Friday, May 31, 2013

Indian/Cougar/Sheep Canyons - ABDSP

For the Memorial Day weekend Gary and I went exploring some of the canyons in Collins Valley, specifically Indian, Cougar and Sheep Canyons. Because we were uncertain of reliable water sources in the area we decided to car camp and do day hikes instead of backpacking.

On the drive out I was able to locate a couple of the Sky Art sculptures I somehow missed when visiting the Farmers sculptures in the past...they are right in the middle of the field between the Farmers and other sculptures to the west

The Scorpion
Sky Art

The Grasshopper
Sky Art

Driving past the orchards and entering Coyote Canyon we passed thru the water crossings and got to the bypass road. I thought this was the beginning of the rough road
Beginning of the bypass road

But not is the real bypass..AKA Boulder Alley. My stock 4WD Dodge Diesel Crew Cab Truck made it up and down without too much difficulty, just used 4WD Low and let it crawl thru it all. I will say that at about 6pm in May the sun was just right to blind us the whole way up, it was very hard to see where wheel placement should be.
The bypass road AKA Boulder Alley. My stock Dodge Diesel 4WD Crew Cab Full size bed truck made it up and down with little trouble

We were pretty low impact car campers this trip, we slept in our trucks and did not make camp fires so all we needed was a place to park our vehicles for the weekend. In the morning we set out to do a loop hike up the South Fork of Sheep Canyon and then cross over the saddle to Sheep Canyon proper and wind our way back down to the trucks near the campground. While this was probably less than 7 miles total it took us more than 10 hours to complete. The canyons are rugged and vegetation choked since fires have burned thru them and everything is growing back.

This is a nice waterfall in the South Fork of Sheep Canyon. It was semi dry like most of the falls we saw but that is expected this time of year and during the spring months you would probably see lots of flowing water.
Waterfall in the South Fork of Sheep Canyon

When you are down at the Sheep Canyon campground you can see these palms way up the South Fork
Palms in the South Fork of Sheep Canyon

Sheep Canyon lived up to it's name, we saw several older Rams getting water and relaxing in the sun. I am still amazed at how well camouflaged they are. These guys were across the canyon and my new (to me) 500mm lens turned out to be just perfect
Bighorn Ram

Bighorn Rams

Bighorn Rams

Bighorn Ram

Bighorn Ram

Bighorn Ram

I remembered movie mode on the camera, here is of one of the BHS doing a back scratch and munching some food

Up at the saddle looking back down the South Fork of Sheep Canyon. You can see Dawns, Rabbit and Villager Peaks from here as well as Lower Willows
Looking down the south fork of Sheep Canyon. Dawns, Rabbit and Villager Peak are visible in the distance as well as Lower Willows

Gary up at the saddle
Gary at the saddle between Sheep and South Sheep Canyons

Baja Collared Lizard
Baja Collared Lizard

Heading down the saddle between the South Fork and main Sheep Canyons
Gary heading down the saddle towards Sheep Canyon

The main Sheep Canyon is just as rough and vegetation choked as the South Fork
Sheep Canyon and a tributary heading north'ish

Down in the bottom of Sheep Canyon following the wash
Sheep Canyon

The Lindsay book has a photo of this waterfall with lots of water. It was semi dry for us but I can imagine it being very nice during wet months
Large Waterfall in Sheep Canyon

Still snake season...hi baby...
Hi Baby...

Back at the trucks we get a nice view of the Santa Rosa Mountains at sunset. From Sheep Canyon Campground you can see Dawns and Rabbit Peak, maybe not much of a real view but it holds a special place in my thoughts
From Sheep Canyon Campground you can see Dawns and Rabbit Peak, maybe not much of a real view but it holds a special place in my thoughts.

The next day we headed up Indian Canyon with a first stop at Cougar Canyon. Cougar is just as rough and full of overgrowth as Sheep Canyon. There was little water down in the lower areas but up near the large fall and psychedelic eye we found pools of water.

There are lots of the beetles crawling the boulders
Desert Beetle

Here is Gary in the upper reaches of the canyon in the dense vegetation
Vegetation choked Cougar Canyon

The "psychedelic eye"
Psychedelic eye in Cougar Canyon

Gary remembers it being much more colorful years ago so I did a DStretch on it but it still is not the same
DStretch version of the Psychedelic eye in Cougar Canyon

The large waterfall Schad describes in his book is now covered with so much vegetation you can hardly see the falls. We struggled with getting back in there to even see it. Floods have broken down trees over the years and have grown a canopy covering the area. This was the best shot I could get of the waterfall
Large Water Fall in the upper reaches of Cougar Canyon

After a long siesta under the cottonwoods and sycamores we left Cougar Cyn and headed up towards Deering Canyon. This is the old tin mine tunnel shaft on the topo maps. It is now just a packrat collection hole
Old Tin Mine Tunnel

Some Mule Deer near Deering Canyon, they were getting some water before we disturbed them
Mule deer in Deerng Canyon

The was a group of butterflies playing in the flowers off in the distance and my 500mm lens was good enough to get these photos
Monarch Butterflies
Monarch Butterflies

Cougar tracks were present all the way up to Bennis Bowl and The Valley of the Thousand Springs. This is just one in the sandy wash we followed

Valley of the Thousand Springs
Valley of the Thousand Springs

Long distance photo of a Granite Spiny Lizard with the 500mm lens
Granite Spiny Lizard

Heading south out of Indian Canyon on the thin bench that provides an easy trail thru the canyon
Heading down Indian Canyon near Bennis Bowl

Here is a panorama view of the same bench looking south'ish into Indian Canyon on the left and Valley of the Thousand Springs/Bennis Bowl canyon on the right
Panorama of Indian Canyon on the left and Valley of the Thousand Springs on the right

After another long siesta under some shady palms we headed back to the trucks with another very long day behind us. The next morning we drove out and explored Lower Willows and the palms. Nothing to spectacular, but interesting. After negotiating the bypass road downhill we stopped and I looked over and spotted what looked like graffiti on a boulder

DStretched version
DStretch version of Graffiti

One last stop on the trip was at Culp Valley. We hiked over some ridge lines to get a good look at Hellhole Canyon. There is supposed to be a great waterfall up in there....another trip
Hellhole Canyon

I was not able to get any good star photos but managed a semi sober moon photo at early am hours....
Almost a full moon at Sheep Canyon

Also found a petroglyph panel along the way

Total Mylar Balloons this Trip - 9 (not all shown)
Total Mylar Balloons this trip 9 (not all shown)

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Minolta 500mm Reflex Lens

I have been wanting a quality big zoom lens for several years but they are very expensive and out of my price range. They still are. I recently found a Minolta 500mm f8 Reflex Lens for sale on Craigslist that was in very good condition and at a reasonable price so I bought it. I was not really sure it would produce photographs that I would be happy with knowing all of the pro/cons of a reflex lens so I figured I could always resell it if I was not happy since the price I paid was well below what they normally sell for.

There is one thing that makes this lens unique compared to other mirror reflex lenses, Minolta somehow managed to get their lens to have AF. That makes this lens the only mirror reflex lens to have a working auto focus system, all other mirror lenses are manual focus only. Combine the AF with Sony's built in image stabilization and you have a nice zoom lens and high ISO's are handled pretty well in todays modern digital SLR cameras.

The Minolta 500mm f8 Mirror Reflex Lens

I have not taken the camera out into the field yet but have a few shots from the bay near my work. So far I am impressed with the lens, I think it is a keeper. All of these photos were taken handheld and have a slight bit of PP done, just a default sharpen/vibrance filter was applied. More photos and the EXIF info are in this gallery.

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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Rockhouse Canyon / Toro Peak BackPack Trip - ABDSP

Gary invited Randy and I out to explore some more of Rockhouse Canyon over a 4-1/2 day trip. No real agenda, just explore and enjoy the desert...plans were extremely flexible. We hiked out at night after work in the dark and camped out the first night on some low benches at the mouth of Rockhouse Canyon. The next day we explored some side canyons and ridges of the Santa Rosa Ridgeline.

There are some great views of Rockhouse Canyon from above, here is a view of Buck Ridge and the valley from a ridge near the "necklace" vein.

View of Rockhouse Canyon fron an unamed ridge. Buck Ridge is in the background

On the way up the ridge Gary saw this large lizard, I am pretty sure it is a Baja California Collard Lizard
Unidentified Lizard

We made our way over to Box Spring and had some lunch under the shade of the trees near the spring. The spring was not currently a good source of water since previous repair work had deteriorated and only thin surface water was available. Using some materials left from prior repairs I made an effort to get the spring back to usable order. Gary and Randy helped out by supplying the rocks. If anybody goes out there after reading this please let me know how it is doing. Hopefully the animals will not kick it all over.

Here is the spring before I made repairs
Box Spring

Here is the spring after repairs
Box Spring Reapir Work. We fixed it up with parts from a previous repair.

There was quite a bit of insect wildlife down around the water, I especially liked all the Damselflies. Here is a Male Bluet Damselfly
Male Bluet Damselfly

This one was sharing a branch with some type of beetle
Male Bluet Damselfly and some type of beetle share a branch

Here a male and female are mating
A male and female Bluet Damselfly mating

We spent the second night at the Old Santa Rosa Village ruins. The lowest rock house at the village had a gate keeper there waiting for us

We stayed in the upper rock houses and enjoyed some great views of the valley and a colorful sunset
Sunset at the Old Santa Rosa Village ruins

As might as I tried I could not get my new Canon Powershot S100 to take good long exposure pictures, even with the CHDK scripts. This is a night shot of Rockhouse Canyon with Clark Dry Lake and probably Ocotillo Wells in the far distance

Most of the wildflower blooms in the lower elevations were done but as we continued to climb higher towards the Cottonwoods we started seeing lots of new blooms. At around the 4,000' level many of the wildflowers were still blooming like this Purple Prickly Pear Cactus
Purple Prickly Pear Cactus

Something I noticed on many of the agave stalks and am still researching is what looked like hundreds of pupae type skins that had been shed in small holes in the stalks. Anybody know more about this?
Some kind of pupae skin in the agave stalks

Exploring up another unnamed drainage near the base of Toro Peak we found some old historic debris and had a great view of Buck Ridge
Historic debris found in an unamed canyon below the Santa Rosa Rdgeline
View of Buck Ridge from about the 5200 mark in an unamed canyon just below the Santa Rosa Ridgeline

After a long day we finally reached the Cottonwoods and upper rock house ruins where we spent the third night. It was getting windy and cloudy and rain was in the forecast. We didn't get any rain that night but the morning clouds made for a brilliant sunrise
Sunrise at the Cottonwoods in Rockhouse Canyon

On the third day we climbed up to Toro Peak from the Cottonwoods. It was a long climb and the weather was getting cold and windy. From the Cottonwoods we climbed straight up the ridgeline to the Alta Seca Bench area. This is quite a change from the desert terrain below, it is much more of a forest at the 8,000' elevations
Alta Seca Bench Area

Lots of these Snow Plants were popping up out of the ground
Sarcodes sanguinea AKA Snow Plant

After almost 4 hours of climbing we got to the top of Toro Peak. It was very cloudy, super windy and we were getting some light snow falling on us. We checked out the towers and surrounding views of Rockhouse Canyon, Pinyon Flat and the Cochella Valley. Not the clearest day but great views anyway.
Toro Peak Benchmark

Looking down into Rockhouse Canyon from Toro Peak
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On the way back down to the Cottonwoods we saw a nice Gopher snake, maybe 4' or so
San Diego Gopher Snake

Knowing it was going to start raining we decided to hike down to the lower elevations of Rockhouse Canyon so after getting back down from Toro Peak we put our packs on and hiked down towards the lower ruins and camped out for our fourth night. We got some light drizzle overnight and the next morning but nothing too bad. We were treated to a nice double rainbow in the wash we camped out in
Rainbows in Rockhouse Canyon

Here is a morning shot of Dawns Peak covered by a cloud bank and peak 6300 to the left
Dawns Peak covered in a cloud bank. Peak 6300 to the left is still visible

On the last day out we decided to go explore the upper ridge areas above the Corps BM. There are some spectacular open valleys up there. You could easily spend days just exploring there. Here is just one view of those upper ridges looking towards Clark Dry Lake
Beautiful view of Clark Dry Lake and the upper benches of Rockhouse Canyon

Gary knew where some old pot sherds were
Large pot sherds

Total Mylar Balloons this trip - 6
6 Mylar Ballons this trip