Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Update from the Lake: Hardly Any Snow

It's true that there hasn't been hardly any snow around the west since sometime before Xmas; nevertheless, when I was at the lake most recently, I went walking around looking for signs of winter. I found a few.
I found frozen drops hanging on pine needles.
Ice crystals above a background of thin snow in the shadows.
More frozen drops.
And more!
I became enamored of trying to get photos of the colored sparkles -- tiny prisms of light -- being given off by the frozen drops...
...and found I could really only do it with colored sparkles that were out of focus.

I could also see little glints and colored sparkles in the snow, but these were less spectacular and harder to photograph. Here's an explanation of the occurrence of these rainbow colors when seen in snow (with a guide on how to photograph them!).

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Across the West and Back Day 2: Over the Wasatch Range

Possibly I can now -- now that holidays are over -- get back to the western road trip MOH and I took last August, where, if you remember, we're still on day two, and about to head into American Fork Canyon south of Salt Lake City, Utah.
As a reminder, we're here on Utah S.R. 92.
As we approach, it appears that the canyon bisects an anticline, with bedding dipping north on the north side of the canyon and south on the south side.
Closer view of the south wall of American Fork Canyon.
South of the canyon and on the left side of the photo, the sequence of mostly Mississippian sediments is definitely dipping southward, according to the online, interactive geologic map of Utah. The section includes the Deseret Limestone, Humbug Formation, and Great Blue Limestone.
A closer view of the north canyon wall.
On the north side of the canyon, the geology is more complicated, but at least part of the section dips to the north.

As we head into the canyon, the road fairly suddenly becomes a very narrow two laner (? -- more like 1.5!!) and goes upward and into the mountains. Not knowing at all what to expect at this point, we hope we have made a good choice in not turning back toward SLC (you'll have to read the last installment to find out more about why we ended up in American Fork Canyon in the first place).

Nevertheless, despite the demanding road and my migraine, we see some good scenery (and awesome rock formations).

North Timpanogos Peak (or North Peak), rising to 11441 ft
(3487 m), reportedly underlain by the Bear Canyon Member of the Pennsylvanian Oquirrh Formation. 
Here we are a little farther on, looking back down South Fork toward American Fork Canyon.
Much of the drive was through fairly dense trees, often aspens. And, like I said, the road was fairly narrow, and it lacked a viable shoulder, making some of the curves and brief overlook sites rather startling.
We approach the summit, which is marked at 8060 ft.
More aspens.
Our first glimpse of Mt. Timpanogos, 11749 ft (3581 m), also in the Bear Canyon Member of the Oquirrh Formation.
Something not clear from most of these photos: it was a dark, cloudy day, always threatening rain. 
Roberts Horn, with the peak at 10993 ft (3351 m), same formation as before, looking about the same.
Roberts Horn is a true glacial horn, surrounded by several cirques: Primrose Cirque, with two cirque basins (Emerald Lake and Hidden Lakes basins) above the main cirque, lies to the south; the Timpanogos Basin to the north is an elevated cirque that above the Giant Staircase, a cirque and glacial valley.

At this point in our trip across the Wasatch, we've almost made it down S.R. 92 to our next road, and hopefully the last section of the trip report for Day 2.

View Day 2: Elko, NV to Vernal, UT in a larger map

Related Posts:
Across the West and Back Day 2: Are We Lost Yet?
Across the West and Back Day 2: A Hike along a Limestone Ridge
Across the West and Back Day 2: Across the Salt Lake Desert
Across the West and Back Day 2: A Side Trip in West Wendover
Across the West and Back Day 2: Pequop Summit to West Wendover
Across the West and Back Day 2: Looking for an Old Roadcut
Across the West and Back: The First Day
Intro to Recent Western Loop Trip

Monday, January 20, 2014

A Bit More about Toulon Peak

It was a hazy winter day when I pulled off I-80 at the Toulon exit, thinking that I'd find a dirt road and check out some tufa mounds and domes along the same Lahontan shoreline where this mound occurs, but about nine miles away (shoreline miles).
If you pull off at Toulon, take the Ragged Top dirt road, which heads NW then WNW toward a low pass in the Trinity Range south of Toulon Peak. Don't, in this case, head toward Toulon, the moth-eaten old mill seen just right of the sign.
I drove the road up the alluvial fan, passing by the distant tufa mounds, not finding a road that would take me directly to them. I finally turned onto a side road about 1.5 miles beyond the I-80 underpass, but realized I was quite a ways past the shoreline of interest.

I decided to, once again, test blog a photo from my new mobile device, using the Blogger App for Android, which is getting quite variable reviews. A major problem for me is that the app has no option to control placement of the photo in the post or the size of the photo (without going to the web version of my Blogger Dashboard, which works quite well).
I shot this photo with my phone, looking west. Toulon Peak is the high peak.
I shot this photo with my camera. At this point, neither photo has been modified by adding contrast or color, nor has either been sharpened.
My biggest disappointment was something I noticed over the holidays while in Alaska: the Blogger App will not give very many choices for location. In Alaska, I was given the choice of a very precise (and accurate) location that would have pinpointed my mom's house within a mile or less (more precision than she would have liked), or some nearby locations such as a local park and several commercial establishments. I wanted to just use "Anchorage, AK" as the location, but the app doesn't allow entering anything not on its commercially oriented list.

Near Toulon, within two miles of I-80, the Blogger App could only give me the location of "The Americas", not nearly close enough for my purposes. I was within range of the Verizon 3G network, had no problem uploading the post and publishing it, but the app didn't offer me a way of indicating I was anywhere within the states, within Nevada, or close to Lovelock, let alone near Toulon. I'm pretty sure that the #NSA would have been able to locate me, and no doubt Google Maps knew where I was, although I didn't think to check it out -- I was in a bit of a hurry, trying to outrun the setting sun.
Here's a version of the phone photo, cropped to more closely match the camera shot, and with added contrast and slightly adjusted color.
And here's my enhanced camera shot.
The hills in the foreground, all the way back to the white hill capped by orange-brown and dark brown rock, are composed of relatively young volcanic rocks, which are generally listed on state maps as being within the 6 to 17 Ma range. The white section of rocks, called Tts on the Pershing County map, probably correlates with the Esmeralda Formation to the south and the Elko Formation way to the northeast. These are the early to more recent basin-filling sediments, often tuffaceous, sometimes diatomaceous, that began filling basins just after the start of basin-and-range faulting and basin opening. These are typically capped by young ash-flow tuffs, young andesites or basaltic andesites, and basalts. It's unclear to me what the capping dark brown and orange-brown rock is from this distance.

Toulon Peak appears to be underlain mostly by young volcanic rocks, also shown as being within the 6 to 17 Ma range, although Jurassic-Triassic sediments and metasediments of the Auld Lang Syne Group and some Cretaceous granodiorite are shown on the county and state geologic maps, mostly south (left) of Toulon Peak.
A Google Earth view of the area, as seen from the same location I stood at when taking my photos. The white section shows better in this view.
Here, I've cropped the Google Earth view to more closely match my photos. We can see more detail in this view, because Google Earth isn't plagued by inversion haze and smog.
The geology is still somewhat obscure, but it is a little clearer (especially upon examination of Google Earth) that the units in the foreground are probably the same as the units back into the middle ground, where a dark brown volcanic layer overlies a white unit, which overlies an orange-brown unit, which in turns overlies the lower white section. In some lighting, and on Google Earth, at least two dark bands show up -- these may be basaltic sills (similar to some down in the Gilbert mining district near Tonopah), or they may be vitrophyres within young ash-flow tuffs.
The volcanic section described above, as seen in Google Earth.
Of course, this is mostly speculation until field checked!

As it turns out, this is the location of the Ragged Top caldera, about which I could find very little online, but which I was just clued to by a commenter who mapped in the area in 1987. I'm listing a few references about the area below. What I found was that the caldera is about 12 million years old (Masterson, 1981). The same source lists a 23 Ma age date for an obsidian nodule on the west side of the range, indicating that some older volcanic rocks (in the 17 to 34 Ma range) occur in the area. Age dating may be complicated by hydrothermal alteration in the region.

It appears from the county map and Google Earth that the caldera is located mostly south of my photos, beginning just south (left) of the white rocks described above, in what is mapped as Twt (welded tuff) on the county map. The caldera, however, could be located in the younger Tr around Toulon Peak.

A Few References:
Harpel, G., 1980, Geology and tungsten mineralization of a portion of the Ragged Top Mining District, Pershing County, Nevada [citation only]: University of Nevada, Reno, M.S. thesis.

Johnson, M.G., 1977, Geology and mineral deposits of Pershing County, Nevada [front pages only]: NBMG Bull. 89.

Masterson, W.D., IV, 1981, Epithermal gold mineralization in the Velvet District, Pershing County, Nevada [entire pdf]: University of Texas at Austin, M.A. thesis.

Thole, J.T., 1991, Ragged Top Caldera; geology and geochemistry of a Miocene volcanic center, Pershing County, Nevada [citation only]: Washington State University, M.S. thesis.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Road Song: The Highwayman

The Highwaymen: Highwayman (lyrics)
Album: Highwayman, 1985

This song--like this one posted earlier--reminds me of "the road" and of life on the road as an exploration and recon geologist. It also reminds me of my Dad: because one of his favorite artists, Willie Nelson, is one of the singers; because of the dam building and Boulder Dam reference (even though the building of that dam was before his time); and because he'll always be around (at least for me).

Here's a second version (essentially the studio version, although the accompanying video references to "starship" don't match my Star Trek ideas of what starships really are and will be).

Monday, January 13, 2014

2013 Top Posts at LFD

...and, like last year, a few more. And to quote myself from last year:
Because of the vagaries of stat reporting (in this case, by Google Analytics), I'm listing both the top ten posts for the year (in large font, with respective Top Ten number), and the top two posts for every month (non-ten-rated posts are in a smaller font).
I've done the same this year, except that in 2013 there were so few posts during the last three months of the year, that I've only listed one each for October, November, and December.

And so, the top 10 posts, plus 14 extra:













Friday, January 10, 2014

Where in the West: Dean and Burke Channels; Thunder Mountain and Tzeetsaytsul Peak, B.C.

Dean Channel on the left, Burke Channel on the right.
The January 2013 Where in the West was won by Ron Schott, not only for finding the names of the two major fjords shown in this photo, but also for identifying the mountain near the head of Burke Channel, which has two major peaks: Thunder Mountain, the highest, and Tzeetsaytsul Peak, somewhat lower. Ron also came up with the name of northern branch of Burke Channel, known as North Bentinck Arm.

I didn't know the location of this challenge when I posted it, but having seen it from the air, I knew it was between Anchorage and Seattle, that it was south of a more-or-less north-south-trending strait, and that it was much closer to Seattle than Anchorage and probably south of SE Alaska. This general knowledge gave me an advantage over anyone else trying to discover the location. I homed in on the location and found most of the names of the fjords and mountains on Google Earth (in labeled photos), but wasn't sure if the names were correct, so checked them on Wikipedia and GeoBC.
Google Earth image almost identical to my first photo. Dean Channel is on the left; Burke Channel is on the right.
It's true that the snow and clouds in the photos I shot complicated finding the location!
A photo zoomed in on Burke Channel.
Google Earth image with Burke Channel centered,
similar to the previous photo. 
Labouchere Channel splits to the left (north), connecting Burke and Dean Channels; the North Bentinck Arm heads straight away from us; and South Bentinck Arm goes off southward, barely visible in this view.
Zoomed in photo with the mountain in question in the distance.
It was  a little harder to get the right angle on Google Earth to zoom in on and identify the mountain that stood out in my view from the airplane, and it was hard from the photo to tell which side of the Burke Channel and North Bentinck Arm the mountain really was on.
Google Earth view, with the North Bentinck Arm of Burke Channel on the left and the South Bentinck Arm heading southward to the right.
The mountain really stands out in the Google Earth view (above). It's really on the north (left) side of North Bentinck Arm, and it has three smaller mountains nearly centered in front of it (west of it).
Google Earth image: Thunder Mountain is the highest peak in the center; Tzeetsaytsul Peak is the next highest peak to the left (north).
And there we have it: several fjords carved by glaciers, now partly (mostly) inundated with water, and one mountain with two main peaks. Thunder Mountain is highest at 2664 m (8740 ft); Tzeetsaytsul Peak comes in at 2575 m (8448 ft). Apparently, both Thunder Mountain and Tzeetsaytsul Peak were named for the thundering sound created by the movement of Tzeetsaytsul glacier.
Google Earth view of Tzeetsaytsul Glacier on the east side of Tzeetsaytsul Peak and Thunder Mountain; north is to the right.
Read about the Bella Coola area (Bella Coola is at the head of North Bentinck Arm) at the Bella Coola Blog.

A few Geological References:
Gehrels, George E., and Nevine D. Boghossian, 2000, Reconnaissance geology and U-Pb geochronology of the west flank of the Coast Mountains between Bella Coola and Prince Rupert, coastal British Columbia: Geological Soc America, Special Papers, v. 343, p. 61-76. Abstract at Refdoc.fr.

Mahoney, J. B., et al, 2002, Structural geology of eastern Bella Coola map area, southwest British Columbia: Geological Survey of Canada, Current Research, 2002-A10, 9 p.

Smith, D. J., and Desloges, J. R., 2000, Little Ice Age history of Tzeetsaytsul Glacier, Tweedsmuir Provincial Park, British Columbia: Géographie physique et Quaternaire, v. 54, no. 2, p. 135-141.

Stowell, Harold Hilton, and William C. MacClelland, eds., 2000, Tectonics of the Coast Mountains, Southeastern Alaska and British Columbia: Geological Society of America, Special Papers v. 343, 389 p.

A few Geographical Links:
Dean Channel location - at GeoBC

Fitz Hugh Sound - Wikipedia

Fitz Hugh sound location - at GeoBC

Labouchere Channel location - at GeoBC

North Bentinck Arm location - at GeoBC

South Bentinck Arm location - at GeoBC

Thunder Mountain location - at GeoBC

Tzeetsaytsul Peak location - at GeoBC

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

My Travels in 2013 (A Belated Travel Summary)

I apparently haven't participated in the Year of Travel Meme since 2010, possibly because I traveled back and forth across the same old roads in 2011, 2012, and 2013 -- or possibly I was just too busy at the holiday time of year to get that kind of blog post together. This year, Evelyn Mervine got her Year of Travel 2013 post up right at the end of the year; I'm getting mine up before the end of January, 2014. What follows is a brief summary.

January: Returned from a trip to Alaska.
Spruce on snow.
February: Visited Unionville, NV, in scenic Buena Vista Valley, stopping to take a photo of a cabin that purportedly once belonged to Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain).
Old cabin.
March: Visited Leach Hot Spring in Grass Valley, NV, and Kyle Hot Spring in Buena Vista Valley.
Leach Hot Springs.
At Kyle Hot Spring, looking across Buena Vista Valley toward Unionville.
April: Drove within sight of Wheeler Peak in eastern NV.
Wheeler Peak seen from Highway 50.
May: Drove by and contemplated the badlands near Rye Patch Dam several times.
Looking west from I-80 just south of Rye Patch Dam.
June: Drove several parts of old Highway 40 in Nevada, including this one near Humboldt House:
Old 40 looking northeast between Humboldt House and Imlay.
July: Crossed the Humboldt River, drove on the Applegate Trail past Haystack Butte, and visited Sulphur, NV, host to large piles of sulfur and scattered old junk.
Sulfur at Sulphur.
August: August was the month in which MOH and I rapidly toured parts of five western states. I blogged about the trip a little, but not as much as I hoped. Besides places already mentioned, we stopped briefly at the North Rim.
Distant view of the San Francisco volcanic field from the North Rim,
with the cherty Kaibab Limestone in the foreground.
After so much travel in August, I apparently didn't go anywhere until the last day of October.

November: Family matters took me to Alaska, where I took very few non-family-related photos.
Mt. Susitna. A little more about the "Sleeping Lady," as she is often called here,
and a bit about the Sleeping Lady brewpub here.
December: Another trip to points north.
Mt. St. Helens, Spirit Lake, and the Toutle River.
It is, perhaps, a little too late for this post to be considered part of a 2013 travel meme, but if you haven't posted a travel compilation for the year yet, feel free to take my cue and give yourself til the end of January!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Where in the West: January 2014

I won't mention exactly how long it's been since I posted a Where in the West (or the one and only Where in the North), because I don't have the means to look it up right now (I'm writing this without an internet connection). Suffice it to say that it's been quite a while.

The photos below are of snowy, mountainous country with fjords and -- for additional location-enhancing info -- with a particularly high mountain in the background. As I write this, I know only the general location: somewhere between Anchorage and Seattle.

Where in the West (WITW) always features a location in the western part of the northern hemisphere. Be the first to identify the location -- hopefully the fjords and a mountain or two have names -- and if you can find out a bit about the geology (hint: glacial?), all the better.
Two fjords.
Zooming in on the fjord on the right in the first photo, from a slightly different angle, with a fairly tall mountain near its head.
Zooming in on the high mountain, slightly off-center to the left, with the fjord now nearly out of the picture on the left.
This should be easy to find, and sorry, no prizes.