Thursday, October 4, 2012

Accretionary Wedge #50: The Fire at Field Camp

I had been thinking about doing a repost for this wedge—Accretionary Wedge #50: Field Camp/Trip Moments, being hosted by Evelyn Mervine over at Georneys—but realizing that the wedge is supposed to be about *one* fun moment, song, etc, put me into a tiny bit of a quandary  For me, field camp was a long, long time ago. By and large, many of the specifics of my memories of field camp have faded, and some (many?) of the specifics really shouldn't be reported online because they involve other people (plus or minus myself) doing things that shouldn't be reported without the permission of those involved, or shouldn't, perhaps, be reported at all. Not that we were the rowdiest bunch of field camp attendees of all time, or anything; I'm sure we weren't. As for fun field *trip* moments...well, there have been many, and a lot of those fall into the same category of things NSFO (not safe for online). I'll leave you to your imaginations. Or maybe I should just post sometime about shooting and rock throwing contests I've won out in the field...

Back to field camp. One fun or memorable moment or time [there, I've done it: used "fun" as an adjective three times now!] was at our last mapping project in the Swisshelm Mountains of Arizona, helping to fight a range or brush fire that had broken out across part of the map area. It was an exciting thing for a new field geologist to experience; at the same time, there was a certain tension involved: would we succeed? would our map area be ruined? (there were good and bad points to this latter possibility); would we get burned or injured in anyway? For the latter consideration, I think we were mostly in the invincible category at the time and probably didn't think very much about the danger to ourselves or about our overall safety, which was not treated as a huge deal back then the way it is now.

I was mostly involved in shoveling dirt onto hot spots around the edges, and in helping to move water containers to the lines. It was hot and smokey, the visibility was low, and my memory is tinged with orange. Memorable aspects of the day: we joined together in a common cause, we were fed dinner by ranchers also involved in the fire fighting, and the fire was stopped. I'm not sure whether we really cared that much about the range fire, at least not as much as the local ranchers or other fire fighters did, and we made jokes about hoping that the fire would at least burn down the cholla forest located on one of the east-west spurs of the north-south mountain—hoping at long last to be able to map that part of the spur, or to at least be able to walk through the area without massive attacks from stray cholla balls.

No such luck, though. The fire burned through the forest, blackening the cholla and dropping cholla balls all over the area, if anything making the forest more impassable than before.

Afterward, our mapping continued, under what turned out to be more difficult, not less difficult, circumstances: The limestone units and contacts in the upper hills had been reddened and obscured by fire retardant dropped from bombers.

P.S. There is some confusion between jumping cholla and teddy bear cholla, with the former being more likely to grab onto you and being restricted to the deep southwest (California and Arizona deserts), and the latter being somewhat likely to grab onto you and being found as far north as the Gilbert mining district northwest of Tonopah, NV.

This may be a jumping cholla rather than a teddy bear cholla, judging from the pictures shown at the previous USDA links. Keep this video in mind if you ever hear of anyone "flaming" chollas. It might be a case of revenge.

UPDATE 5Oct12: Possibly we stayed here, at Faraway Ranch. The location looks good, the view of the area on Google Maps looks okay, although I can't tell if the buildings are right, and the pond might be gone.


Dan McShane said...

I've been in that garden show in the youtube with my then two year daughter. She so much wanted to touch the cacti.

Silver Fox said...

It's always an "ouch" moment. Tweezers and pliers are good to have handy.