Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Backroads: Ophir and Out

...well, to Middlegate, anyway.
We're on the downhill run from Ophir Summit to Middlegate, NV, trying to beat the sun. Middlegate is beyond that first mountain range, the Shoshone Mountains, and beyond the ranges seen to either side of the high part of the Shoshones: the Paradise Range and Desatoya Mountains — two semi-contiguous Basin-and-Range mountains that happen to have different names. It's a long way to go, and we've already estimated that there's about 2 hours and 15 minutes to actual sunset, which would put sunset at about 6:55 pm.
We'll be going into Reese River Valley, toward the center of the photo where it looks as though several roads (and one river) are coming together. The predominant line running through the valley, from south to north, is the Reese River.
In a somewhat zoomed in view, the Reese River is behind the partially turned aspens. No, we won't be following the road through the aspens.
The road on the what I think of as the downhill side (west) of Ophir Summit is much gentler than the road on the east side, because of the often assymetrical uplift of many Basin-and-Range ranges. The Toiyabe Range horst block is steeper on the east side where most of the uplift has taken place, and the whole block tilts westward — except for the part of the range just south of Austin, where the mountain is steep on both west and east. The steep eastern side near the mouth of Ophir Canyon, with faceted spurs, can be seen more clearly in this post showing the more recent faulting and uplift on the east side of the range (also see the Google Earth image below with Quaternary faults of various ages).
Google Earth image, with reference cited below, and color scheme for faults listed, as given here.

This image is from: U.S. Geological Survey and Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology, 2006, Quaternary fault and fold database for the United States, accessed 10-27-2008, from a no longer active website. (All faults in the Toiyabe Range are now shown as green on the new active interface.)
Historic faults are the most recent, with known movement being less than about 150 years (in red).

Holocene to Latest Pleistocene faults are younger than 15,000 years (in orange).

Late Quaternary faults are younger than 130,000 years (in yellow).

Mid to Late Quaternary faults are younger than 750,000 years (in green).

Quaternary faults are younger than 1,600,000 years (in blue).
We're farther down the west side of the Toiyabe Range, now, looking off to the south. And whether or not I've got the picture tilted somewhat, you can see how this side is dipping off to the west less steeply than the steep eastern side we drove through earlier, and you can also see the somewhat planar nature of the westward-dipping surface, as though a relatively low-relief erosion surface had developed across the area prior to Basin-and-Range faulting.

We'll be down in that colorful aspen grove soon, where a small hunting camp is ensconsed.
We've almost arrived at Point B on the embedded map below, inside the Yomba Indian Reservation in Reese River Valley, and we're looking down the valley toward the headwaters of the Reese. The headwaters of the Reese are more than 15 miles SSE at the western base of Toiyabe Dome (Little Jett Creek and Trail Creek) and more than 15 miles to the south (Indian Creek). The headwaters, and especially the upper reaches near Little Jett Creek, are a wonderful place to visit in spring to mid-summer. I'm not sure how far in one can drive anymore: the map shows a jeep road or pack trail.
At Point B, we jogged across the main paved road through Reese River Valley — which may or may not be called S.R. 21 or 22, and may or may not be paved everywhere — over to this turnoff to Ione. This is one of those famous Ione signs out in central Nevada, except that this time we're within striking distance: only 8 miles away! It's now 5:26 pm, and the sun isn't down yet.
We arrive in Ione (Point C) at 5:40 pm...
...and pass through without stopping, although "The Town That Refused to Die" looks like a good one in which to spend more time.
Okay, here we are at Brunton Pass (Point D); it's 6:01 pm and the sun is looking pretty low.
In fact, as we're heading down the west side of the pass at 6:10 pm toward the Point E junction where we turn north onto S.R. 361, the sun is going behind the far mountains.
At 6:24 pm, while we are about half way between Gabbs and Middlegate, the sun has gone completely behind some mountains over near Rawhide, and is probably down below the horizon.

What was our estimate? We estimated sunset at about 6:55 pm. Sunset in Fallon, some miles to the WNW, was at 6:16 pm. We were at least 20 minutes off, and because darkness was enhanced by western clouds, we should have used a more conservative time if planning to make camp by our estimate. Generally, one can add about 45 minutes to the estimate because darkness doesn't come right after sunset. Fortunately, we would be staying in a room at Middlegate (Point F) rather than making camp in the dark.

And thinking about this, one usually doesn't make a sunset estimate at above 10,000 feet on one mountain range and then drive toward the setting sun while dropping about 4500 feet in elevation. Not sure when the alpine glow would have hit Ophir Summit; would have to use sun mode in Google Earth to find out, perhaps. And that time (according to Google Earth, which may not be precise) was somewhere between 6:18 pm and probably 6:35 pm, with total darkness by 6:55 pm.

The Moral: be conservative in making your estimate, or calibrate your hand before using it.

The Hand Method: Place your arm straight away from your body toward the setting sun, then place your hand sideways with the fingers essentially parallel to the horizon; measure one hand down from the sun for each hour, which means that each finger is about 15 minutes. I measured 2 hands and one finger at the top of Ophir Summit, which = about 2 hours and 15 minutes.
It turns out that we were lucky to get a room in Middlegate. (We've always just dropped in and have never made reservations.) The motel was booked the next night and into the weekend: it was prime rib night!


Ron Schott said...

First off, Great Title!

Secondly, but more importantly, I wanted to thank you for trip logs like this Ophir series. I haven't had a chance to read it all in detail yet, but this is exactly the sort of geoblogging that I find to be the most valuable sort. I've spent most of my time in Nevada traveling paved highways, but I sure hope I'll have the opportunity someday (hopefully sooner than later) to explore some of the less beaten paths. There's no question that I've got the motivation, due in no small part to your posts. They're a gold mine that I doubt I'll ever exhaust.

Silver Fox said...

Thanks, Ron! Yes, if we only had more time... :)

Anonymous said...

My parents lived in Ione, Nevada in, I think, 1939. My father and uncle were mining (gold or mercury) while my mother stayed home and watched my oldest brother who was just beginning to crawl. One day a ground squirrel came up through a floor board and Mother, horrified, valiantly kept my brother on a cot all day long. When the men returned that night, they just laughed at her for fearing ground squirrels! Poor Mother! She had to melt snow, boil it, then wash his diapers, hanging them to dry in the cabin.

Your blog put scenery to her stories.

Thank you so very much!

Silver Fox said...

Anon, Ione looked like a very interesting small, and mostly old town - someday I hope to spend a bit more time there.

Maybe the mercantile was open when your mom was there!