elsewhere, it is too expensive to mine. By now you are probably like me and don't ever want to hear the word "pumicite" again. I agree, the subject of cleanser pretty much sucks, but the MINE is awesome! Dusty, a little scary (to me) and awesome...


I promise you, this was probably the best surface we drove on the whole day (and we went to 6 places). 


I believe there were fifteen vehicles. Some were pretty hard core off road vehicles and some stock, but all had to be FWD. I have a jeep and it worked just fine on this trip, but it is  stock and I now openly admit that I have jeep envy...


 That looks a mine entrance.


Yep, it's a mine. I'm not going in there first. Jim drew the short straw and had to go in first as the "canary." If you don't get that reference, feel free to ask!


Very well lit around the openings, but as you can see, it gets pitch black in hurry. Is that a freaking ghost?

The mountain appeared to be honeycombed with shafts and has several entrances. I'll shut up for a bit while you look at the photos. Then I'll tell you about the mine. No wait! Do any of you remember my earlier post (like FOUR years ago) about my phobias?  Deep water, clowns and hallways. This place falls under the hallway heading. Jim asked me if I wanted to go down one of the long shafts with him. I said no and made up some excuse, but it was really because of my phobia. What if I did that and there was clown a down there?  If you don't remember that post. Here's a link to it. So get to steppin' so you can check it out when you are done with this. Or go now and come back. (is that too pushy?)








 Pretty cool, right? It really was an amazing place and I'm glad I got to see it.


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Monday, January 13, 2014

Not Who I was Expecting to see in Palm Springs

Whenever we are in the area, we always try to go to the desert City of Palm Springs. It is one of our favorite towns and we especially like to go on Thursday nights. Every Thursday night they shut down a large chunk of the main drag (Palm Canyon Drive) and the traffic is replaced by more than 200 booths. Food, produce, art, hand crafted goods, live music and just about anything else you can think of.  There are a ton of restaurants on that stretch of road as well. They call it the Palm Springs VillageFest. Call it what every you like, it's the best regularly held street fair I've ever been to. Regular to the tune of 20 years. Every Thursday (except Thanksgiving) 110 Degrees or 40 degrees. It's going to be there.

A few weeks ago we went there and were surprised to see this huge statue as we walked up. We were behind it, but there was no doubt about who it was. Like I've said many times before... Only in the desert!





 Here is the history behind the Marilyn Monroe statue.
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I swear that I was going to post something relating to Joshua Tree National Park. Something off the beaten path. Well, until I ran into these photos on my camera, I was...  You know how I am about desert oddities!
My next post will have ancient petroglyphs and pictographs in it. Some that are easily accessible, but seen by a minuscule percentage of people visiting the park. 



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Monday, January 6, 2014

Misc. Items of Interest (at least to me)

I hope everyone who reads this (and even those who don't) had a great holiday season! Although we weren't home for much of it, ours was great!  I haven't posted for a couple of weeks and apologize for starting out with a miscellaneous grouping of photos. We've been out of town a lot lately and on many days didn't have a hint of a cell phone signal. My phone is my hotspot, so no signal means no blogging.

Although these photos are very current, I'm dreadfully behind on regular blog posts. We've been on the road and exploring a TON lately and I promise that I'll get busy posting right away. I've got a lot of interesting things to post. As you know I've been spending a lot of time in the Joshua Tree National Park area. Yes, I've been to all the standard tourist spots, but we've spent most of our time searching for the things that tourists NEVER see. Things that aren't in the books, on the maps, or that most of the rangers aren't even aware of. The few people who do know about them, refuse to tell anyone their locations. Most of these places involve petroglyphs, pictographs and other historical places. For now though, here are some items that are not in that group, but caught my eye anyway.

As you know, I love old places, abandoned places and offbeat places. This "sign" belongs to what appears to be an interesting (but closed) place in the little town of Morongo Valley. I'm going to make it a point to get in there (even if I have to hop the fence) to see exactly what it was. Love that sign! What's left of it anyway.

 A Joshua Tree forest

 A wind farm. There are hundreds of these things in the Palm Springs area (where this was taken). I really think a ramrod straight line of anything looks odd in a natural setting.

 A little bit of odd in the town of Yucca Valley

 A nice sky over Yucca Valley

 Sunset in Hidden Valley, Joshua Tree National Park


 This is the first even slightly HDR photo that I've posted. To me, the jury is still out on HDR.


On this particular day, I think I was one of the very last people in the park. I hung around just to take the last several photos. If it had started to rain, it was more than cold enough to snow...

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I promise that my next post will actually have a theme! Heck, I might even include photos of some thousand year old rock art. 


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