Thursday, October 9, 2014

First Trip into the Ruby Mountains of Nevada

Would you believe...a geologist living mostly in Nevada since 1975, who had never been into the Ruby Mountains until two weeks ago? One who had been over Secret Pass several times and down Ruby Valley once, but never into the mountains?

One reason to go to Lamoille Canyon, if you've never been there, is the excellent scenery. Another reason would be the excellent geology...including geology related to the metamorphic core complex that makes up the Ruby Mountains — along with several, and more than one type, of low-angle faults — and also geology related to the Pleistocene glaciation of the mountains.
Terminal moraine of Lamoille Canyon,
beyond the field that happens to be part of an outwash plain.
The photo above wasn't our first view of Lamoille Canyon, when MOH and I visited about two weeks ago on our way to the NMEC 2nd Annual GBR. That photo is from the second day's morning field trip to see some of the glacial geology of the Rubys (or would that be Rubies?), led by Dr. Mike McFarlane. Instead, our first view of the canyon was as pictured below:
Looking into Lamoille Canyon from just before the entrance to the Ruby Dome Ranch (Google Maps location).
Unnamed hill 9942 forms the flattish-looking knob just right of center, and although it's hard to tell for sure, even from repeated viewings in Google Earth, the jagged knobs in the distance on the left appear to be Ruby Spire at 10,835 ft on the far left, the Wolf's Ear at 10,788 in the center, and an unnamed peak at 10,835 ft on the right (seemingly lower because it's behind the other two jagged knobs). I've gleaned the names Ruby Spire and Wolf's Ear from Panoramio and Google Earth photos rather than from USGS topo maps of the area, suggesting to me that at least some of the supposedly unnamed peaks and knobs of the Rubys may have names known by the locals and other frequenters of the area.
Another view looking into the first part of Lamoille Canyon,
this time from the 2nd day.
With these first views of the canyon, the valley appears to be dominantly V-shaped: the overall U-shape of the valley has been modified by the post-glacial down-cutting of Lamoille Creek.
At this point, where a falling rock sign appears on the side of the road, the overall U-shaped nature of the glacially carved canyon can be seen.
The main part of Lamoille Canyon forms the foreground right of the road and highway sign, and it continues to the far left where cliffs of brownish gneiss, marble, and granite abound. The Right Fork of Lamoille Creek shoots off to the right, into the U-shaped canyon where its eastern, sunlit slopes are covered by green, yellow, and orange aspen trees.

The GBR was located at Camp Lamoille (AKA Lion's Camp Lamoille or the Boy Scout Camp), nestled in a flat area along Right Fork Lamoille Creek (or South Fork Lamoille Canyon). Photos of the area shown below are from Days 1 and 2 of the three-day outing.
Looking south up the South Fork of Lamoille Canyon. Back in the rocky section of the canyon, Ruby Spire and the Wolf's Ear are on the left;
Mt. Gilbert is on the right.
This photo is centered on a lateral moraine of South Fork Lamoille Canyon, which blocked the main canyon (to the left) and has been breached by Lamoille Creek.
In the photo above, besides the breached lateral moraine, the upper portion of a couloir called "Terminal Cancer" can be seen on the far left. Ruby Spire (Google Maps location) is in the center distance (highest spire of the jagged ridge on the east side of the Right Fork of Lamoille Creek. The Wolf's Ear (Google Maps location) forms the center of that jagged ridge.
We've arrived in camp. The Wolf's Ear is still visible as the highest jagged knob near the center of the photo.
Rapidly changing lighting at Camp Lamoille.
Wolf's Ear is on the left (east side of the South Fork canyon). Mt. Gilbert is the tallest peak on the right.
Our campsite below the cliffs. You can see in this photo the very minimal spots of snow below Mt. Gilbert, fairly unusual in the Rubys for late September.
A closer view of the Wolf's Ear.
Looking up the same canyon from one of the trails near the beaver ponds.
An even closer view of the Wolf's Ear (dark knob on the left), taken on the stormy second day.
Another view of the South Fork of Lamoille Canyon, taken during a downpour featuring multiple hail events and (later) lightning directly overhead.
Camping in the stormy weather of two weeks ago was fascinating. The overall camping experience, which could have been a disaster, was mitigated by the presence of a wood-heated lodge or dining area, and abundant free food and drinks.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Geologists: The Cowboys of Science

A colleague of my former (deceased) husband once said, "Archaeologists are the Cowboys of Science." (I don't know if he actually said it in Capital Letters like that, but that's how it came across to me.) DH disagreed and said, "No, Geologists are the Cowboys of Science. Archaeologists don't even come close."

The first character that actually comes to my mind, for some reason, is Bret Maverick's brother Bart. He's not a geologist, but he goes off gallivanting around the countryside on his horse, somehow managing, often, to get into trouble. He reminds me of some geologists I know, who go off the same way in their 4WD pickups.

Also read:

Sherlock Holmes, Forensic Geologist
The Romance of Geology in Russia: A Tribute to Alexander Ainemer
Here's to You: Geological Heroes
Dust Hole (previous post)

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Dust Hole

I was out driving around the other day, basically following I-80 from Lovelock to Reno, and I decided to take what I thought would be a short side trip, getting off at Toulon to check out a bit of remaining old Highway 40 just east of the Humboldt Dike.

After checking out the old alignment, I thought about turning around and going back to Toulon to get on the freeway, then decided to go on toward the old site of Trinity, where U.S. 95 south to Fallon meets I-80. Go forward, not back! To do this, I drove southwest on an easy portion of what turned out to be a long, tedious, and very rocky section of powerline road.

Near the top of the first rise, the road narrowed and turned rocky and then went into the first of a series of sideways excursions across several large and small washes coming south out of the south Trinity Range. Near the bottom of the first of these washes, I pushed my way through a small silt hole (I was already in 4WD in order to go slower over the sharp volcanic rocks). Rather than stopping and backing through the thing or trying to turn around at this somewhat late point (and thinking that Trinity would be just over the next rise), I kept going, only to suddenly find myself heading into an immense, roiled dust hole cut into old Lake Lahontan lake sediments (or Tertiary intra-volcanic sediments). I leaned on the gas pedal, thinking that if I came to a stop in the middle of the hole, I would be stuck and would have to send a SPOT help message or walk out to I-80 (or both). Waves of dust washed over the jeep covering it entirely, and for the last part of the hole, I couldn't see a thing. I didn't have time to turn on my window wipers, which probably wouldn't have helped anyway, and I kept going like a person with their eyes shut, trying to remember the next part of the road from the brief glance I had gotten.

I made it through, and instead of stopping to take any pictures of it, I continued on, just wanting to get the hell out of there. After a steep bit or two through rocks I actually scraped over a little (this is hard to do with the excellent clearance the jeep has), I arrived at the top of the next rise.
On an obscure powerline road, looking southwestward toward Trinity.
From the top of the rise, I could see that I had at least one more major wash to cross and more than a mile to go. At this point, I was just short of half way there (although I didn't really know that at the time), and I knew that I wouldn't be turning around to go back to Toulon, because I wasn't going to drive through that second dust hole twice in one day. (Or ever again!)
Here, I'm looking northeast across the wash I had just crossed.
Both dust holes are visible in the photo enlargement below, just right of the powerline in roiled, light-colored sediments in the center of the broad wash area:
From looking at this in Google Earth, I'm pretty sure that only the beginning of the second dust hole (the one closest to us) is fully visible in the photo.
I was running enough adrenaline right then, that I didn't try harder to get a better picture — I was focused more on getting out of there as quickly as possible and getting back to the highway!  I hurriedly cleaned the dust off the windows of the jeep, and drove on toward Trinity.
The view of the second hole that I would have had if I'd walked back over the hill a short distance.
When I got to Trinity, I took out the air filter out of the jeep and shook the dust out of it.

View Toulon to Trinity in a larger map

After getting onto I-80, I accelerated to traveling speed (warp 7.5+ or 75-80 mph; warp speed terminology on roads and highways explained here), leaving a trail of dust behind me for several miles, perhaps as far as about halfway to Nightingale Hot Springs.

Phew! Maybe I'll go back someday to get a better photo of the hole. Maybe.

(See embedded Google Maps view above for location of all geographic points of interest mentioned in this post.)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Update from the Lake: Tracks and Things...

...on the beach at Butt Valley Reservoir, also seen here and here.
Probably dog.
Deer?
Sasquatch — I mean, human.
Crawdad.
Small crawdad pinchers. Finger is red from blackberries.
Corbicula fluminea or Asian clam, not zebra mussel.
Jelly blob, probably Pectinatella magnifica, a type of freshwater bryozoan.
Enlargement of the same photo. This is a colony, and each of the circular to star-shaped indentations or rosettes supposedly consist of several individual organisms.
Shaly beach sand. Hopefully we'll see the reason for the odd shape of this sand in a few days!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Varying Water Levels at a Few Reservoirs in California

When MOH and I drove to Butt Valley Reservoir a couple weeks ago, we were surprised by the lake low lake level: it looked lower than we remembered seeing it, although we haven't been frequenting the area routinely for several years.
Standing on a wider-than-usual beach near the boat ramp on the east shore, looking south. 
The boat ramp is the dark, shadowed line below the tall trees on the same shore I'm standing on. The dam is a ways around the corner to the southeast behind the tall trees.
This picnic table from the day use area was moved out onto the beach, presumably as a prank. Photo from August 22nd.
A few days later the same picnic table was at water's edge.
Photo from August 26th.
Although the angle of the photo is a bit different, you can see that the lake has risen by looking at the boat ramp and a couple logs in the background, not to mention the trees. In addition, the beach on the far shore is no longer visible.

It isn't really normal for water levels to be rising this year in California reservoirs, but the lake level in Butt Valley Reservoir (the lake is alternately called Butt's Lake, Butt Lake, and Butt Valley Lake) is notoriously variable. In fact, swimmers and boaters are warned to watch the lake level, as it can rise suddenly if water is released from the next lake up the ladder, which is Lake Almanor. Unfortunately, I didn't get a picture of the warning sign.

Indeed, in case I didn't believe my eyes (or you don't believe my photos), Butt Valley Reservoir contained 35,117 acre feet on August 22nd (probably a permalink, or play around with the dates yourself) and 41,627 acre feet on August 26th (same chart). Total storage capacity of the reservoir is 49,800 AF. The chart of reservoir storage for the month of August can be seen here (a probable permalink).

Meanwhile, the lake upstream in the Feather River watershed so-called "Stairway of Power" was dropping (tabular data), especially after August 21st (graph).

We've all seen some of the recent pictures of the main reservoir at the downstream end of the Feather River system (Lake Oroville above Oroville Dam). I wouldn't mind posting some of these here, but surprisingly, CDWR describes these photos as public domain and copyrighted and not for redistribution at the same time (right click on this one, for example). Instead of photos, view the Lake Oroville storage chart for all of 2014 here (should be a permalink).

What we can discover through various CDEC links and calculation tools, is that the May 2014 peak at Lake Oroville of 1,877,682 AF was considerably below the average May peak of 3,042,972 AF. I've read in comments that the 1990, 1991, and 1992 years were worse California drought years than 2014 (perhaps based on statewide storage, rain, runoff, or wishful thinking?), but at Oroville, storage at the beginning of September was a little higher in all three of those years than it was this year: 1,188,782 AF in 1990, 1,392,300 AF in 1991, and 1,401,554 AF in 1992, compared to 1,100,873 AF on 9/1/2014.