Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Geological Mysteries (Of the Book Kind)

So far, in the Frankie McFarlane mystery series by Susan Cummins Miller, I've read these books, listed by title, publication date, series number; the ones I haven't read yet are in parentheses.

Hoodoo, 2008, #4
Quarry, 2006, #3
Death Assemblage, 2002, #1
Detachment Fault, 2004 #2
(Fracture, scheduled 2011, #5)

In the Em Hansen mystery series by Sarah Andrews, I've read these books, by title, publication date, series number (ones I haven't read are in parentheses):

(Tensleep, 1994, #1)
(A Fall in Denver, 1995, #2)
(Mother Nature, 1997, #3)
An Eye For Gold, 2000, #6
Only Flesh and Bones, 1998, #4
Bone Hunter, 1999, #5
Fault Line, 2002, #7
Killer Dust, 2003, #8
Earth Colors, 2004, #9
Dead Dry, 2005, #10

I read An Eye for Gold first, after the author gave a talk about her books at a GSN meeting in Reno a few years back. I've followed on with several other books by both authors more recently, but not always in the correct order. Reading either of these series in order provides continuity with regard to the heroines' lives, but otherwise isn't necessary (though I do recommend it). At the moment, I'm enjoying the Frankie McFarlane stories more than the Em Hansen stories: the geologists seem more realistic to me, and the books seem to have less of an emphasis on romance than than in the Em Hansen books I've read so far. But I recommend all of them!

I'll try to update my reading of these books on this post - if I remember!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Hat Creek The Movie

Following on from yesterday's post about Hat Creek, here's a short, amateur movie filmed on site.

Many, though not all, of the above-water sequences were slowed down by the director-producer of the movie. Credits are at the end.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Three Years Ago Today: Hat Creek

I'm quite busy these days, so I didn't post anything about Hat Creek for World Water Day. Instead, I'll go ahead and post this already standing pre-post. If anyone wants to find out more about water and rivers than the small amount of information written here, I suggest reading posts by Anne Jefferson at Highly Allochthonous, and be sure to check out this video developed by Little River Research & Design. [What I'm busy at is something I can't talk about (as usual), so it won't appear in this month's Accretionary Wedge - the due date is today in case *you* want write for The Wedge.]
Three years ago today, in the middle of a rainstorm turning later to snow, MOH and I went to the Cave campground, located near Old Station, California, right across Highway 89 from the turnoff to the Subway Cave lava tube. We wandered around in the rain, spending most of our time along the banks of Hat Creek, which runs on the west side of the highway. I recently conferred with Anne Jefferson and her students about the picture above, wondering if any part of the picture shows a hydraulic jump. The answer is yes, the whitewater marks locations of hydraulic jumps, in this case several small ones, no large ones. [Photo credit: MOH.]

I learned a lot more, too. We can see a "long tongue of high subcritical Froude" along the right bank. [By convention, the right bank is the one on the right side when you are looking downstream, in this case the bank closest to us.] The subcritical flow regime is indicated by the standing waves just beyond the irregular-looking whitewater in the near foreground. There is also subcritical flow upstream of the log in the center, indicated by bow waves upstream from the log.
Not knowing exactly what I was looking at three years ago, other than a very nice, swiftly flowing stream, I almost missed getting a closer shot of the bow waves, which can be seen here amidst the raindrops. I can identify three waves in this view for sure, possibly a couple others.
And now, looking straight downstream just right of the central log, I've managed to freeze the water motion just above one of the small rapids. The smooth water flows and drops into the whitewater.
Same view with the water action not frozen by the camera. At least two of the bow waves come over toward the center of these two nearly identical photos.
This is a view of a log across Hat Creek; the log was also seen downstream in the last two photos. [Photo credit: MOH.]
This is what Hat Creek looks like in the upstream direction from about the same location: smooth water along the right bank in the foreground, more irregular and choppy-looking whitewater or riffles along the left bank and farther upstream, then more smooth water beyond that just before the stream goes out of view. The rain made the grass stand out, and brought out the reddish tones of the dominantly Ponderosa pine forest.
The region north of Lassen Peak is volcanic, and right at Hat Creek the bedrock is basalt. Here the trees are growing amongst basalt boulders or small outcrops.
By the time we left, it was back to winter again, and we drove away through mostly untracked snow.

For some detail about the isotope hydrology of the region:

Rose, T.P., and Davisson, M.L., 1996, Radiocarbon in Hydrologic Systems Containing Dissolved Magmatic Carbon Dioxide: Science,,Vol. 273, no. 5280, p. 1367 - 1370.

Rose, T.P., Davisson, M.L., and Criss, R.E., 1996, Isotope hydrology of voluminous cold springs in fractured rock from an active volcanic region, northeastern California: Journal of Hydrology, Vol. 179, Issues 1-4, p. 207-236.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Lodge at Matanuska and Back Again

We were finally done with our afternoon lunch, so we walked out onto the front porch of the Long Rifle Lodge, ready to leave. The Open sign, hung in the window of the bar, still looked welcoming - especially when a quick survey of our outdoor surroundings showed limited visibility through snow.
A view of the hillside across the street from the lodge - yes, snow is still falling, though it's not falling sideways. Turn around and go back in? We didn't.
Gas is available here, one kind, one price (didn't check it).
A bear watches over our imminent departure from the roof ridgeline.
A sweet blue-eyed dog says goodbye.
The trip back down the Glenn Highway was nearly the same as the trip up - though it seemed faster - until we got to about Sutton and Granite Creek, where we started to see sunlight shining beneath clouds on the southwestern horizon. Here, the sun lights up part of the Talkeetna Range north of the highway.
The setting sun creates a yellow-orange glow to the south as we approach the confluence of the Matanuska and Knik Rivers.
While crossing the Knik, we had a distant view of Sleeping Lady to the west.

We drove past Eklutna, not stopping, and back to our starting point somewhere in Los Anchorage.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

An Alaskan Lunch Overlooking the Glacier

After our long, seemingly endless drive up the Glenn Highway, we finally arrived the Long Rifle Lodge. We pulled in, parked right next to the entrance, and went inside - where we were welcomed by this testy character, who was thankfully behind a railing.
One great viewing spot for glacier watching is the windowed room beyond the shadowed bear. We were the only ones at the lodge when we arrived (besides our hosts), so we had our pick of tables. I was all for sitting at one of the far tables overlooking the snowed-out glacier, but others were chilly.
So we took a table right next to this fine wood stove.
I went outside. Down at the corner of this second-floor porch, you can see the glacier - on a clear day, not on this day.
Another porch corner has good viewing, and a telescope to boot. The Matanuska Glacier would be in plain view beyond the telescope and above the trees, were it not for all the snow and low clouds.
Back inside, we spent some time admiring this great ammonite fossil. This specimen could be from several local formations including the Cretaceous Matanuska Formation, which is known to contain ammonites and other marine fossils along with some plant fossils (Merritt, 1985, p. 45-46).
The inside of the lodge has its walls and empty floor spaces filled with Alaskan artwork, maps, historic paraphernalia, old rifles, and mounted animals.
We got ready for lunch: some of us started with hot chocolate, some with Alaskan ale of one flavor or another.
After lunch, on the way out, I looked into the bar area and spotted this bear having a bottled beer.
What kind of beer? A Big Sky Brewing Moose Drool (from Montana, not Alaska). Wonder if the bear drinks anything else - will try to remember to check that out next time!
And because today is St. Patrick's Day, I've added a photo of a Northwest Coast art piece with a little green in it. I'm sorry I didn't get the artist's name or location.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Snowy Trip to Matanuska

Early last week, we decided we couldn't wait around any longer for clear weather to suddenly appear, and the forecast of scattered snow showers on Monday sounded better than a forecast of numerous snow showers for the next day. So we bundled ourselves up and headed toward Matanuska Glacier, not knowing if we'd make it. (Well, some of us bundled up. One of the Real Alaskans was totally unbundled.)
The view out the window looked like this.
The Knik River on a dark, snowy day looked like this.
After stopping briefly in Palmer to get snacks and coffee...

By the way, don't ever get coffee at the Fred Meyer in Palmer. Go somewhere else. Worst coffee barring Alcan coffee that I've ever had. We survived and escaped with our lives.

...we pulled over at the Matanuska River overlook, seen more clearly on a sunny day in my Matanuska River post. The river was frozen solid, and a ground blizzard was blowing the snow across the river in sheets. The ground blizzard also obscurred the road, and snow continued to fall from heavy clouds.
I was fascinated by the frozen river, which was often covered with blowing snow and snow dunelets, and which occasionally had a visible channel of running water. The ice was often a light turquoise color, reminding me of glacial ice. Photo taken near Sutton.
Another shot of the frozen Matanuska River: turquoise ice and white snow. Photo taken near the confluence of the Kings River with the Matanuska.
While coming into Chickaloon, we saw a spot of sun - exactly one small spot through otherwise dense, dark clouds. The sun lasted for a couple minutes, then went back to hiding until late in the day.
The road beyond Chickaloon was white. This is one of the clearer moments. I thought we might have to turn around, so I took random pictures of white nothing in the distance, prepared to say the pictures were of a white glacier in snow. We went on. I was riding with Real Alaskans.
Long Lake in the snow, with a homey-looking cabin on one side. At the next lake up, Wiener Lake, we saw an ice fishing shack, and on the way back, we saw some ice fishing in progress. Great day for it, I hear.
After about two and a half hours of sideways snow, ground blizzards, and whiteouts, we arrived at our destination, the Long Rifle Lodge. We proceeded into the lodge for warmth and a good lunch.

Matanuska River photo locations

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Mud Flats in Winter

While I was in Alaska last week, we drove down to Girdwood in hopes of breaking out from under some persistent, usually snowing clouds. Our find-the-sun attempt really didn't work, however. In fact, while in Alaska, I saw only one really clear day, a day set aside for family.

Going to Girdwood involves driving the Seward Highway (partly Alaska S.R. 1) south out of Anchorage. The highway follows the railroad along the north side of Turnagain Arm.
We came into view of the Turnagain Arm mud flats near Potter Marsh (currently a snow-covered, frozen marsh), and spotted these oval, sub-rounded ice fragments sitting on mud covered by a thin sheet of water. The tide was clearly down - was it going out or coming in?
A bit of mud flat shows itself between Potter Creek and McHugh Creek - mud, water, and mountains across the arm are all gray, making for a particularly wintry look.
We made our usual stop at Beluga Point, a good place check the disposition of the tide. The wind was howling up the arm toward the east, enough to make for a penetratingly cold experience. In fact, I was the only one who chose to get out of the car (the Real Alaskans knew better), and after doing that once, I didn't do it again until we came to a heated and enclosed espresso place in Girdwood.

The tide was going out, though you can't really tell from my photo; the water was moving downstream to the west, with surface waves from the wind breaking to the east.
Mud flats near Indian Creek, looking up Turnagain Arm to the east.
Mud flats between Bird Creek and Bird Point, looking across Turnagain Arm at the Kenai Mountains. We can see two relatively large stream incisions in the mountains on the left side of the photo beyond the low, tree-covered land, the tip of which is Bird Point. The valley just above Bird Point was carved by an unnamed drainage; the larger valley on the far left was carved by Sawmill and Slate Creeks. These drainages are U-shaped in their upper reaches, and V-shaped below about 500 feet.
Partly frozen mud flats, with the lowland of Bird Point in the middle background, in front of the steep, glacially shaped northern front of the Kenai Mountains.
Near shore, between Bird Point and Girdwood, angular to sub-rounded fragments of ice float on the muddy water of Turnagain Arm. Much of this thin ice originated as pancake ice.
Snowy and partly frozen mud flats with piles of chaotic ice blocks, near Girdwood, looking across Turnagain Arm toward the large, U-shaped mouth of Seattle Creek.
Snow-covered and frozen, nearshore mud flats with strange ice forms that look like mini-hoodoos. This photo was taken near Girdwood, and looks east across the below sea-level channel formed by Glacier Creek. Through the fog, you can vaguely see in-use power lines, along with dead trees left from the 1964 Good Friday earthquake, when the land sank and salt water flooded the area, killing the trees.

Turnagain Arm photo locations

The same mud flats in summer.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Glacier in Snow and through Trees

We did finally make it up to Matanuska Glacier this week, through heavy snow, and occasional near whiteout conditions. The view from the Long Rifle Lodge made the glacier look like a white cow in snow.
A close up view of the glacier, as seen through trees – probably black spruce.
And just in case you don't believe me, two nearly identical views taken on a sunny late February day in 2007.