Friday, July 13, 2012

I love the Monsoon Season

I can remember planning trips in the summertime when the monsoon season was at it's peak, probably the beginning of August and looking forward to traveling to any points east as long as it was towards Arizona and away from California. I'd always look forward to that eventual Friday afternoon/evening when the day finally came to take off on our road adventure. I could hardly concentrate on work that day since the trip next week was so overwhelming all other thought processes. Heading out on Hwy 74 and leaving the San Jacinto Mountains finally coming to Indio, CA and turning right onto the eastbound on  Dillion Road to that on ramp of  Interstate 10 leaving Indio. The feeling was exhilarating knowing I was leaving California heading for that state line to explore the Arizona outback somewhere to a place I had never been to and only read about from my monthly subscription of Arizona Highways. As fun as the trip was, it was mostly that first day's drive I actually enjoyed the most. It was like a long  anticipated excitement of seeing a blockbuster film coming to the local Cinema, except this time Nature was going to put on the performance tonight, not Hollywood.

During the monsoon season, the mountains generally have their activity during the day and unless there is some unusual weather anomalies packed with extra energy it'll always stay quiet till the next day's afternoon. But out over the deserts the heat still has an energy output about it with it's warm powerful uplifts and the thunderstorms are usually at their most potent moments. You rarely see many of these storms in the middle of the day like you do at higher elevations, not that they can't happen, they can. But the norm has always been a nighttime event from my experience. Once we reach the top of of Chiriaco Summit on I-10, we begin to see the shows previews. Almost amazingly these storms would be right about the border along the California/Arizona stateline as if there were some sort of invisible energy barrier preventing them from further westward advancement. Days prior to leaving of course I'd always be checking the weather forecasts seeing if the conditions were right for the trip's monsoonal experience. Sure enough I wouldn't be disappointed

Since I'm no longer in the desert and mountains areas of the southwestern USA, the Southern California Weather Authority has been my next best virtual Nature entertainment venue for the real thing. Love that graphic. Weather reports like this one from the Southern California Weather Authority back in May of this year 2012 were common and beautifully illustrate the horseshoe pattern of Thunderstorm lines along the CA & AZ border regions. This is often the typical pattern as evidenced by storm patterns thus far 2012.

Photo by Blitzo - Mountain Project
 Here's a link to beautiful photos of Thunderheads at Sunset. Driving towards Arizona was never boring with a Thunderhead on the horizon. It was a preview of what was to come as we came closer ot it or it to us. Off in the distance as it grew darker was almost like being at a drive-in theater. The entertainment feature of the night was provided by Nature. I'm still amazed that city people pay all that money on Hollywood entertainment when the real life graphics provided by nature as so awesome.

Freeway heading east towards the border of 
California and Arizona

Downtown Blythe California, August 16, 1999. This was always a favorite pit stop for coffee on the road and whatever munchies we needed for the upcoming Light Show Displays we'd be seeing on AZ Route 60 traveling north off of Interstate 10 to Preskit.

Quartzite Arizona
Sometimes before turning off I-10 and heading north on Route 60 towards Wickenburg, we'd stop at a MacDonalds there in Quartzite Arizona. It's mostly a series of Truck Stops and huge wintertime SnowBird hangout, but lately it seems to have become more of a permanent location for many retirees and others who found they loved the deserts year round, much like the changes in residency that came to the Coachella Valley from years previous. Many of these areas were traditionally known as summer ghost towns. No more ghost towns, the word is out. Desert environs are actually very Kool all year long.

Once we turned off at the Rte 60 Junction near the first tiny community of Brenda, it was usually from this point on that we'd really hit the heavier stuff. However until the heavy rains were encountered, rolling down the window and allowing the fragrance of Croesote Bush to permeate the car's interior was a must. Oddly enough the scent is reminiscent of a highway's asphalt, but with a clearly distinct refreshing energizing effect on the senses. This plant actually has some interesting natural medicinal properties. It was once utilized heavily by the Herbal Industry who actually mistakenly call it Chaparral which is merely a plant community, but was also banned by the FDA whose bed fellows at the Pharmaceutical industry were disturbed by it's potential at detoxifying the body and gradually reversing cancer. It's since been unbanned.

Usually we'd hit heavy rain at Harcuvar just before Salome AZ. At Salome we'd break to let the storm pass, refilled my large king-sized plastic Texico Coffee Refill Mug, hit the Salome Cafe's antiquated Loo Office to finish some paperwork and back out on the road again. Then we'd hit another squall line of rain between Wenden to the north and Aquila. 

credit: RoadTripz
We'd turn off onto Hwy 71 heading for the town of Congress and Junction 89. From that point winding up the switched back road of Yarnell Hill we'd stop at the viewpoint at the top, look back down at the desert floor below we just traveled through and watched those previous Thunderbumpers making their way west into California. All the while the moist cool refreshing scent of creosote bush ever present. These first few hours on the first day on any of my trips were always memorable. Our stay in Preskit, Sedona, Grand Canyon and other point's north had their own monsoonal events during daylight hours, but that specific late afternoon early evening drive was always the best  highlight for me. As with anything you should have a measure of caution and don't drive like an idiot in such weather. If rain is heavy pull over. If there is a dust storm preceding this pull over. If a dip in the road is a raging torrent wait it out, don't chance a crossing.

Wow, who knew ??
A big part of my fascination with monsoonal moisture events was studying the mechanics of the actual cloud and storm formation themselves. What makes it all tick ? Why does it more often than not happen over there than here, etc ? More on that in another post. But viewing it for me with just the right equipment was just as important. Take for example this often posted corner photo view of my former covered porch deck which was the perfect view portal as a monsoon lookout point. Why right there on the corner next to my steps I'd park my favourite viewing chair which overlooked all of Burnt Valley & Santa Rosa Mountains to the east, Anza Valley to the west and Thomas & San Jacinto Mountain straight out in front to the north. 

And the perfect chair for me was a rounded saucer bowl shaped Rattan swivel chair which was technically called a Papasan Swivel Rocker style chair. This chair to me was/is the most perfect chair for me. I could dump all living room furniture and live with only a lamp and this chair. Fortunately I'm married and as a result civilized and not single and neanderthal. It had a heavy base much like the common Rattan Swivel Rocker with the arms like the photo to the right here. The only exception was of course the chair itself which was saucer or teacup shaped with a giant heavy duty canvas cushion pouch pillow in the center. This pouch-like cushion would conform to anyone's shape or size. I often would come home from work hot and tired and slink down into this comfortible  pillow and almost fall fast asleep. Okay so I did fall asleep quite often. But viewing thunderhead cloud formations from this vantage point and with just the proper equipment made this time of year the most perfect of all the seasons. 

I'd often curse the wintertime when on that same deck in a January we experienced hurricane force Santa Ana winds from the northeast with frigid near Zero Temps blowing off the snowcapped El Toro Peak to the east which would cause me to wonder what am I doing here ??? Then of course every summer I was reminded why. Yes, I miss Anza.

I am very serious about cloud formation and thunderstorm anomalies. Clearly there are intriguing questions like why in all the mountains or deserts in certain specific regions or locations within those regions does it chance rain more there than other places ? What causes the clouds to form quicker on some locations before moving onto others. While there is a observational sense of randomness to it all, you'd be surprised how ultimately very organized, and conveyor belt mechanical these formations can really be. I'll have some charts and diagrams and other illustrations later and will incorporate vegetation's influence on it all. Enjoy the season in the mean time.

Monsoonal Cloud Formation & Rainfall References: 
Earth's Vegatation Effects Global Cloud Formations

Earth's Internet: Electrical Conductivity of Trees 
Trees Recharge Earth's Electromagnetic Field 
Are Rainforests Alone Solely Responsible For Earth's Climate Mechanisms ?


  1. Timeless, I just did a post on desert rain today for SkyWatch Friday. Hope you enjoy it and it brings back fond memories for you. I always love reading your posts. This one was exceptional. Looks like the clouds are going to move out this afternoon and then it will be back to sunny and clear skies. I, too, look forward to the monsoon season. Our daughter was born on July 25 and when she was 1 year old, our house got flooded by a summer storm.

    1. Thanks and I have a photography assignment for you over at your blog and I'm SERIOUS --> Just Do It!!! LOL

      Redshank fragrance when wet it so sweet and spicy and probably my favourite during monsoon. When I came back around 9:00pm at night after being down in the heat and muddiness of Imperial Valley, I'd roll down the windows and suck it all in. Wow talk about a natural high.


  2. You must have savored the times (like is happening this week), where the monsoonal flow shifts west to hit the southern California's mtns, and you could just stay put instead of drive hours! Though the trips into "Arizona's outback" must have also been great.

    I'm enjoying our monsoon humidity, "warmth", and scents for you!

    1. LOL --> Isn't it amazing how our memory can actually allow to to experience scent and fragrance without actually experiencing it at present ?

      Yeah I'll bet you're enjoying it. That time of year for me was such an energizing time.


  3. Timeless, I WILL DO IT~~~ I wake up sometimes at 4:00 a.m. and am always awake by 5:00!!! Sounds WONDERFUL! Wow! You drove all the way to Brawley from Anza? ...shaking head...we have a neighbor who drived from Palm Desert to Brawley. He works at the prison out by that area...I bet he sees some amazing skies on his drive! I think he stays there a few nights a week, then drives home. Thank you for the tip! I have yet to get a decent shot of the Salton Sea from Highway 74!!!!

    1. I actually only drove it about twice a week mostly Mondays and Fridays. One of the spooky things that ever happened to me was deciding to take Hwy 111 north from Brawley instead of Hwy 86 to 78 west the backway to Anza. Over the Chuckawalla Mountains east of Mecca and North Shore Salton Sea Thunderheads always developed around 4:00pm and started moving west towards Coachella Valley.

      The first time I thought nothing of it, but as I got closer as I hit North Shore I could see the giant cresent shaped Dust out ahead of the rain. Those things are hideous. Five miles outside of Mecca the dust Storm hit or I hit it. At times I had to stop but there were cars behind me and in front of me. The wind was hurricane force and I knew we were coming up on those old dilapidated old Warehouses along the Southern Pacific railway tracks. The were made of old corrugated tin and sure enough one sheet flew across my hood. When I made it between Mecca and Thermal palm trees and powerlines were in the road and flooding, but before the rain on the windshield it was water mixed with the dust so it was raining mud. I NEVER WENT THAT WAY AGAIN. Especially if I saw build up to the east of there in late afternoon.

      On another note, the early morning light has a beautiful shimmer off of the sea. Just below the viewpoint, there is another sharp hairpin U-Turn in the road you will know about, but you can only really park on the going up side. It has also a spectacular view of Salton Sea and all points east.

      Have fun!


  4. I'm sorry...BLYTHE~ I always get the two mixed up! The prison is out by Blythe.

    1. Yeah the two other ones are south in Seeley and Calapat.

  5. We are being tantalized but have only received a few drops of rain here in the Cuyamaca Mountains so far. Today there were what looked like epic thunderstorms in the Anza Borrego Desert (on the radar), but they can't seem to quite make it over here to the west!
    In the mid-1990s, Gary and I would make special trips to southeast Arizona so that I could try to photograph lightning. Those trips were a bit bittersweet, as the lightning really liked to be moving rapidly away from us, or worse, coming rapidly towards us! So now I am happier as a bug and bird-chaser in the monsoon season, with lightning as a side-dish. Makes a good combo.

    Here are a (very) few of my best lightning shots from over the years:

    Hope we get some more interesting weather on our upcoming BIG road trip!

  6. I love to watch the sky and storms. Cool post and photos. Have a great weekend.


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