Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Freezing in the Afternoon Sun

I don’t know why I am up so late, but I’m going to have to give it up and get to bed so I can log, log, log tomorrow. Today’s afternoon excursion out to the drill site was brrr-ey cold. It felt so warm stepping outside the office door—the sun was out, bright and shiny, the wind was almost calm with no hint of blowing snow, and so I went to the field without extra layering. I left behind my lined overpants, left my fleece vest rolled up in my pack, and put on knitted wool gloves. It was freezing in the shade of the already-going-down sun: going down behind one of the nearby hills. The wind was blowing moderately, not as strong as it was two days ago, but still, enough to cause one to really think about hypothermia and frost bite and how fast you can get too cold when the wind chill is probably zero or 10 below (Fahrenheit, that is). Maybe I’ll say more about logging, logging, logging later this week (and maybe not).

Monday, January 28, 2008

Snow Day: An Update

It's official: work has been called due to snow and bad road conditions. I went in to work at about 8:30, and about half way between here and there I received a call: don't come in, the roads are hazardous. From the satellite photos, it looks like the main part of the storm will be gone by mid-afternoon. Meanwhile, I'll be having lunch and iced tea downtown at the Casino Hotel.

Snow before going to work.

Snow on the way back from work.

Early Morning Reprieve

I have been at work since last week, after a holiday vacation. A reprieve from work today, though - just as I was about to turn on to main street, a co-worker called. The power is off, and it will remain that way at least until the wind settles down. No need to go in to work.

Yesterday, we went home early after a power outage. Our logging facility is relatively low on the priority list if there is a property-wide (or district-wide) power outage. So we left. Can't log without power.

That didn't use to be the case. I've logged many RC drill holes with the chip trays laid out on the tailgate of a pickup truck, parked far enough from the drill rig to get away from the noise. A hand lens, acid bottle, knife for hardness testing, paper drill log forms, and a pencil are really all you need. Maybe a code sheet, AGI data sheets, rock color chart, and igneous-rock classification cheat sheet (more on rock classification here, here, here, and here), maybe some sun screen. Nowadays, however, we log chips in detail using a microscope, and our lithologies, mineral percentages, textures, and descriptions go straight into a computer data base. (This is an industry-wide, possibly world-wide phenomenon for the most part.) The scope doesn't work without power, and whereas a laptop computer will operate for a time on batteries, a powered connection to a server is required to update the database. Data entry can be slow but possible using a wifi connection - until the power goes out.

So, it was a slow, laidback day, yesterday, with whiteout conditions outside. The satellite photo showed clouds overhead in the visible spectrum, but nothing overhead in the infrared. It looked like we should be in the non-stormy, eye-like center of a large low, with all the precipitation action tens or hundreds of miles away. Meanwhile, we actually had fog, off-and-on falling and blustery snow, wind, and blizzard-like conditions. Upon leaving work in the afternoon, I could see that the local weather was anomalous: all around, variably cloudy skies, scattered sun, and blue sky prevailed. Some have postulated the existence of a sort of black hole or vortex over the property created by the mine - it supposedly draws and concentrates bad weather - especially snow, fog, rain, sleet, hail, wind, and bone-chilling cold.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Name That Place

I'll try not to be too obvious, or maybe it will be obvious sometimes! This is a photo of an old Mexican restaurant, no longer in business. It was the best place to eat for miles around, back in 1979. What town or village is this located in? The sign may be misleading!

UPDATE: No one has responded to this, so I'll update a little. The sign says "2 Miles Ahead: Empire Store." Empire, Nevada is a small town near a gypsum mine (USG), 2 miles from the slightly larger (?) small town of Gerlach, Nevada. The picture is of the old Mexican Restaurant in Gerlach, which is no longer open. Nowadays, one eats at Bruno's, a great place for homemade ravioli. Gerlach is the staging point for Burning Man on the Black Rock Desert.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Western Outback

Perhaps you're wondering what outback towns there are in the west, towns that I could work or live in. What about Carlin, NV - or Ely or Tonopah or Beatty? What about Midas, NV - now that's an outback town if I ever saw one! And what about Eureka, UT or Eureka, NV - or maybe McCall or Salmon, ID? What about Winnemucca, NV or Wallace, ID? Can towns like Wallace, Winnemucca, or Carlin be considered outback towns when they are on main east-west interstates (I-90 and I-80)? At least one of those towns has a Wal-Mart; at least one of those towns doesn't. And then, what about towns like Mojave or Tehachapi, CA? How about Bagdad or Mountain Pass, CA - or Beatty or Searchlight, NV? What about Safford, AZ or Silver City, NM? What about Cripple Creek or Silverton, CO - or Kemmerer, WY or Kellogg, MT?

And then there is Denny, CA - has anyone ever heard of Denny? Has anyone ever had the great fortune of staying in Denny, camping while conducting chromium, base metal, or gold recon (which was it, AS?). It is so long ago, now, that those field books are probably lost, and I don't really remember much more than the cold creek water, the dense rainforest, and that nasty poison oak.

Anyway, there are numerous "outback" towns in the western U.S. I have named but a few. I haven't necessarily stayed in all of them, and I'm not necessarily living or working in any one them right now. Some have active mines nearby; some have active exploration projects; some may merely have old diggings, old mines, and older prospectors.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Mid-January: Coffee and Dinosaurs

The month is just about half over, and it's a little more than a week before I go back to work. MOH is in go mode, back to work after 5 days off.

Although the sun has been out for a few days, and the temperatures have risen daily to freezing or above, it was quite cold today, starting out at 1 degree F at 7:00 am. The sun stayed out all day, the temperature rose to at least 28 F, with the wind chill making it feel more like zero. So much for just wearing a fleece vest while shopping this afternoon.

My little shopping trip was inspired by the breaking of our coffee pot this morning. Smash! I dropped the glass pot on the old wooden floor of our tiny little kitchen. So I braved the cold and drove out to get a new one. After checking out the selection of coffee makers at the hardware store, I decided on a standard 12-cup Mr. Coffee version from the grocery store, a version slightly better than the Proctor-Silex pot I broke. This new pot is our third coffee maker since we moved here in August.

Craig Medred of wrote an interesting article about the "new" wool v. synthetics. In it, he describes how our synthetic fibers, like polar fleece, come from dinosaurs:

It came from dinosaurs and prehistoric plant life. Their accumulating detritus got buried and, eventually, this organic matter was put under enough pressure that it turned into that black ooze known as crude oil.

Petroleum engineers came along and pumped it out of the ground. Chemical engineers figured out how to break it down into individual hydrocarbon molecules. Eventually, someone figured out how to manipulate those molecules into fabrics.
This is, perhaps, an example of a classic geologic misconception - not that it really bothers me. I grew up a dinosaur buff, perhaps from the first time I saw the dinosaur bones at the Smithsonian Institute when I was five years old. In fact, I may have grown up, at least in my early years, believing the dinosaur-to-petroleum misconception, which was fostered somewhat by the Sinclair Oil gas stations , which had (and have) a dinosaur as a logo. Anyway, I think it's rather romantic to think that dinosaurs died and gave us the energy we use today, even thought it's really the environment that they lived in - marshes and fens and bogs - that turned into the petroleum we pump out of the ground.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Road Trip

MOH and I just got back from a two-day road trip to Salt Lake City and back again. We drove to West Wendover, NV and then had lunch at a buffet in the Peppermill Casino. After that, we drove past Wendover, UT on I-80, and then sped past the exit for the Bonneville Speedway. Eventually, we came within sight of the Great Salt Lake and the Garfield Smelter. We pulled off at the Saltair exit, having already driven past several points of geologic interest - especially tufa-covered notches cut by ancient Lake Bonneville. A sailboat was out on the lake, and the air smelled sweetly pungent with the salt. A yellow-eyed cat came from the marina to greet us.
The lake is lower than it was during the 1983 Cordilleran Section meeting of the GSA, when the lake level rose rapidly, threatening to cover I-80 in a few places. That year, enough water was coming out of the Wasatch via City Creek that a main street in Salt Lake City (State Street) was sandbagged and allowed to become the State Street River. That same year, floods in the Mojave Desert of CA caused numerous road washouts, and mud was unusually common in a few places. Slide Mountain near Reno, NV, slid for the first time in many years. El Niño had struck heavily that year, and water was everywhere.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Mylonitic Quartzite

Yesterday started out cold and icy - with an orangey sunrise over the nearby mountains to the east. Later, the sun came out and everything around started melting and dripping.

If you look closely, you can see a fold or monocline concealed partly by snow. Folded limestone atop a reddish limestone breccia sits on Precambrian to Cambrian, possibly mylonitic quartzite. And speaking of mylonites (once again), it turns out that mylonitic quartzite was rock of the week at All of My Faults Are Stress Related. What a coincidence!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008


I just wanted to share this article about mylonites: The Sound of Mylonites. Mylonites are one of my favorite types of rocks, and long ago I had a wonderful introduction to them in the Snake Range, a metamorphic core complex with mylonites along and below the main décollement, a low-angle normal fault sometimes referred to as a detachment fault.

On the home front: today I am mailing our 2007 Newsletter. I'm just now sending it out!

I'll now be walking down the steep snowy street one block away from our little house, and then will walk downhill to the main part of town. I will be out for a late brunch: I'm on days off! All for now, Sfx.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Where in the West - January

This lake, viewed from the south, is an interior salty lake in the western Cordillera. The mountain and lake are good examples of the horsts and grabens of the Basin and Range. Low-angle normal faults or detachment-style faults are known to occur in this region. The lake is known primarily for it's fishing, and although I've never fished in this lake, I've stayed in the town near it's southern edge many times, looking for gold in the hills to the northeast, east, and southeast. I first drove through this area in 1976 on my way back from looking for a thesis area.

  • John, D.A., Thomason, R.E., and McKee, E.H., 1989, Geology and K-Ar geochronology of the Paradise Peak mine and the relationship of pre-Basin and Range extension to early Miocene precious-metal mineralization in west-central Nevada: Economic Geology, v.84, p. 631-649.
  • Best, M.G., and Christiansen, E.H., 1991, Limited extension during peak Tertiary volcanism, Great Basin of Nevada and Utah: Journal of Geophysical Research, v. 96, p. 13,509–13,528.
  • Dilles, J.H., and Gans, P.B., 1995, The chronology of Cenozoic volcanism and deformation in the Yerington area, western Basin and Range and Walker Lane: Geological Society of America Bulletin, v. 107, p. 474–486.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Out in the Field

If I were to try to convey the nature of our life here in the hinterland, I might have to use these words: mountains, desert, and lakes; Basin and Range, roadcuts, wide open spaces, and small but cozy living spaces. MOH and I live in a tiny house, one small enough that the refrigerator is in the dining room. Our "outback" town hosts businesses of the mostly mom-and-pop variety, with only one or two minor chain stores besides a few nationally known fast food places and major gas stations. The presence of locally owned and operated stores is quaint and harks back to times before big-box stores came to dominate the landscape. We enjoy the small town atmosphere, and shop here whenever possible, though many particular things are hard to find. We then will go to one of several “nearby” larger towns, often Reno, or we will buy online.

The driveway at our little house is made of dirt and gravel (right now it is of frozen mud, ice, and snow), and it's steep at the upper end. The tightness of the street, with other vehicles parked nearby, makes pulling out of the driveway a little difficult. We both back our trucks into the driveway to park side-by-side, and we use 4WD to pull out uphill whenever mud, snow, or ice covers the ground. Both our trucks sit outside in the weather, uncovered. Temperatures here at the house, in our "banana belt" location, are often 0 to 10 degrees F, sometimes warmer, not often colder. Right now, one truck won't start, and we don't yet know the cause.