Aiguille de Joshua Tree: the Finger of Hercules

Finger of Hercules in Joshua Tree national park
Aiguille de Joshua Tree:  the Finger of Hercules
Aiguille means "a sharp pinnacle of rock in a mountain range".  I discovered a very unique fingerlike pinnacle exists in Joshua Tree National Park in several pictures and when I finally discovered its location, I wanted to visit.  It is very easy to find in the Hidden Valley section of the park.  Walking to it is level and it takes less than 30 minutes to reach the base.  I climbed up a few boulders to reach this vantage point and then took my best shot.  I wanted to include the surrounding valley of Joshua trees to give it a strong sense of location.

This formation is often photographed with a climber standing atop the pinnacle.  My fear of heights and lack of rock climbing skill made that option undesirable.  :(

Lost Pencil of Joshua Tree National Park

Lost Pencil photo taken at sunrise
Lost Pencil at Sunrise
Scouting locations in Joshua tree before arriving, I combed the Internet and found several different unhelpful sites.  It was not until I discovered the "Joshua Tree 3D" site that I found a place that actually told you where to find specific rock formations.  I decided to hike to one location mentioned on this site called the "lost pencil".  I hiked out before sunrise so that I could be there when the sun came up.  The wind had been blowing throughout the night and there were no clouds at all.  The harsh desert sky did not provide anything interesting to complement the rocks.  Therefore I tried to include a lot of different objects on the ground as I was making photographic composition choices.

Sometimes photographers only show their very best work.  This case, I feel that this is not my very best work but given the weather conditions, it is the best that could occur on this particular morning.  Oh, there is not a lot of information about this a big rock formations in Joshua Tree National Park and I thought I would share this and perhaps it will help someone else.  I enjoyed the hike.  This is a wonderful location to visit.

Gordon's hike rating:
Hike Difficulty:                   ★★★ Moderate
Trail Condition:                   ★ Poor — find your own cross country route
Trail Hazards:                      ★★ Mild:  cacti
Trailhead:                              Geology Tour Road
Time Required:                     2 - 3 hours
Distance round trip:              2.6 miles
Off the Beaten Path:             ★★★★★ Yes, 5 Stars
Scenery:                                ★★ Fair, 2 Stars
Photographic Potential:        ★★ Fair, 2 Stars

North Algodones Sand Dunes: Dreaming of African Sahara

North Algodones Sand Dunes, Imperial Glamis Dunes
Algodones Sand Dunes resemble the Sahara
On my 1st and only trip to the North Algodones Sand Dunes located in the Imperial Valley of California, I was hoping to experience some untouched sand dunes.  The Algodones Dunes are segregated into the North and the South.  The North is designated wilderness and off-road vehicles are forbidden.  The South is a designated site for off-road vehicle fun.  When I drove into Glamis that was quite clear that the South receives a lot more attention than the North.

I slept in my car beside the North dunes and got up well before sunrise so that I could hike out onto the dunes and be there when the sun came up.  I was surprised at how much walking I had to do simply to reach the dunes.  It was very flat but seems to take about twice as long as I expected.  The dunes began fairly abruptly on the edge of some brush and trees.  Yet a few questions and even a tree or 2 are located in the midst of the dunes as far as I can see.  There was never a location where the dunes were completely 100% sand without vegetation.

I certainly enjoyed taking pictures at sunrise.  After about an hour it started to get quite hot and I started making my way back towards the edge of the dunes.  It was at this time that I discovered this lonely tree which actually has a nest.  I was careful to make a wide circle around this tree because I did not want my footprints in the picture.  This shot was taken with an 85 millimeters lens which I thought was a good choice to include the tree and the surrounding areas but also to give a perspective of the distant dunes seem to go on forever.

In postprocessing I must admit there were a few small rocks and pebbles in the sand that I removed using Photoshop so that I could have a very clean sand dune appearance.

A few hours on the dunes I felt like I was in Africa.  Sand dunes are quite spectacular in person and in photography.