Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Road to Jarbidge: Salmon Falls Dam

sign In continuing to clear out drafts and finish incomplete series or road trips, I'll take a leap back to October, 2009, when I was driving back from the annual GSA meeting in Portland. Last you knew, I was somewhere in northeastern Oregon, a mystery location replete with tipi, yurt, basalt, and larch.

From there, I took I-84 east to Twin Falls, Idaho, then went south on Highway 93 toward Jackpot, Nevada, with the full intention of making it in and out of Jarbidge, Nevada, in one day. With Jarbidge being a long way from everywhere, I didn't make it. Instead, I made it part way in, turned around, stayed in Jackpot (which I don't recommend unless you love stateline casinos, bring your own food, or both), then went in the next day. Both times, I turned off Highway 93 at Rogerson, Idaho, and went west toward the Jarbidge River across the east part of the Owyhee Plateau, south of the west-central Snake River Plain.

approach On the way in—the first afternoon and then the next morning—I crossed over a narrow dam located here on the 3 Creek or Jarbidge Road. This is what the area looks like, from Rogerson to the drop-off into the East Fork of the Jarbidge River: generally flat with lots of basalt.
drexsign After a slight turn in the road (previous photo), I came to the sign for Lud Drexler Park, which appears right before the one-lane passage across Salmon Falls Dam.
bridge This is a view to the south taken from the center of Salmon Falls Dam on Salmon Falls Creek. The dam was built across Salmon Falls Creek in 1908 to 1912 (history), creating Salmon Falls Creek Reservoir. Because of my convoluted way of approaching Jarbidge, I crossed over this dam three times. Had I known conditions in Jarbidge—they have year-round food, lodging, and gas, although calling ahead wouldn't hurt—I could have stayed there the first night.
basalt1 Looking north from the center of the dam, one sees this canyon wall made of basalt. The basalt is probably Pliocene, has been mapped as part of the Banbury Basalt, a name which is not in use everywhere. Extending units mapped in quads to the north near Twin Falls, we could be looking at either the Pliocene basalt of Hub Butte or the Pliocene basalt of Burger Butte—or some other basalt entirely.
basalt2 Unfortunately, the one-lane road over the dam is not a good place to stop and look at rocks!
reservoir I got a good view of Salmon Falls Creek Reservoir, which can be seen south of the highway, after driving west of the dam.
back On the second day, I stopped just beyond the dam, parked, and took a closer look.
dam1 This is the one-lane road as seen from the west side—one has to stop when crossing from either direction and carefully look for oncoming traffic.
dam2 The entire dam, as seen from the west on the second day.
dam3 A close-up shot of water seeping out between basalt layers just below the dam.
dam5 The shadows on the dam were great as I drove back towards Rogerson on the first day.

Some References:

dam4 Digital Map of Twin Falls County, Idaho (click on Twin Falls): Digital Atlas of Idaho.

Kauffman, J. D, Othberg, K. L., Virginia S. Gillerman, and Garwood, D. L., 2005, Geologic Map of the Twin Falls 30 X 60 Minute Quadrangle, Idaho: Idaho Geological Survey, Map DWM-43, 1:100,000.

Lewis, R.E., and Young, H.W., 1989, The hydrothermal system in central Twin Falls County, Idaho: USGS Water-Resources Investigations Report 88-4152, 44p.

Othberg, K. L., Kauffman, J. D, and Virginia S. Gillerman, 2005, Geologic Map of the Twin Falls Quadrangle, Jerome and Twin Falls Counties, Idaho: Idaho Geological Survey, Map DWM-52, 1:24,000.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Friday Field Finds: An Old Trommel

While out wandering around a couple years back, probably on our way to or from Great Basin National Park, MOH and I ran across this rusty specimen in Spring Valley on the western flank of the southern Snake Range, not far below the ghost town of Osceola. Osceola is the center of the Osceola mining district, which largely produced placer gold. Although most reports talk about the district as though it's dead, activity is ongoing, and we often see a small recovery operation or two when we drive by on Highway 50.
This is a trommel—smaller ones can be seen here—once used as part of a placer gold recovery operation. Trommels wash the dirt and gravel and separate the coarser material from the finer material before the fines and gold are put through some kind of concentrator like a sluice box. This trommel is now only good for its scenic and historic value; here it's framing the Schell Creek Range across Spring Valley. Black Mountain is the prominent mountain and South Schell Peak can barely be seen to the west (left) in the distance [MSRmaps location].

Silva, Michael, 1986, Placer gold recovery methods: CDMG Special Report 87, 31 p.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Ways in Which a Consultant Finds Work

My first job as a consulting geologist came to me in the spring of 2004. Prior to that year I had not worked as a consultant, but only as an employee of medium to large companies. When starting consulting in 2004—after an aborted attempt at finding consulting jobs during the gold crash of 1997–1998, which immediately followed the Bre-X scandal—I was returning to the business after a hiatus of more than 10 years.

— NOTE: The Bre-X scandal/scam did not cause the gold crash, although I've read opinions stating that it did. The scandal certainly made the entire process of getting funding more difficult, and in the short term, getting funding became impossible or nearly impossible for many companies, especially the Canadian juniors. The scandal did contribute to the depths that the price of gold reached and the length of time it stayed in those depths.

It was early in the year, and I had been in negotiation for a job with a certain promotional company. They had a property they wanted to drill, and they wanted me to manage the rig(s) and log whatever was going to come out of the hole. The drill rig was expected to arrive at any moment, but that expectation had been in operation for at least two months.

The mining industry was just getting back on its feet that year, and it was difficult finding drilling companies, drillers, and drill helpers. After the gold crash of 1997-1998, drillers, especially all the good ones, had fled their industry for parts known and unknown: water well drilling in California and early retirement were the two options I had heard. Good drillers can sometimes retire early, say by age 45, if they save their $$ and don't spend it all in bars while on the road.

So the start date of the drilling project kept getting postponed, and although there was certainly a lack of drillers on which to blame that postponement, I'm pretty sure that funding also had something to do with the delay. So I kept calling, and I kept hearing "two weeks from now" and "end of the month"—the latter phrase usually indicating a time three to four weeks in the future depending on when I called. I didn't have any other leads, so I kept calling.

I also understood that some boss down the hall didn't want to pay me a daily rate that added up to more than his salary—never mind that he had company benefits, including that nice company truck in which he'd just returned from some mid-afternoon trip to Home Depot. And he had an office, and a secretary, and paid-for phones, and computers, and a draftsman or CAD person, and... yada, yada. The going rate for average consulting jobs in the mid to late 1980's had been $300/day—we paid a specialist $450 in 1989 or 1990. This down-the-hall guy wanted to pay me less than $300. Needless to say, I wasn't too fond of this barely-met scrooge.

And then it was April. All this project talk had started in January or February. Out of the blue, a former colleague and friend of mine called and said he had a drilling project that was expected to run through October, maybe into November or December. He called because friends of mine—all former colleagues—had been telling everyone that I was back and needed a job.

I explained my situation to him: that I'd told another outfit that I was available for their project, but that it hadn't started yet, and that I'd been waiting on it for several weeks. And when did my friend want me to show up? Well, he said, yesterday would be really good, but the following Monday would work—and that would give me a five-day introduction to the property and project before I'd come into my part of the schedule on the Tuesday following that first Monday. In other words, I'd work five days, take three days off, and then come back and start regular 10 and 4's.

So I called the other guy to see what he knew about his drilling schedule, when would the drill rig be there and when could I start. Once again, it was looking like "end of the month" or early the following month—and, no, he couldn't promise a start date. I told him I had another offer starting yesterday, and I didn't see how I could turn it down. I felt a little uncomfortable and awkward telling him that, but he hadn't offered any kind of retainer (not usually done), nor had he found any non-drilling work to keep me at least partially employed while waiting for the rig (or the funding, or whatever). I thought maybe he was annoyed with me for at least a couple years after that, when I'd see him at meetings, but as time has gone one, I've decided it was all in my head, all my own worry.

It turns out that I took a daily rate less than the $300 I wanted, but besides being paid an average mileage rate to and from the job site for every ten-day trip, I drove a company truck on site, and received a nice per diem for food and lodging. I stayed at a place with a very low monthly rate and made most of my meals in the room. So the daily rate was close to $300 when how much I didn't spend on food and lodging was considered.

And that's how my first consulting job came to me in the spring of 2004. I didn't send a resume, and I didn't really have an interview.

Some References:
Alden, Andrew, The Bre-X Gold Scandal: First there is a gold mountain then there is no mountain: Geology.

Anklin, R. E., and Varandan, Sheila, 1999, Bre-X in Hindsight: What We Know about the Busang Gold Fraud: 1999 Southwest Review International Business Research March 10-13.

Behar, Richard, 1997, Jungle Fever: The Bre-X saga is the greatest gold scam ever. But to understand the enormity of the fraud, you had to be there. Our man in Borneo tells his story: Fortune Magazine, June 9, 1997.

Branan, Nicole, 2007, Bre-X scandal ends with acquittal: Geotimes, October, 2007.

CBC News, Bre-X timeline: From boom to bust, Last Updated July 31, 2007.

Danielson, Vivian, and Whyte, James, 1997, Bre-X: Gold Today, Gone Tomorrow: Toronto, The Northern Miner, 304 p.

Danielson, Vivian, and Whyte, James, 1997, A few desperate men and a salt shaker -- An excerpt from The Northern Miner's Bre-X: Gold Today, Gone Tomorrow (paywalled): The Northern Miner, v. 83, no. 37.

Updated References 14Jun2012

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Update from the Lake: Too Much Snow

I unexpectedly went to our lake house recently, primarily because we were worried that the huge amount of snow we'd heard about would cause problems. The snow is pretty, I'll admit, but I arrived to find the snow piled two-feet deep, and it's probably deeper by now. One problem the snow can cause is roof-top cornice development and sliding of massive snow and ice off the roof, which could damage valves on one heating-oil tank, and has in the past damaged our water-shut off valve. Snow could also cave in the roof of a small camper we have, an old camper which has been sitting idle for a few years, but which we lived in for more weeks than I care to remember when we moved to the lake.
The day I arrived, I was fortunate enough to get through to someone we use to plow our driveway when needed. When the driveway isn't plowed, the berm from the highway department snow plow prevents us from getting into the driveway, there is no place to park, and we can't get to the house. They came, plowed the driveway, and left. I was lucky they weren't too busy to come on short notice, and throughout the day when I called, the line was busy. When I finally got through, their phone rang for the first time in two days because the power had been out for 48 hours.

Because the power had been off, I had to deal with a house that was cooling off due to lack of heat: the temperature had reached 43°F. I turned on our front-room oil stove, which doesn't require electricity, then tromped back in the dark to the furnace, which is located in a small closet-like recess on the outside of the house. I pushed the two reset buttons I could see: nothing, nada, no heat. By the time I went to bed, the oil stove was heating the house at the rate of 3°F per hour. It was 61°F in the morning when I got up - not shabby, really, and warm enough to prevent pipes from freezing.

In the morning after coffee, I tried the furnace reset buttons again, found out the location of a third reset button from a maintenance guy, and also found out that if the furnace is running when the power shuts off (or flickers off and on, I presume), it will shut down and not come back on without a manual reset.
I couldn't stay, though, just to make sure the the power stayed on, or to light the front oil stove periodically, or to hit the reset buttons when needed. So I've had the place winterized, which means we won't be paying much for heating this winter, and the place won't be very visitor-friendly until we turn the water back on in spring or early summer. That's what happens when you move, I guess...
In other news, I discovered we have a slightly larger than usual view of the lake (usual being very tiny). That's because an entire house went missing some time in the last few months. (It's not really missing, just taken down.) This view is from where the now-missing house used to be. A partial view of the lake, especially if it's through trees, is called a peekaboo. The size of the peek varies from a couple spots to something a bit more sizeable. Ours new view is visible from one side of the backyard.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Eureka Quartzite on Squaw Peak

Yes, it's the Eureka Quartzite again, this time on a 2416 m hill (7926 ft) known as Squaw Peak, located in White Pine County, Nevada, just above the small town of Ely.
Squaw Peak is the hill in the center of the photo, just a bit to the left of where Highway 50 is pointing before it turns to the right [MSRMaps map of Squaw Peak]. Highway 50 points almost straight at the Ordovician Eureka Quartzite, which is the second ledge below the cliffy top of Squaw Peak. The upper ledge is mapped as the Silurian Laketown Dolomite.
Here's another view of the Eureka Quartzite below Squaw Peak, this time in winter. Again, the quartzite is the lower, brownish cliff.
And again, looking to the northwest - this time the Eureka quarztite is cream colored and really stands out.
If you ever happen to stay in the Bristlecone Motel, near the junction of Route 6 east, Highway 50 east, and Highway 93 south with Highway 93 north, you'll have this view of the bright and shiny Eureka Quartzite in the morning. The quartzite thins to the north; I don't know if that's from stratigraphic or tectonic thinning or some combination of the two. I do know that the quartzite is moderately to strongly brecciated and cut by numerous fractures and faults showing nice slickenlines.
When coming in to town from the west (or the east, for that matter), you can easily pull over on the south side of the road - the main street, Aultman Street, is Highway 50 through the main part of Ely - and stop at the county park [a similar view with Google Maps].
Look to the north and there you have it: the Eureka Quartzite. It's the cliffy ledge of light-colored rock on the lower slope, below and to the right of the radio towers on Squaw Peak.
To get to the outcrop, take 7th street north across the railroad tracks and immediately turn right on a dirt road, Visa (Vista?) Grande Drive, which may or may not be marked. From that road, you can walk up onto the alluvial fan, and from there you can clamber up the steep and rocky talus slope to this exposure of the Eureka Quartzite. It's a white to cream-colored, shiny, hard, orthoquartzite. Some of the best of my current photos of the quartzite can be seen in this post about nesting ravens. After the snow goes off the mountain, I'll climb up and bring back some nice hand samples.

Some References:Brokaw, A.L., 1967, Geologic map and sections of the Ely quadrangle, White Pine County, Nevada: U.S. Geological Survey Map GQ-697, scale 1:24,000.

Brokaw, A.L., Bauer, H.L., and Breitrick, R.A., 1973, Geologic map of the Ruth quadrangle, White Pine County, Nevada: U.S. Geological Survey Map GQ-1085, scale 1:24,000.

See this post for links to many previous Eureka Quartzite posts and additional references.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Eureka Quartzite at Lone Mountain

I initially started this short series on the Eureka Quartzite in order to show two locations where you can see this famously clean orthoquartzite from Highway 50 - and you can see it without getting out of your vehicle, no less! The first locality is Lone Mountain, Eureka County, Nevada. (Remember, there are at least two Lone Mountains in Nevada; this one is *not* in Clark County and is thankfully miles and miles from Las Vegas.)
You can stop at the Antelope Valley Road turn-off on the the south side of Highway 50 anytime of year, unless the mud or snow is too deep, to see this view of our favorite quartzite. We're looking north; the Eureka Quartzite is the white cliff near the western base of Lone Mountain (the lower left).
In this closer view, the Eureka Quartzite is the bright white cliff below a cloud shadow, and at least part of the reddish cliff below that. I no longer have the excellent drawings and photos I made when first visiting this area with Dr. E.R. Larsen's Geology of Nevada class in 1975, but the general geology can be seen in this air-photo from an earlier post. Warning: contacts drawn on the photo are approximate and interpolated, not necessarily precise or exactly correct.
Dirt roads pass below the quartzite cliff near the top of the alluvial fan, providing access of unknown quality. It's been years since I've driven to the base of the cliff, so I can't provide any road reports.
You can see Lone Mountain for at least twenty miles when driving from west to east on Highway 50, across the wide, open expanse east of Hickison Summit.

As alluded to in an earlier Lone Mountain post, GEOLEX indicates that the Eureka Quartzite does not have a type locality. It was first named by Hague in 1883 for exposures within 50 miles of Eureka, and was further defined and described by him in 1892. In 1933, Kirk proposed that the section at Lone Mountain be recognized as the type locality, because exposures near Eureka are inadequate or incomplete. Nolan and others (1956) described the quartzite as "everywhere thoroughly fractured or brecciated because of extensive faulting; and in many places it has been recrystallized as a result of mineralizing solution." The USGS accepted Lone Mountain as the new type locality (Nolan et al, 1956), and now the Lone Mountain section is generally used as a defacto type section, or, as GEOLEX states, a "standard section."
Now you see it... you just barely see it.

Some References:
Hague, Arnold, 1883, Abstract of report on the geology of the Eureka district, Nevada: U.S. Geological Survey, 3rd Annual Report of the Director, pp. 237-290, plates 24, 25.

Hague, Arnold, 1892, Geology of the Eureka district, Nevada: U.S. Geological Survey Monograph 20.

Iddings, J. P., 1919, Biographical Memoir of Arnold Hague, 1840-1917: National Academy of Sciences Biographical Memoirs, Part of Volume IX.

Kirk, Edwin, 1933, The Eureka quartzite of the Great Basin region: Am. Jour. Sci, 5th ser. v. 26, p. 27-44.

Nolan, T. B., Merriam, C. W., and Williams, J. S., 1956, The Stratigraphic Section in the Vicinity of Eureka, Nevada: Revision of the pre- Tertiary stratigraphy of east-central Nevada: U.S. Geol. Survey Prof. Paper 276, 77 pages.

Eureka Quartzite and Lone Mountain Posts:

Considerably more geological references can be found throughout the earlier posts.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

More Muncho

I'm planning to clear out a few draft posts from last year, and also to hopefully finish up some mini-series. I'm starting by taking a leap back to the dark ages of 2009 - February, that is. I had nearly completed a series I started about the northern Canadian Rockies, centered around Folded Mountain and Muncho Lake. I'm going back there again, this time to a location on the Alcan Highway about 7 miles or 11 km south of the south end of Muncho Lake: the pullout at Mile 426/km 686, Alcan mileage (current mileage). I think this is the "Sawteeth" pullout, which has a sign that may or may not explain the geology of the Sentinel Mountains. I can't actually follow the explanation, so I won't show you the sign! (I mean, it doesn't make any sense to me.)

This oblique southeasterly view of the Sentinel Mountains from Google Earth shows the general area from a little higher than roadside level; that's the Alcan, AKA Highway 97. The topography of the same area, looking straight down and with the north arrow cocked to the right, can be seen here in The Atlas of Canada.
The picture I took looks like this; it corresponds with the two central peaks from the Google Earth image, with just a little of the pyramidal-shaped range-front hill on the far left.
Drawing on a composite set of photos, I came up with this pen-and-ink interpretation, which shows the general flat-lying nature of the sedimentary horizons away from the range front and to the east. The beds are then tilted into a dip slope right along the range front, forming a set of triangular-shaped facets, which I described more completely earlier. If you look carefully at the photo and the sketch, you'll see that they match up imperfectly - the sketch makes the farther hill appear a little larger than life. It is a cartoon.

The Folded Mountain and Muncho Lake Series:

You'll find references, in-post links, more photos and images, and more about the Alcan and general geology in the previous posts.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Mid-Monthly Art: Northern Lights

Northern Lights is a watercolor painting I did a few years back, inspired by the atmospheric phenomenon of that name. The phenomenon is more properly called aurora, polar aurora, aurora borealis in the northern hemisphere (northern lights), and aurora australis in the southern hemisphere (southern lights). I've never seen any as colorful as the lights in my painting, and green without red is usually more common. I've seen the northern lights as far south Reno and Virginia City, Nevada, and have seen them in Alaska.

Aurora at Wikipedia - some colorful, presumably public domain photos.
Aurora FAQs at UAF's Geophysical Institute.
Aurora on Worldbook @ NASA
Aurora images at NASA
Aurora over Idaho: APOD 18Dec2006 - colorful red and green aurora, a copyrighted photo.

Copyright © 2010 Looking for Detachment.
Original watercolor Copyright © 2002.
All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Caliente Camp Part 8: Getting Out of Pennsylvania Canyon

While driving through Pennsylvania Canyon last summer, I was keen to find some really good examples of the soft, loose sand we had gotten stuck in 30+ years ago. Well, guess what? The 2005 flooding of the area, along with whatever else had happened to the wash in 30+ years, had firmed up the roadbed. The worst places were loose but not too loose: though the sand pushed me around some, especially in turns, it would have been difficult to get stuck in 2WD, not that I really tried.

The wide, sandy area that snagged our truck in 1978 looked a lot like the picture below, a picture taken more than 1.5 miles downstream from our getting-stuck site. Back then, the central driving area of the wash was all sand, the soft, sandy area was much wider than our truck tracks, and the sand was free of any stabilizing plants. It was the kind of sand that makes walking uphill difficult, and difficulty in walking- whether uphill or down, whether through mud, snow, or sand - is a good sign that one might need 4WD, not that we stopped and checked.

Pennsylvania Canyon still contains considerable sand, but most of it is peripheral to the active channel (AKA main roadbed) and elevated above it - as in this photo where sand piles can be seen on the right, and sand ledges or partially eroded banks can be seen way to the left (click to enlarge). It looks like flash flooding over the years has removed a lot of sand and caused about two to five feet of downcutting.

*** *** *** *** ***

What would Pete and I do, now that one of our two trucks was stuck in the sand? Well, first off, notice that I said, "one of two." We were lucky enough to have two trucks, and one wasn't stuck! Whew!

Floyd was still in sampling mode and making his way slowly down the wash, so Pete and I set about seeing if we could figure out how to get the two-wheel drive truck upstream through the sand. Pete had a great idea: we would go to the prospect area we had checked out earlier and see if we could find some rope. For some unknown reason, our trucks were not equipped with gear for getting unstuck. Maybe we could scrounge something.

We drove up the side drainage in our good, 4WD truck. All we found around the old mining camp was the spool of copper wire we had already noted, no rope. We debated the options. I felt uncomfortable taking what surely must be someone’s wire. We were, after all, not in any kind of dire straits: we had one perfectly good truck. We could drive it back to camp, get towing gear, and come back for the truck. But we were a little worried about wasting too much time or getting in trouble for getting stuck. We took the wire to use in lieu of a tow rope.

Our first couple attempts at towing the 2WD truck with the 4WD truck using the thick copper wire were pretty unsuccessful - we made a few feet each time before the wire stretched thin and broke. So we backed the good, 4WD truck down the wash until its back bumper was right against the front bumper of the bad, 2WD truck, then wrapped the copper wire tight around both bumpers, around and around several times. With the wire wrapped this way, it held as we made it slowly through the sand, until we were finally on solid ground. We still didn’t know if the crippled truck would make it up that last hill below the distant saddle, but we would have to give it a shot. With me driving one truck and Pete driving the other - the bad truck in the rear in case we had to ditch it - we continued up the main canyon, keeping our eyes open for the still sampling Floyd.

After meeting up with Floyd and helping him finish the sampling of his part of Pennsylvania Canyon, we drove both trucks up and over the saddle, down into the northern drainage, past Tepee Rocks, through Caliente, and back to camp. Stuart had walked into camp by the time we got there. We now had a truck that would not go into four-wheel drive, and the nearest Ford dealer was in Ely, a good two to three hours away. That truck sat in the Ely shop for several weeks before the right part arrived - they kept getting the wrong part from Salt Lake City. And it turned out that Stuart had not been at fault that one day in Kane Springs Valley - one hub had been put together backward at the factory, so repair was covered by warrantee.
A northerly view from below Ella Mountain Lookout, looking toward the next camp area near the Nevada-Utah border.

Related Posts listed at The Caliente and Caliente Camp Series.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Caliente Camp Part 7: Getting Stuck in Pennsylvania Canyon

Shortly after the first truck misadventure of 1978 - with the helicopter still out of commision - four of us took off in two trucks for a kind of piggyback form of recon. From Caliente, we drove east up Clover Creek, entered Barnes Canyon from the north, drove past Tepee Rocks, then eventually crossed over into the south end of the large Ash Canyon drainage at the place I lost my way while driving through last summer. We finally arrived at a well-remembered saddle, the divide between the north-draining Ash Canyon and the the southwest-draining Pennsylvania Canyon.

From the saddle at the north end of the drainage, we looked down Pennsylvania Canyon toward the Meadow Valley Mountains beyond Elgin. We couldn't really see the day’s work laid out in front of us because a bend in the canyon blocked our view, but we could see a long ways.

We dropped Floyd off at the saddle - he would sample his way down Pennsylvania Canyon on foot, about 4 miles of drainage. We then drove down the steep upper part of the canyon in two trucks, into the main part of the canyon, heading toward a juncture where the remaining three of us would split up. This juncture was the turnoff I looked for but didn't find last summer, the place where the main road leaves the canyon. From there, Stuart and I would walk and sample one drainage each; these were between 2 and 3 miles in length and drained toward toward the main road south of camp. Pete would take one truck toward camp, sampling along the way; he would then pick Stuart and I up later in the day. We would leave the second truck in the main wash of Pennsylvania Canyon close to the point where the three of us split up, and Floyd would pick it up and drive it to camp at the end of his day.

On our way down the canyon, the three of us turned up a side canyon to look at some prospects. We dinked around a couple old mining cabins, inspecting them inside and out, a required exploration pastime. One shack showed signs of fairly recent use, signs that were verified by dates on the most recent newspaper and a wall calendar. We took mental note of all the miscellaneous supplies and gear strewn here and there, and found a large spool of shiny-new, thick copper wire. Then we moved on, making our way to the point where we would part ways.

Is it the hill in the foreground, or the hill going out of the next wash?

We left the truck for Floyd in the main wash, that large sandy area in the foreground of the Google Earth image, and then we drove up the side road in the truck Stuart and I had used the day before. Either right at the turn out of the wash or a short way in, we came to a steep hill that the truck couldn't climb. Our driver, Pete, backed down, Stuart and I got out, and Pete tried running the truck at the hill to get up as much speed as possible. The back tires spun: the truck clearly wasn’t in four-wheel drive, even though the transfer case was in 4H and the hubs had been rotated from free to locked. After several attempts and some miscellaneous head-scratching, we finally determined that the driver’s side hub really wasn’t in the locked position; not only that, we couldn't persuade it to go in, even with the judicious use of a rock hammer or two. The truck didn't have operable 4WD.

After we discussed our options, Stuart eagerly went on ahead to traverse and sample his drainage, starting from the bottom of the hill instead of the more convenient, and half-mile-away, top of the hill. Pete and I were left to deal with two trucks, one that had a useful 4WD option, and one that didn't. We turned the funky truck around and started back up the main road in the wide and sandy Pennsylvania Canyon dry wash. Maybe we could trade trucks and leave Floyd with this one; afterall, he wouldn't need 4WD to get back to our starting point at the saddle.

Uh, no. As soon as we got very far into the sand of the sand wash - soft, roiled sand had constituted the road for the last hundred yards at least - we were stuck. Both trucks had come down through the sand just fine. The damaged truck had come down in two-wheel drive without operable four-wheel drive - it would not make the return journey upstream through the sand.

To be continued...

NOTE: Most names in these stories have been changed, on the advice of dubious council consulted friends and colleagues, to protect the innocent other geologists and related field-demented posers.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Indoor Flora and Fauna

At first, MOH and I saw this little spider-like being running around on one of the chocolate mint shoots, and we thought it was the teeniest, tiniest itsy-bitsy spider. To be fair, MOH saw this first, not me.
The web it was making when we first saw it.
Turns out these are several itty bitty spider mites, not the sorts of things one wants to have on plants.
Here's one of the little nasties up close; you can see not only the strange legs, but some of the little hairs coming out from its body.
Another view...
...and another enlargement. I googled "tiny green spider" and finally came up with photos of spider mites, at which point we went directly into eradication mode. These appear to be twospotted spider mites (Tetranychus urticae). Hopefully, they won't be too hard to kill. They suck the blood, I mean juices, of stems and leaves, and are generally undesirable.
Here's one hanging out on it's little web. Oh, so cute.