Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Irony and Pain in the Cactus Patch (reprint)

by Steve Reiss (Dalmdad Landscape Photography - www.dalmdad.com and https://www.facebook.com/Dalmdad.)

If you have not had a chance to read our April 15, 2013 blog post at desertusa.com about my being attacked by a cholla ball, we reproduce the story here for your reference....


I have been to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park quite a number of times since I discovered it, back in 2008.  OK…not “discovered” as in the Juan Bautista de Anza sense.
On Saturday, April 6, 2013, I went to ABDSP with the primary goal of spotting wildflowers.  Its still a little early to see Bighorns roaming around.
Reports are 2013 has not been a good year for wildflower sightings.  What flowers there are, are not visible directly from any of the park’s roads; you had to get out and walk a bit.  One place where flowers were reported to be, was Grapevine Canyon.  I had never been in the Grapevine Canyon.  The ABDSP Travel Guide (Lindsay 2006) says that Grapevine Canyon has the “largest, densest, and most varied displays of succulents.”

Ocotillo in the background; teddy-bear cholla in middle; silver cholla in foreground
Ocotillo in the background; teddy-bear cholla in middle; silver cholla in foreground

Grapevine Canyon Road (GCR) is not as much road a a dirt and rock trail.  It begins behind the Tamarisk Grove Campground off of Yaqui Pass Road and passes between the diverging (or converging, depending on whether you are traveling east or west) CA78 and the Pinyon Ridge. Grapevine Canyon Road partially coincides with the dry wash of San Felipe Creek.
So, I turned west off of YPR, traveled through the Tamarisk Grove Campground, and then between the think brown plastic markers that identified the beginning of the GCR.  Bumping, rocking, shaking, and twisting my way down the road, I saw campers (vehicles) parked along the road-side campgrounds.  However, no actual campers were seen.  
Though GCR is rugged and remote; remarkably, you are never out of sight or sound of Highway 78.  Indeed, there was some kind of law enforcement action going on over the 78.
In most spots, the trail is one narrow lane.  At one point, an SUV was coming eastward, towards me, and the road wasn’t wide enough for the both of us.  I started to back up to find a camping spot where I could back in.  Fortunately, the driver of the other SUV, pulled into a side space before I could and he allowed me to pass.  We gave each other that friendly wave that says had we been anywhere else, we would have ignored each other.
At some point the blooming cactus colors began and I decided to take some shots.  No, not do shots, but take some (i.e., pictures!).  Interestingly, doing shots would have reduced the pain I was about to be inflicted (afflicted?) with.
There was plenty of space between the plants, mainly: teddy bear cholla, ocotillos, prickly pear cactus, barrel cactus, and assorted others.  For about 10 minutes I was snapping away.  The sun was strong (I was wearing my hat), but there was a nice wind.  This area was far cooler than the area of the park’s Visitors Center, which is at about 1000 feet lower in elevation than the Grapevine Canyon.
I was looking through the camera; straight down, at a cholla flower, and I could see through the viewfinder that my camera strap was blowing from the wind into the frame.  So, I tried to flick the strap out of the way.
The strap hit a portion of the cholla and the cholla, as cholla are prone to do, it stuck to the webbing of the strap.  No biggy, I just tried flicking the strap so the cholla would land on the ground somewhere.
BUSTED!  As great plans often go to @#$!, so did this one (though maybe it was not such a great plan).  Next thing I knew I felt the pains on this unfortunate cholla landing zone…
As stupid as it seems after the fact, the first idea I had was to just try to grab the cholla ball with the other hand to remove it.  The instant pain…now in the right hand as well as the left arm, reminded me just how stupid the plan of grabbing the cholla ball actually was.
Standing there alone in the sandy wash and surrounded by hundreds of these cacti, I did feel a sense of dread.  I was not exactly sure what to do next and I was not going to take this ball of pain into the car.  So, even though less than two months ago I had posted in an article about chollas on my own blog including videos of people removing cholla needles from their skin (as comic relief), I don’t think I actually watched the videos so I did not know what they did, other than say use tweezers to remove individual spines.
Though I usually don’t carry a knife with me when I am out, I did today.  I opened it up and began trying “Scrape” the ball off.  This did hurt and you could see the skin being pulled upward as the knife tried to separate the spines from my arm.
2013-04-14 13.40.09-1
The cholla ball finally came free only to get stuck on my boot.  But, that was a pretty painless removal.
Two Days After Removal
Five Days After Removal

Six Days After Removal
And now for the wildflower pics…
DSC_3505Hedge-Hog Cactus
DSC_3523Dead and Budding Hedge-Hog Cactus or Nest and Cactus - Not Sure  DSC_3505Hedge-Hog Cactus
Silver Cholla

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Sunset In Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley

by Steve Reiss (Dalmdad Landscape Photography - www.dalmdad.com and https://www.facebook.com/Dalmdad.)

July 20, 2013:  I was hoping to get some photos of the recent "Mountain Fire" wildfire that was devastating the Santa Rosa Mountains and the awesome mountain getaway town of Idyllwild, located up in those mountains. The fire closed CA-243, the road to Idyllwild.

I thought that a good place to view the fire would be from Key's View in Joshua Tree National Park. Key's View, at over 5000 ft elevation, has an awesome view of Mt San Jacinto and the Santa Rosa Range, across the Coachella Valley.  I thought that from Key's View, I would have seen smoke spewing from the fire area like smoke from a volcano.

However, unlucky for me, a summer rain was in the forecast and the entire Valley was clouded over and I cannot tell the difference between black rain clouds and black fire smoke.  I had to make due.

View of Mt San Jacinto on a clear day from Key's View (taken Dec. 8, 2012)

View of Mt San Jacinto on a not-so-clear day from Key's View (taken Jul. 20, 2012)


So, Joshua Tree being a photographic loss for the day, I drove down to the Cottonwood Ranger Station and Spring, exited the park, and took a leisurely drive back to Palm Springs via the Box Canyon Road between Cottonwood and Mecca.

When I checked into my motel in Palm Springs, the earlier, completely overcast, sky had pretty much cleared up.

Late Afternoon View of Santa Rosa Mountains from Palm Springs (Point A on map below)
I then went and grabbed some dinner at El Marisol (highly recommended) in the Los Arboles Hotel; having a chile relleno/taco combination.   After that, I went to get some Cokes and ice at the 7-11 and went back to my motel room.

The local news had been showing some interesting views of the fire at night; the tips of the mountains glowing orange and red.  So around dark, I went back out in search of fire.

I did not see any signs of fire, but I did see some dramatic sunsets along the CA-111 between Palm Springs and Cabazon.


Views along West Racquet Club Road in Palm Springs (Pt B on map below).  
Racquet Club Road pretty much heads west straight to the mountain

Looking East towards Indio and the eastern Valley

These next two shots are taken along the CA-111 (at Point C on the map below)

Taken at point C on the map below


Sunday, July 7, 2013

Xin Los Angleles Arriving in San Pedro

by Steve Reiss (Dalmdad Landscape Photography - www.dalmdad.com and https://www.facebook.com/Dalmdad.)

July 6, 2013 - We went to San Pedro to visit the USS Iowa (BB-61).  The Iowa, itself, is a ship so huge that when passing through the Panama Canal, there is only six inches of clearance between the ship and each side of the canal locks.  

However, the Iowa is a dinghy compared to the Xin Los Angeles.


While the others were on line buying the tickets, I was roaming around the nearby docks.  Two tugboats pulled away from the docks and headed out to sea.  i did not really think much about where they were going or why.

Tugs leaving their berths in San Pedro for the sea...
About an hour later, we were on the deck of the Iowa when a large container ship began approaching the San Pedro Inlet and the Terminal Island cargo docks. 

Now here comes a big ship...
The Ever Devote berthed on Terminal Island
Terminal Island berth waiting for work...
The incoming ship got larger and larger..

Small tour boat being dwarfed by Xin Los Angeles

Until it finally passed us...

Xin Los Angeles heading towards Vincent Thomas Bridge
Trailing tug...


The Xin Los Angeles was the largest container ship in the world at the time of her completion in 2006, but since been overtaken in size by the Maersk Line's Emma Maersk, Gudrun Mærsk and Axel Mærsk. Xin Los Angeles has a capacity of 9,600 TEUs, and is one of a class of six. 

The Xin Los Angeles weighs about 2.5 times more than the Iowa.