Towers North • Return Trip

2014 Mar 28

Surprise Tank ♦ 2014 Mar 5

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Use glasses to view 3D Anaglyph photos

Three weeks after seeing the north end of Towers of Uncertainty for the first time, I wanted to finish absorbing the Uncertainty in this region before starting the hills in 3D. I parked at Stop 2 along Geology Tour Road as before. The hike is an easy 1000 yards or 1 km to the north Towers. I went to Surprise! Tank first and found it to be nearly dry 23 days after a winter rain had filled it.

Three Balanced Rocks at Towers-North

Balanced rocks are common at JTNP, although due to the nature of the hard, White Tank monzogranite material, rock “arches” are seldom found here. Two well-known balanced rocks are the one near Malapai Hill further down Geology Tour Road, and another which goes by the name given by rock-climbers, “Don Juan Boulder,” that is in the southern end of Wonderland of Rocks. All the same, the three modest-sized ones found in the north Towers of Uncertainty area have a certain charm—definitely something the 3D photographer will enjoy framing.

(Before leaving the topic of arches, most of the ones in Joshua Tree are small compared to their majestic sandstone counterparts found elsewhere in the American southwest. The two JT arches are “Arch Rock” in White Tank Campground, and the difficult to find “Garrett’s Arch” in the Wonderland of Rocks. You will find multiple 3D photos of each boulder & arch posted in the appropriate Galleries.)

Desert Pediment

Pediments are gently sloping exposed bedrock surfaces that extend outward and away from the base of hills or (mainly) desert mountain ranges. They are a curious desert land-form, typical of the southwestern United States and many other desert areas of the world. The pediment at Towers-North encompasses only a couple of acres. Miles-long pediment can be seen at the base of the Eagle Mountains near Mastodon Peak Trail (Cottonwood Campground) in the eastern half of Joshua Tree National Park.


Surprise! Tank ♦ Almost Dry

Less photogenic than on the last visit, Mar 5. Little more than a puddle. I have to assume the dam refills twice or three times a year. JTNP’s rainy seasons are in the winter months of Nov. to March, and again in mid-summer, when the Gulf of Mexico & Mexican hurricane-related monsoon pumps moisture in as thunderstorms. Chances are six-two-and-even that the dam will be dry the day you visit. Luck of the draw. I was fortunate to photograph it in 3D when full. Here we see it only a few inches deep near the cement-and-rock filled barrier. (Click to enlarge photos) Surprise Tank ♦ 2014 Mar 5


3D Anaglyphs


3D Anaglyph Slideshow

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 East Side ♦ Two Leaning Rocks

The eastern side of this area has the rocks clad in beautiful dark-brown “varnish.” Many desert rocks have a brown-black or reddish-brown coating known as rock varnish. According to D. D. Trent in “Joshua Tree National Park Geology,” the studies have found “that after 100,000 years, typical varnish will be about two-thirds as dark as it can get, with an additional half-million years required for the last one-third of the darkening.” Best not to hang around, then, waiting for the final result.

The east side area also offers the photographer the second of three “balanced rocks,” following the large one near the dirt parking lot. Perhaps “leaning” might be a better term than balanced, in this case. Dark brown desert varnish on the east side; lighter colors on the west side, where the hill rises above Uncertainty. You can see the difference in the following pictures.


West Side

Next, I walked a hundred paces to the west side where the Portal to the Underworld beckons (see below). Close by, a third balanced rock rests in a fork below the Dark Tower. The Dark Tower itself, loaded-up with rock varnish to the maximum, where it is almost charcoal gray, I would do later that day at Golden Hour (further below). Between the West Side and the Dark Tower, I found myself poking my nose into the central Hills for a few hours, before sojourning along the hill-crest at Towers-North.

This page, as mentioned, includes the quickly evaporating Surprise! Tank, some beautiful central formations, the low hill-crest along the western edge with a panorama view looking 100 feet down into the basin below, and finally, the Golden Hour 3D captures adjacent to the Dark Tower. (I have put the Towers-Hills group in a separate Gallery page under that heading. It is rather extensive. Link here—still under construction.)

3D Anaglyph Slideshow

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3D Anaglyph Gallery


West Side ♦ Portal to the Underworld

THERE BE DRAGONS THERE, there be! I am loth to give any credence to the following account, for it comes from a person who wears Bermuda shorts with argyle socks. However, this is the way he told it to me:

On a certain day, unknown and varying year to year, around dark, the portal opens with a great gyrating grating sound heard throughout Joshua Tree Park and as far away as the Coachella Valley. From out of its fire-blackened mouth ascend all sorts of evil beings who stalk the land until daybreak, doing every sort of damage to human beings. There be dragons, of course, blowing flames out their nostrils and gullets. And ghouls, witches, Yeti, Bigfoots, Sasquatch (plural), Wildmen of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, a Hodag, some guy with a wand calling himself Voldemort, several Chinese creatures like Sin-you, Taotie, Nine-headed Bird, Peng, Bixie, and numerous others, too vile to leave their names in print. Then, just before dawn, they all rush back helter-skelter with their mouths dripping gore—their pockets filled with jewels and gold and virgins and high-end iPhones—before the Portal door slams shut with a loud BANG!

As I said, I discount much of this. Although the part about the jewels and gold and virgins piques my interest, therefore I have to give leeway to the storyteller. He had a purple wart on his nose, by the way. This story teller. In addition to a red light-saber.


West Side ♦ Crest of the Hill

Facing the hill from down below, the simplest approach to its crest is to head left (south) toward that end for an easy stroll on up to the top. Once there, you will be offered scenes of the Towers of Uncertainty Hills and the long alluvial plane that stretches south from Queen Mountain five miles away. The plane continues below Ryan & Lost Horse Mountains to the west. East, about two miles distant, can be seen a large rocky mound, Crown Prince Lookout. Below, the basin you’ve just been in with its Towers-North granite formations, the Dark Tower, and Portal to the Underworld. Little Surprise! Tank is visible in a couple of the shots, but unless you know where to look, it might escape you.


The Dark Tower

(Hint to 3D Photographers: Joshua Trees are your friends, as exemplified in the final image above)

I went hog-wild this trip and took over 1,300 pictures. Please feel free to download as many of the 3D Anaglyph or 3D Half Side-by-Side photographs as you like. Share them with your 3D friends. If you wish to see more, please contact me. Note: The 3D H-SBS images below should only be saved if you have access to a 3D TV. Viewing them properly will not be possible, otherwise.


3D Half Side-by-Side Gallery 1

3D Half Side-by-Side Gallery 2

3D Half Side-by-Side Gallery 3

3D Half Side-by-Side Gallery 4

Half Side-by-Sides avoid the minor Anaglyph anomalies that can occur. Their beauty really shines on a big scree 3D television. Tell me what you think.

Click images to enlarge. 1080p resolution. Or Windows users, right-click and choose SAVE LINK AS.

Larger size 2016p & complete JPG or MPO sets available on request. There are over 4,000 photos in the Towers of Uncertainty, north-south-hills group. For instance, the H-SBS 1080p set of JPGs alone is 5.75 gigabytes (which will fit onto an 8gb SD card or onto two 4.7gb DVDs). Also, I have made slideshows of these in H-SBS MP4 1080p format for 3D TVs.)


Thank you for your interest in Joshua Tree 3D and its many Galleries/Places. My intention is to illustrate scenery that the casual visitor to Joshua Tree National Park rarely sees or focuses on.

John Murbach


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Posted 2014 Oct 4

Updated 2017 Nov 11

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