Sailing 2016 Part 3 – Desolation Sound & Sunshine Coast

20160604-_MG_1050It rained most of the night at Refuge Cove but by morning only the odd shower still lingered.  While a bit damp, it did make for a pretty start to the day.

Rainy morning in Refuge Cove

Rainy morning in Refuge Cove

Rainy morning in Refuge Cove

Rainy morning in Refuge Cove

Day 9 itself didn’t quite go as planned. Our intended destination was Walsh Cove on the opposite end of West Redondo Island from Refuge Cove. However, once we got there, three failed attempts at getting our anchor to catch resulted in our decision to come up with a plan B. I considered Roscoe Bay and Laura Cove but ended up deciding on Prideaux Haven. When we got into Prideaux Haven the wind was whistling through and would have made for a very bumpy night. So in the end we ended up “next door” in Melanie Cove where we had anchored two nights before. However it is such a pretty little cove that a second stay was certainly not a hardship.

The breeze died in early evening and the boat was pretty still overnight.   We weighed anchor around 9 am and set off for Grace Harbour in Malaspina Inlet. Once we got away from a couple of the islands near Prideaux Haven we picked up enough wind to sail. With the sails up we managed a broad reach until we got to the mouth of Malaspina Inlet where we dropped sail and started motoring up the channel.  The end of Grace Harbour opens up into a beautiful anchorage. With the anchor set we were ready to enjoy our last afternoon in Desolation Sound.

 After lunch we dinghied ashore and hiked about a mile along a trail to a little lake. With lily pads and an abundance of dragon flies it wast quite pretty.

View towards Vancouver Island

View towards Vancouver Island

The next morning we left Grace Harbour, headed up Malaspina Inlet and out of Desolation Sound to Lund, starting our return to Nanaimo. Located on the Sunshine Coast, north of Powell River, Lund is a great destination. Tied up to the Government wharf we had easy access to a restaurant, bakery, and the Lund Hotel (with Pub).   We took advantage of the warm, sunny afternoon to enjoy a beer on the deck at the Lund Hotel and a delicious dinner at The Boardwalk Restaurant.  The harbour also provided a great sunset view.

Pender Harbour was our destination for the next day. Upon tying up to the dock at what I thought was Garden Bay Marina we were politely told we couldn’t stay as it was for members of the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club!  A few minutes later we were safely tied up “next door” at the “correct” Garden Bay Marina. A blues band was playing an afternoon session at the pub at the head of the dock. After showers we listened to the music from our cockpit as we enjoyed happy hour. When the band finished playing around 5:30 the pub emptied out fairly quickly. We headed up and enjoyed a nice dinner on the deck overlooking Garden Bay.

 The final full day of our charter was the best sailing day of the trip (actually one of the only full sailing days of the trip). While the wind started quite light it soon picked up to about 10 knots and we “flew” across Georgia Strait on a starboard tack right into Nanaimo Harbour.

Newcastle Island

Newcastle Island

 We tied up at a mooring buoy at Newcastle Island and enjoyed a sunny and warm afternoon. For dinner we took the dinghy to the Dinghy Dock Pub. We enjoyed good food with a great view of Nanaimo.

Sunset at Newcastle Island

Sunset at Newcastle Island

It was up early the next morning to tidy up the boat and finish packing.  Slipping the mooring buoy, we set off to fuel up and return to the charter base.  Our boat, Baraka Too, was chartered from Nanaimo Yacht Charters.   This was the second time I had chartered from them and I was once again very pleased with both the boat and the service. 

It seemed that all too soon our trip was over, but what a great trip it had been.

Nanaimo skyline as seen from Newcastle Island

Nanaimo skyline as seen from Newcastle Island

 

 

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Sailing 2016 – Part 2, Desolation Sound

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Susan & Linda braving the elements

Susan & Linda braving the elements

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Marina in Sturt Bay

Day 5 started with rain. While refuelling the boat I regretted that we hadn’t done this the afternoon before when it wasn’t raining.  Soon we were on our way in wind and rain out of Jervis Inlet and up Malaspina Strait to Sturt Bay towards the north end of Texada Island. To our delight it was a beautiful little bay.  The local yacht club has a dock reserved for transient moorage which is where we tied up. About a 20-minute walk from the Marina is a well stocked grocery store which is a great spot to re-provision. While there we learned that one of the local landmarks, the hotel, had burned down the week before. With it went a pub and restaurant which had a great reputation. 20160528-_MG_9998

Just before sunset the sky cleared a bit in the west, even though it was still raining. The result was some incredible light on the boats in the marina along with a double rainbow.

Copeland Islands

Copeland Islands

The rain continued much of the night but we woke to beautiful blue skies. Following a hearty pancake breakfast, we cast off to continue our trip north towards Desolation Sound. We had a fun morning of sailing before the wind dropped and we motored the rest of the way to Midway Cove in Copeland Islands Provincial Park. Here I had my first experience anchoring close to shore then rowing to shore with a line from the stern of the boat to tie to a tree. This prevents the boat from swinging in a big arc as the wind changes direction.

Anchored with stern line to shore

Anchored with stern line to shore

Midway Cove was a very picturesque anchorage which we shared with only two other boats. Both left early in the morning leaving us totally alone for a couple of hours before we too weighed anchor and departed.

Desolation Sound

Desolation Sound

Susan Islets

Susan Islets

Our route on Day 6 took us to the end of Malaspina Peninsula and into the area known as Desolation Sound. After rounding the peninsula’s tip we proceeded down Malaspina Inlet, then up Lancelot Inlet to Susan Islets. Given that this sailing trip was a birthday gift to my wife for her last birthday, it only seemed appropriate that we would would visit this anchorage, given its name. Save for a few seals and some mergansers, we had the cove to ourselves.

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Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle having breakfast

 

 

 

 

 

A warm, slightly overcast morning greeted us the next morning. On the rocks nearby, a Bald Eagle was eating his morning catch. With only a short way to go we took our time over breakfast. Mid-morning we hauled up our anchor and we’re off.

Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture

Along our route we enjoyed the sight of Bald Eagles, a flock of Turkey Vultures, and seals sunning on rocks.

20160531-_MG_0642Shortly after noon we entered Prideaux Haven and continued on to Melanie Cove where we dropped our anchor. We spent another relaxing afternoon with views of mountains, forests, and water.

 

In spite of a few showers overnight, Day 8 dawned with partially blue skies. With only a short distance to go we were in no big rush to leave. A little after 10 we had hoisted our anchor and set off for Refuge Cove, about 10 miles away.

Refuge Cove Store

Refuge Cove Store

Refuge Cove is a bit of a funky little place. The area around the harbour is owned by a Co-op who lease space back to some private businesses. Basically you can venture no further than the top of the dock where the General Store is located. The rest of the area is private. At this time of year only the fuel dock and the General Store are open. The little restaurant and an art gallery were closed. The store was fairly well stocked for the few provisions we needed. As well, for 5 bucks you could have a shower with no time limit – a welcomed experience after several days of anchoring out.

As I had some work to do which required wifi access I purchased 24 hours worth online (the marina doesn’t have its own wifi). It’s a good thing I got my work done in the afternoon as long about 7 pm, when it seemed the generator for the community was shut down, the wifi went down. So much for 24 hour access. I suspect that it was a good thing that I didn’t pay for shore power with our moorage as that probably would have gone down as well. It would appear that while Refuge Cove may be an OK place to get fuel or to re-provision, if you want to stay overnight and stretch your legs with a walk, or have reliable power and wifi, then this is probably not the place to go.

The rain started again in the afternoon and continued into the night. There is nothing quite like falling asleep all snug and warm in a sailboat with the sound of rain pattering on the deck over your head. Sometime in the night the rain ended and we awoke to a mixture of cloud and blue skies.

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Sailing 2016 – Part 1, Jervis Inlet

20160525-_MG_9683-2In late May we drove out to Nanaimo, BC to start a 2-week sailing trip.

At 4 pm the evening before our charter started, we arrived at the charter company from whom we had rented a sailboat for 2 weeks. After loading our gear, I attended a chart briefing where I obtained information about the area we had selected to cruise along with the appropriate charts. Then it was down to the boat for a quick rundown of where everything was stowed and how the equipment operated.

Our friends flew in that evening and we were at the airport to pick them up. After a welcome drink at the pub at the marina it was back to the boat for a good night’s sleep.

Our plan for the two weeks was to visit Princess Louisa Inlet at the head of Jervis Inlet and then to spend some time in Desolation Sound. This would all be new territory to me.

20160524-_MG_9637-EditAt about 10 am we left the dock to cross Georgia Straight. As we passed Lasquetti Island we were treated to a number of porpoises passing a little distance to starboard. Our  destination for the first night was Secret Cove on the Sunshine Coast north of Sechelt.  I have been into Secret Cove many times over the years. It is a convenient destination after crossing the Straight.

Secret Cove Marina

Secret Cove Marina

Secret Cove Marina

Secret Cove Marina

Secret Cove Marina

Secret Cove Marina

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

20160525-_MG_9679The second day took us past Pender Harbour, up Agamemnon Channel, to Egmont. Once tied up at the Government dock we went on a stroll to explore the little town. Of course, one disappointment was that the bakery was closed by the time we got there!

20160525-_MG_9683I had chosen to overnight in Egmont as it is a convenient jumping off point for the long trip up Jevis Inlet. It is about 35 km up the fiord-like inlet to Princess Louisa Inlet with no place to anchor on the way up. By sailboat this means a 6 hour trip which has to be timed so as to reach Malibu Rapids at the mouth of Princess Louisa Inlet, at slack water.  Currents in the rapids can reach 9 knots which make them very dangerous.  Passage through them can be made quite safely, though, at slack water which is the time when an inflowing (flood) tide turns to an out flowing (ebb) tide, or visa versa.  At this point in time water stops flowing which means there is no current.

Jervis Inlet

Jervis Inlet

On this afternoon slack water was at 3:17.  I had allowed 7 hours so we arrived a bit early and sailed around for a bit to kill time. About 5 minutes before slack I entered the s-shaped channel through the rapids.  As we went through the rapids we were treated to a view of Malibu Lodge, owned by Young Life, a Christian organization that uses the lodge as a summer camp for youth.  Roughly 5 minutes later we were safely through and on our way to Chatterbox Falls at the far end of Princess Louisa Inlet.

Pretty much from when I started sailing and reading about the BC coast about 30 years ago I have wanted to see Chatterbox Falls. I finally made it and was not disappointed. At one end of the beautiful Princess Louisa Inlet, several whisp-like waterfalls cascading a thousand feet or more down mountainsides converge into a larger falls at the bottom. It is quite magical to tie your boat up at the dock close to the falls and hear the roar as you enjoy the scenery.

The next morning we timed our departure to again get to Malibu Rapids at slack water. Once through we made the return trip back down Jervis Inlet to once again spend the night at Egmont, this time at the Backeddy Marina.

In the next installment, we continue our trip to Desolation Sound.

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Drumheller Workshop

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Hoodoos

Earlier this spring I took part in a weekend photo workshop in Drumheller, Alberta.  The workshop was put on by Darlene Hildebrandt ( digitalphotomentor.com ), an Edmonton photographer and educator.  Darlene is also a contributing editor for Digital Photography School.  In addition to running her own workshops and photo tours, Darlene also instructs for the Burwell School of Photography.  Due to there being a few more students than normal for the workshop, Darlene was assisted by Bruce Clarke, another Edmonton photographer.  Bruce also teaches at the Burwell School of Photography.  Both instructors obviously came with great credentials.20160415-_MG_5289-Edit

Drumheller is located in the Red Deer River valley and is well known for the multitude of dinosaur fossils that have been found in the area.  It is the home to the Royal Tyrell Museum. The Drumheller Badlands offer a multitude of photo opportunities ranging from hoodoos to old coal mines.20160416-_MG_5474-Edit

I have been wanting to take this workshop for a couple of years and this was the first time that timing worked out for me.  The workshop was great.  One of the best aspects of the weekend was that it was a bit of a potpourri of photographic opportunities.  We dabbled in sunrises, sunsets, daytime photography, landscapes, close-ups, night photography, light painting and even some portrait photography.  Throughout the coaching provided by Darlene and Bruce was excellent.  Another interesting aspect of the weekend is hearing the similarities and differences between Darlene and Bruce as to how they would approach a particular subject to photograph it.

And of course, as always with these types of workshops, the opportunity to chat with other enthusiasts from different backgrounds and photographic interests is always extremely interesting.

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Atlas Coal Mine

One of the fun activities was a visit to a ghost town to do some night photography and light painting.  Later in the evening we were extremely fortunate to have the northern lights make an appearance!

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Bob

A highlight to the weekend had to be the visit to an old coal mine (one of several that operated at one time in the Drumheller area).  Our guide, Bob, worked at the mine in his younger days.  Not only was he full of stories but he served as the model for our portraiture session (a role he has played for Darlene in many past workshops).  On of the fascinating things he demonstrated was the miner’s lamp which used the chemical reaction between calcium carbide and water to produce acetylene which fuels the lamp.

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Miner’s Lamp

The weekend was all about trying new things and trying to look at subjects from a different perspective.  All-in-all it was a great weekend.

Northern Lights

Northern Lights

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Driving North

Our return from the desert this spring took us to the Napa Valley then north along the Oregon Coast and into BC.  To do the trip justice, and to have time to photograph the coast, one needs to spend several nights at various stops along the way.  As it was, other than Napa, we only spent one night at each stop.  Consequently the trip was a bit rushed and I didn’t take huge volumes of photos.

Our trip started with two nights in Napa.  We had visited the region a couple of times many years ago when wineries offered free tours with wine tastings at the end.  Much has changed.  There are many more wineries and they seem to have discovered they can skip the tour and get right to charging visitors for wine tastings.  I don’t object to paying a reasonable price for a wine tasting however I thought the two wineries that we visited were grossly over-priced for the mediocre wines they offered.  At $40 to $45 for a tasting that included 4 one-ounce samples, you basically are paying $40 for a glass of wine!  Temecula was a much better deal and the wine we sampled there was better than what we sampled in Napa.  OK that’s enough of a rant about Napa.

The next three nights we stayed in Eureka, CA, Coos Bay and Astoria, OR.  The Eagle House Victorian Inn was a beautiful old Victorian Inn overlooking the bay in Eureka.  In Astoria we stayed at a beautiful, newer hotel that had been built on an old pier.

As mentioned, most of our days were spent driving.  To do the coast justice one really needs to have the time to photograph the areas in early morning or late afternoon.  Much of the area we passed in mid-day.  Rather than provide a detailed description of our trip I will just sum it up with some of the photos I did take.

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Flowering Desert

During winter in the desert, talk often turns to the chance of rain in the forecast.  Will it cause flash flooding?  Will it be enough to bring some relief to the California drought?  But often the talk revolves around what effect the rains will have on the wildflower bloom in the Spring.

A little bit of rain will bring on wildflowers a month or two later.  Enough rain and the right conditions could bring on a spectacular bloom.  So every year people anxiously await to see what Spring will bring.

The area around the Coachella Valley certainly didn’t yield a super bloom like was being portrayed in Death Valley this year, but the blooms were pretty spectacular never-the-less.

A couple of weeks ago I spent two days photographing flowers.  The first day was at the Whitewater Preserve at the eastern end of the valley. Several of us hiked the Canyon View trail and encountered a nice array of blooms.  Not being an expert on wildflowers, I won’t attempt to name them.  Just click on any of the images below to open up a slideshow.

The next day, my photographer friends and I were off to Borrego Springs to check out the blooms in the Anza Borrego Desert.  I would have to say that this day was more spectacular than our hike at Whitewater.  Again, just click on any photo to open up the gallery.

It is surprising that anything can thrive in the harsh environment of the desert.  That plants thrive and produce such spectacular blooms it truly amazing.  I think that is why the excitement and anticipation of each year’s bloom is so high.

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Yosemite National Park

Yosemite.  The name is magical.  The scenery is amazing.  An area perhaps most made famous by photographer Ansel Adams, it is place to which landscape photographers flock for good reason.

A little over a month ago I joined some fellow photographers from my camera club for a 5-day trip to this national park east of San Francisco.

Horsetail Falls

Horsetail Falls “on fire”

The first night we lucked out with a spectacular display of “Firefall”.  Every February, for a period of a couple of weeks, the setting sun strikes Horsetail Falls at just the right angle.  If the conditions are right on any given evening during this period, as the sun sets the falls “ignite” in amazing colors of orange and red.  It is as though lava were flowing over the precipice.  The night we congregated with scores of other photographers, we were treated to a stunning display of this phenomenon.

During the winter months only a relatively small portion of the park is accessible by car as many roads are closed.  Over the next several days we explored as much of the park as we could.  We experienced a variety of shooting conditions.  On our last day we even had a fresh snowfall.  Rather than waste a lot of words trying to describe Yosemite, I will let my photos show the beauty of this photographic mecca.

Some of my fellow photographers

Some of my fellow photographers

As we drove home from Yosemite we encountered fields of wildflowers alongside the highway.  Naturally we had no choice but to stop to take a few photos.

Towards the end of our visit our discussion had turned to the location of our next photo outing in the Fall.  But you will have to stay tuned to find out where that is going to be.

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Desert Waterfalls

Being a prairie boy from Alberta, I really didn’t associate waterfalls with deserts until we started spending winters in Southern California.

Certainly deserts are very arid places.  But I have come to appreciate how much alive deserts really are.  Desert plants and animals have made amazing adaptations to survive is such a harsh environment.  Following a rain, it is amazing how quickly the desert starts to green up as thirsty plants soak up as much water as they can.

Scattered throughout the area are a number of canyons that have mountain-fed streams running through them.  Beautiful waterfalls among the lush vegetation thriving in this environment create a harsh contrast to the desert, which in a few cases, is just a few steps away.

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One of the Rainbow Rocks

Over the past month I have visited a couple of such canyons, both bordering Palm Springs. The first is Murray Canyon in the Indian Canyons area of Palm Springs.  The second is Rainbow Rock Canyon in Whitewater Preserve.  I thought I would share some of the beauty of these two places.

 

 

Murray Canyon

Rainbow Rock Canyon

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Keys Ranch

Wall Street Mill

Wall Street Mill

Hero.  Scoundrel.  Rancher.  Miner.  Entrepreneur.  Homesteader.  Engineer.  Convicted Murderer.  Felon. Hard working.  Inventive.  Do-it-yourselfer. Father. Husband.  Wheeler Dealer.  Perhaps all of these terms could be applied to a man who was also an important figure in the development of a significant part of what is now Joshua Tree National Park.  One cannot drive through the park without seeing the legacy of William (Bill) F. Keys.  Keys View with its panoramic view of the Coachella Valley is named for him.  The Barker Dam was built by Keys to provide water for his cattle.  Keys Ranch (aka Desert Queen Ranch), the Wall Street Mill, and Desert Queen Mine were all owned by Bill Keys.

Barker Dam

Barker Dam

Keys arrived in the area in 1910, working as a caretaker at the Desert Queen Mine and ranch.  When the owner died, Keys acquired the mine and ranch in lieu of back wages owed.  Over the following years he increased his land holdings along with other mines and mills.  While Keys did some mining himself, he made far more money by processing ore for other miners.

Ranch house

Ranch house

In 1918 Bill Keys married Frances Mae Lawton of Los Angeles.  At Keys Ranch, they raised a family, operated a pretty much self-sufficient ranch, operated their mines and ore-processing mills, and generally made a life together.

First schoolhouse

First schoolhouse

Frances initially home-schooled her children. In 1932 they hired a school teacher and eventually other area homesteaders sent their children to the schoolhouse that was built on the ranch.  The school operated until 1942.

In 1943 Keys shot and killed his neighbor, Worth Bagley, after an on-going dispute.  He turned himself in to the sheriff and was ultimately convicted of manslaughter.  He did 5 years in San Quentin before being paroled in 1948.  Family friend, lawyer Earle Stanley Garner (Perry Mason author) took on Bill’s case, arguing that the shooting had been in self-defense and ultimately won Keys a full pardon in 1956.

Shed

Shed

Bottles

Bottles in store operated by Frances Keys

Frances Keys died in 1963.  Following her death, Keys sold the ranch and mine to the government and it became part of Joshua Tree National Park.  Bill Keys continued to live at and look after the ranch until his death in June 1969 at the age of 89.

Chassis

Chassis

Old car body

Old car body

The story of Bill Keys is inextricably linked to the history of Joshua Tree National Park.  Ultimately it is the story of survival in the harsh environment of the Mohave Desert.

Ranch house

Ranch house, France’s store at left

Keys Ranch is closed to public access however one can visit the site either on a guided tour operated by the Park Service or by participating in special photography visits arranged through the Park (accompanied by park staff or volunteers).  I have been extremely fortunate to have visited this amazing place 3 times in recent months as part of different groups of photographers.

The ranch is a treasure trove for a photographer with various buildings, old rusting cars, machinery, and a “junk” yard full of spare parts all in a beautiful setting.

 

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A Frosty JT Morning

4 am.  Saturday morning. Is that my alarm already?  I crawled out of bed and quietly got ready to leave.  Out the door at 4:30.

Part of the fun of photography is leaping out of bed in the middle of the night to get a sunrise shot.  In this case I had a little over an hour drive to get up to Joshua Tree National Park to a favourite spot for sunrise so I had to start early.

I arrived just before 6:00, about an hour before sunrise.  I grabbed my camera gear, tripod and headlamp and set off from the car in the dark to find a location which would be at the right angle to the rising sun.  I spent the next half hour scouting out a good sight and firing off some test shots.  The horizon was starting to show some beautiful color.  Unfortunately the sky was completely clear.  I had been hoping for a few clouds for the sun to reflect off of.

Pre-dawn

Pre-dawn colors were beautiful.

Now it was time to settle in and wait.  Fortunately I had come with warm clothing as the temperature was just above freezing.  I watched as the sky grew lighter and fired off a series of shots just as the sun rose above the horizon.  Sunrise was somewhat less spectacular than I was hoping for but as the saying goes, “you pays your dime and takes your chance”.  One day I will hit the perfect sunrise at this location.  But not today.

Sunrise

Sunrise

With the sun starting to melt the frost off of the plants and ground, I set off for Barker Dam.  With the recent rains I was sure that there would be water in the pond at the dam.  After about a mile hike I was rewarded with the sight of water.  It still had a thin layer of frost on it which proved a challenge for the birds hopping along the surface trying to get a drink.

Brown-eyed Junco

Brown-eyed Junco

Hang on

Hang on

Brown-eyed Junco

Brown-eyed Junco

Black Phoebe

Black Phoebe

I fired off a few shots of the birds with my 100-400 mm lens then changed lenses to get some reflection shots.  I worked the pond from several different vantage points.  Closer to the dam there was no surface ice at all.

Pond

Frozen Pond

Barker Dam

Barker Dam

As I hiked back out from the dam I stopped at one point to take a few more photos.  As I was packing up my gear again a Western Scrub Jay landed on the ground just a few feet from me.  Maybe he had an interest in cameras!  By the time I had grabbed my camera it had hopped up on a Yucca no more than 6 feet from me.  I managed to fire off a few shots before it flew away.  I literally had a few seconds to change a number of settings on my camera before firing off my shots.  This was certainly an instance where constant practice paid off as I made the camera adjustments without really having to think about it.20160109-_MG_6734-Edit

Joshua Trees

Joshua Trees

As I was driving out of the park I decided to make a little detour up Keys View Road.  Part way up the road, as the elevation increased, I hit snow.  Naturally I had to stop to get a few photos of the desert plants surrounded by snow.

snow

Snow in JTNP

By noon I was on my way back out of the park after a delightful morning.

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