Under the Milky Way... Joshua Tree National Park, July 22 & 23, 2017

I love spending time in the desert.  Even in the middle of July.  If you take it easy, bring a lot of water with you and use common sense, you can still enjoy the park despite temperatures that are usually in the 100s.  This trip was all about shooting the night sky.  I have been wanting to get a halfway decent photo of the Milky Way for as long as I can remember.  It took some researching, but I was ready.  I even went so far as to purchase a good tripod and with my shooting style, I do NOT like using a tripod.  For night sky though, it is a must.  

We arrived at Campbell House, my absolute favorite place to stay when we’re in Twentynine Palms, a little after noon.  We checked in, packed plenty of water and headed into the park.  The temperature fluctuated between 90 and 108 depending on where we were.  I had decided to take advantage of the park being less crowded and see some of the more popular sites.  The first stop was Hidden Valley nature trail, an easy one mile loop.  There’s a passage through the rocks that open to a “hidden” valley enclosed by these incredible rock formations. It’s said that this area was once used by cattle thieves to hide their stolen cattle. As you walk along the trail, you’ll also see some beautiful pinyon pines.

After Hidden Valley, we drove to Keys View to take in the panoramic views of the Coachella Valley, Salton Sea and the San Andreas fault. At an elevation of 5,240 ft., it was about 10 degrees cooler (90) and there was a nice breeze. There were also a lot of bees flying around looking for moisture under the cars from the a/c. 

After Keys View, we stopped at Cap Rock, notable for being the place where the stolen corpse of singer, Gram Parsons was set on fire in 1973.  I took some photos there and we headed back to get cleaned up for dinner.

When in Twentynine Palms, we always have dinner at the Twentynine Palms Inn.  My husband  orders the prime rib, and I get the lobster tail.  It never disappoints!

It was getting close to sunset so after dinner we headed back into the park.  I decided to go back to Cap Rock to settle in and get ready for the show and an evening of stargazing and Milky Way photography.  As the sun went down, it provided me with a surreal kaleidoscope of color; magnificent golds, yellow, orange, magenta and hypnotic blue.  Then, as the light faded away, the first stars began to appear.  Magic!  It was just after 9:30 when the Milky Way became clearly visible.  I was super stoked to be able to get some images.  I had timed this trip so we’d be there on a dark moon and we had a perfectly clear sky.  Mission accomplished!

I slept so good Saturday night.  The Campbell House is so cozy it’s like being in your own home.  I actually sleep better there than I do at my own house!  It’s so peaceful and quiet.

The next morning I decided to sleep in.  That would be 6 am for me.  I usually get up and drive into the park to see the sunrise, but the cottage was just a little too comfortable and I woke up just as the sun was starting to come up.

Around 7:30 we went to the great room to enjoy coffee and breakfast.  They always have something delicious and this time it was Tres Leche French Toast with Dulce de Leche on top!  Wow!  Supurb!  

After a very enjoyable breakfast, we stopped by the Oasis of Mara.  All the times I’ve been to Joshua Tree and I’d never been there.  I’m glad I did because I was able to photography my first Western Pygmy Blue.  According to my field guide, it is the smallest butterfly in North America and also one of the smallest in the world at 3/8 - 3/4 inch!  

This was a really wonderful trip.  I came home with exactly what I wanted, a beautiful image of our fascinating Milky Way galaxy and an extra bonus of some new butterflies to add to my photographic collection!
 

Cholla Cactus

Cholla Cactus

Pinyon Pine at Hidden Valley

Pinyon Pine at Hidden Valley

Hidden Valley Hidden Valley is one of the places I avoid during peak season because it gets full of people. The nice thing about visiting the desert in the summer is that these popular spots are void of crowds. You just have to remember to bring LOTS of water and never underestimate the power of the blazing sun. Only do short, easy trails or you’ll probably, well.... die. :D Once you’re on the easy one mile loop trail there’s a passage through the rocks that opens to a valley enclosed by these incredible rock formations. It’s said that this area was once used by cattle thieves to hide their stolen cattle. As you walk along the trail, you’ll also see some beautiful pinyon pines. 

Hidden Valley

Hidden Valley is one of the places I avoid during peak season because it gets full of people. The nice thing about visiting the desert in the summer is that these popular spots are void of crowds. You just have to remember to bring LOTS of water and never underestimate the power of the blazing sun. Only do short, easy trails or you’ll probably, well.... die. :D Once you’re on the easy one mile loop trail there’s a passage through the rocks that opens to a valley enclosed by these incredible rock formations. It’s said that this area was once used by cattle thieves to hide their stolen cattle. As you walk along the trail, you’ll also see some beautiful pinyon pines. 

Hidden Valley

Hidden Valley

My husband walking under a Pinyon Pine.

My husband walking under a Pinyon Pine.

Hidden Valley

Hidden Valley

Hidden Valley

Hidden Valley

Hidden Valley

Hidden Valley

Hidden Valley

Hidden Valley

Keys View Panoramic views of the Coachella Valley, Salton Sea and the San Andreas fault (which I think is super creepy) at Keys View. At an elevation of 5,240 ft., it was about 10 degrees cooler (90) and there was a nice breeze. There were also a lot of bees flying around up there looking for moisture under the cars from the a/c.

Keys View

Panoramic views of the Coachella Valley, Salton Sea and the San Andreas fault (which I think is super creepy) at Keys View. At an elevation of 5,240 ft., it was about 10 degrees cooler (90) and there was a nice breeze. There were also a lot of bees flying around up there looking for moisture under the cars from the a/c.

Keys View

Keys View

Keys View

Keys View

Cap Rock Nature Trail

Cap Rock Nature Trail

Cap Rock Nature Trail

Cap Rock Nature Trail

You can see why it's called Cap Rock.

You can see why it's called Cap Rock.

The beginning of sunset at Cap Rock.

The beginning of sunset at Cap Rock.

Peachthorn

Peachthorn

Yucca

Yucca

Cap Rock sunset.

Cap Rock sunset.

Red Tailed Hawk  As we settled in for sunset, the wildlife became active. The only sounds were the warm desert winds and the calls of a red tailed hawk as it circled overhead. We saw many creatures on this evening; antelope ground squirrels, jackrabbit, coyote, bats, lizards and a magnificent owl which unexpectedly flew out from the rocks and then quickly disappeared. Spirits of the desert saying hello I suppose.

Red Tailed Hawk 

As we settled in for sunset, the wildlife became active. The only sounds were the warm desert winds and the calls of a red tailed hawk as it circled overhead. We saw many creatures on this evening; antelope ground squirrels, jackrabbit, coyote, bats, lizards and a magnificent owl which unexpectedly flew out from the rocks and then quickly disappeared. Spirits of the desert saying hello I suppose.

Sunset at Cap Rock. I will never tire of a desert sunset with its surreal kaleidoscope of color; magnificent golds, yellow, orange, magenta and hypnotic blue.

Sunset at Cap Rock.

I will never tire of a desert sunset with its surreal kaleidoscope of color; magnificent golds, yellow, orange, magenta and hypnotic blue.

Cholla Cactus.  Sunset at Cap Rock.

Cholla Cactus.  Sunset at Cap Rock.

My husband bouldering at Cap Rock.

My husband bouldering at Cap Rock.

Sunset at Cap Rock.

Sunset at Cap Rock.

Sunset at Cap Rock.

Sunset at Cap Rock.

Sunset at Cap Rock.

Sunset at Cap Rock.

Sunset at Cap Rock.

Sunset at Cap Rock.

Sunset at Cap Rock.

Sunset at Cap Rock.

Sunset at Cap Rock.

Sunset at Cap Rock.

Another new buttefly to add to my butterfly photo collection:  Sleepy Orange, Abaeis nicippe. They're hard to miss when they're flying because all you see is a flash of orange. I was able to get a photo when this one settled in for the night at Cap Rock.

Another new buttefly to add to my butterfly photo collection: 
Sleepy Orange, Abaeis nicippe. They're hard to miss when they're flying because all you see is a flash of orange. I was able to get a photo when this one settled in for the night at Cap Rock.

Sunset at Cap Rock.

Sunset at Cap Rock.

Sunset at Cap Rock.  Colors changing.

Sunset at Cap Rock.  Colors changing.

Sunset at Cap Rock.

Sunset at Cap Rock.

Sunset at Cap Rock.

Sunset at Cap Rock.

Sunset at Cap Rock.

Sunset at Cap Rock.

Sunset at Cap Rock.

Sunset at Cap Rock.

The Milky Way Galaxy from Cap Rock

The Milky Way Galaxy from Cap Rock

Western Pygmy Blue, Brephidium exilis Another highlight from the desert this time around was getting some photos of this Western Pygmy Blue. According to my field guide, this is the smallest butterfly in North America and also one of the smallest in the world at 3/8 - 3/4 inch! I don't have a macro lens to do this little creature justice, but I enlarged the image as much as I could. This was shot at Oasis of Mara on Sunday morning, July 23.

Western Pygmy Blue, Brephidium exilis

Another highlight from the desert this time around was getting some photos of this Western Pygmy Blue. According to my field guide, this is the smallest butterfly in North America and also one of the smallest in the world at 3/8 - 3/4 inch! I don't have a macro lens to do this little creature justice, but I enlarged the image as much as I could. This was shot at Oasis of Mara on Sunday morning, July 23.

Western Pygmy Blue, Brephidium exilis

Western Pygmy Blue, Brephidium exilis

Western Pygmy Blue, Brephidium exilis

Western Pygmy Blue, Brephidium exilis

Oasis of Mara

Oasis of Mara