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Another Christmas In Joshua Tree

For the 16th consecutive year, I spent Christmas in Joshua Tree National Park.

JT257 – an overly expensive Subaru Forester in Joshua Tree.

The first consideration was the weather. A large set of storms were rolling into Southern California, with plenty of weather hitting the National Park. I drove up on Christmas Eve after the largest storm band had passed through. It was still plenty wet, but the newly-acquired Subaru had no issue at all.

The snow level was supposed to be around 5,000 feet, but I can report I saw none. Keys View had no snow, and I could not see any on nearby Quail Mountain, the highest point in Joshua Tree National Park.

I started, as I usually do, in the Southern/Low Desert section of the park.  I made several photos of Pinto Mountain, a sentinel to the North of Pinto Basin that always gets beautiful sidelight during cloudy or stormy weather.

Heading North to the high desert area, I found there had been a lot of precipitation, particularly in the Lost Horse and Queen valleys.  Several sections of roadway were lakes where the water had not drained.

With some naivete, I thought the park would be quieter this year with the Omicron variant.  I would be wrong.  The first clue was passing the Cholla Garden, where the parking lot was so packed that NPS had 2 employees in yellow vests directing cars.  Ouch.  I also came across a completely full parking lot at Twin Tanks, which I don’t think I had ever seen.

I followed the rain shadow line, which seemed to perfectly bisect Lost Horse Valley right along Keys View Road.  I wanted to see clouds make it over to Ryan Mountain and the Jumbo Rocks area, but I could see the clouds evaporate right overhead.  I did what I could.  Finally, because I was so close, I went to Keys Views.  There must have been 500 people there.  I couldn’t believe it.  Even outdoors, I felt compelled to double-mask just to make a few images.

JT305 is a photograph by T.M. Schultze taken 2021 at Joshua Tree National Park, California

After that, I headed back to Jumbo Rocks.  Even without clouds, the rocks are always beautiful when light is at its longest.  I was pleased to see some clouds roll in to the South, and I composed a few images there.  Then, the sun hit the line of clouds to the West and everything went dark in an instant.

South of Cottonwood Springs and the NPS boundary is BLM land, and as usual I simply found a dirt spot, pulled over, and that was my camp for the night.  I made a couple images of the Jupiter/Saturn/Venus line in early evening.  I had been meaning to capture them for a while.

In the morning, I headed back in to the park.  I was hoping for a dramatic sunrise, but it was really overcast to the East.  The sun didn’t appear from behind the horizon until about an hour after sunrise.  So the sunrise wasn’t quite what I had hoped for, but it is hard to quibble with a Christmas morning in Joshua Tree National Park.

As I headed home, I grabbed a few images of Old Highway 60 South of Interstate 10.  One section required me to get some dirt under my Forester’s wheels, which I had wanted to do.  I even put it into “L” for fun, although I don’t think I needed to.  After that, I headed home and got the sleep I was missing from Christmas Eve.

What follows are images I made from the trip with some explanatory notes in the captions.

JT238 – Another monochrome impression of Pinto Mountain as storm clouds pass.  It is fun to watch the light and shadow dance off this mountain and the clouds pass.
JT246 – A version of Pinto Mountain with more light on the peak above the Pinto Basin.
JT250 – Here is an updated report on what NPS is doing to protect the native Joshua Trees.  NOTHING.  The “Kill Zone” along Park Blvd gets more distinct every time I drive through.  You have 10 more fingers than the number of signs in Joshua Tree National Park telling the Instagram crowd not to climb, stand on, mess with, touch, do yoga poses on, any Joshua Trees.  You can easily see the very short and fragile roots of the Joshua Tree plant, similar to the root system of a Giant Sequoia, which also dies by toppling.  While toppling is a natural way for Joshua Trees to die, and a recent storm may have finished this one off, it is quite obvious that human activity is causing most of these along the road to perish early.
JT258 – A Joshua Tree apparently praying to the storm cloud Gods.  We need all the drought relief help we can get, so pray on, Brother.
JT275 – Shadows, Sun-Rays, and a beautiful classic view of the Coachella Valley from Keys View.
JT281 – High Desert view of the Lost Horse Valley.  You can easily spot Saddle Rock in the distance.  This was right at the rain shadow line where the clouds were dissipating.
JT287 – Some clouds made it to the Jumbo Rocks area.
JT292 – I had about 20 people out of 2 total cars (!) follow me when they saw I made an image at this spot.  These are two personal favorite rocks in the Southern part of the Jumbo Rocks area.
Jupiter, Saturn, Venus
Jupiter, Saturn, Venus – Been meaning to get this into an image.  Joe, I can’t get the telescope set up correctly!
JT310 – Not much light for Christmas morning, but still a very enjoyable dawn outdoors.
JT312 – Heading out of the park, I couldn’t help getting some more cloud imagery South of Cottonwood Springs.
US60-14 – One section of Old Highway 60 as it exits Box Canyon near Chiriaco Summit.  I will have to ask expert Michael Ballard, but I think the road had a couple different sections in this area from what I could see.
First Light On The San Jacintos
First Light On The San Jacintos from near Chiriacho Summit.
Mt San Jacinto After A Storm
Mt San Jacinto After A Storm – Along Varner Road (Old Highway 60/99) near Thousand Palms.

As always, thank you for reading, and I hope you enjoy the images.

Further Viewing

Exploring Joshua Tree Portfolio Gallery

Desertscapes Portfolio Gallery

T.M. Schultze Fine Art America Print-On-Demand Store

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