Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Roberts Mountains Viewed with and without Smoke

These photo pairs of the Roberts Mountains were taken in early May and early August from not quite identical points along the Tonkin road in what amounts to the southern part of Pine Valley in north-central Nevada.
Roberts Creek Mountain is the highest peak in the first photo pair.
The rocky foreridge in the second photo pair is underlain by the Ordovician Eureka Quartzite, with various Ordovician through Devonian carbonate formations above the quartzite and various Cambrian through Ordovician formations below it.
A little geology.
Yeah, it was quite smoky when I drove through last week — and probably still is — with this particular batch of smoke coming primarily from the Ferguson fire in Yosemite.

Photos taken 1May2018 and 4Aug2018.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Winnemucca to Hwy 395 north of Susanville, Part 1

We began our northern Nevada road trip about a month ago at this blog post about Sulphur, Nevada, a real ghost town located more or less a third of the way along our route. To continue with the trip, we’ll take a step back for a re-start in Winnemucca (The Griddle, above is a good place to stop for breakfast or lunch), though we could just as easily start somewhere to the east, say Elko, although the trip then would become longer. Our goal will be to make it, eventually, to the NV-CA state line west of the Smoke Creek Desert, and from there to U.S. Route 395 north of Susanville. We'll get to 395 by way of a fairly obscure dirt road that will take us from the Smoke Creek Desert in Nevada to a nearly non-place called Viewland, CA. See my Google Maps plot of this route, along with photo locations and other points of interest along the way. I'll add points to the map as our trip progresses.

The Jungo Road (Nevada S.R. 49 and 48) will be our gateway to the Black Rock Desert and points west, and to get on the Jungo Road we'll take U.S. Route 95 north out of the center of Winnemucca a very short distance, where we'll turn left onto the Jungo Road almost immediately after crossing the Humboldt River. Right at the Winnemucca convention center, essentially our starting point, you’ll note a sign stating that the road north (U.S. 95) is part of the Winnemucca-to-the-Sea Highway.

If you're inclined to travel northward instead of westward, have a look at my 2010 Oregon Trip Series, a series dedicated to road tripping over a portion of the Winnemucca-to-the-Sea Highway and other roads as well.
Lo and behond, the Jungo Road starts out paved as it leaves Winnemucca. That’s Blue Mountain nearly straight down the road.
At this point, just about 6 miles into our journey, we get a good view of Little Tabletop Mountain, which is a basalt-capped mesa south of the road. MOH and I used to call these hills “The Pancakes.” From the south side, they look a little like a tilted stack of pancakes.
"The Pancakes" from the south, as seen in Google Earth.

It’s difficult to get a photo of these hills when driving 80 mph on I-80, unless you happen to be sitting in the left passenger backseat, so I resorted to a G.E. view.
Before long, the paved portion of the Jungo Road ends; it becomes a magnesium-chloride treated road...a magged road. I figured the magged road condition would extend all the way out to the Hycroft gold mine, but I forgot that they are not operating with a large crew like they were a few years ago when the mine was active. Hycroft is still running their heap-leach operation while testing the feasibility of operating a sulfide leach pad, but the large crews are a thing of the past, at least for now (see Hycroft’s January 10th press release [pdf] for more about sulfide leach testing).
Here we are at the same locality as the previous photo, about 9 miles west of Winnemucca, looking back towards Winnemucca and the Sonoma Range.
The magged part of the Jungo Road currently ends at the turnoff to the Blue Mountain geothermal field, aka Faulkner 1, which is just on the west side of Blue Mountain. Magging prevents dust, so the road is dusty to the west. One good thing about dust: you have a better chance of seeing that someone is heading toward you. A bad thing about dust: breathing it, of course. Magged roads have one particular disadvantage: they are very slippery when wet, almost like driving on greased snot!

Although the sign at the turnoff to the geothermal field says "NGP Blue Mountain 1 LLC," the power plant is now owned by AltaRock (as far as I can tell). The field was discovered during gold exploration conducted in the 1980s or 90s.
I often stop on a small-looking playa near Jungo—it seems to be a good spot for a pit stop, being about 1 coffee from Winnemucca, and when it’s hot, which it was on June 15th when these photos were taken, it’s definitely time for more hydration. It turns out that this playa is the southern part of the larger Desert Valley playa, which extends 46 miles north-northeast from about 6 miles south of Jungo, all the way to the Quinn River about half way between Winnemucca and Denio. Desert Valley is the 10-mile-wide basin between the Jackson Mountains on the west and the Slumbering Hills (a mountain range) on the east. The Sleeper gold mine was named for it's location in the Slumbering Hills (and also because it was a "sleeper?").
Here we are coming into Jungo, which is a railroad siding located at or near the junction of the Jungo Road with the Bottle Creek Road, which heads up toward the Bottle Creek mining district and the main part of Desert Valley. The well-bedded rocks in the hills ahead of us—a northward continuation of the Antelope Range or a southern part of the Jackson Mountains—are part of the Jungo Terrane, a thick pile of turbiditic shales with sandstone and limestone interbeds that were deposited in Late Triassic to Early or Middle Jurassic time (Luddington et al, 1996 and Crafford, 2007).
Not recognizing in the moment the exact location of Jungo, I took a photo of the junction with the dirt road that comes up with Imlay. If you happen to start this trek in Imlay, you'll cross the Humboldt River just above Rye Patch Reservoir, and you'll pass by Haystack Butte, a geographic marker that can be seen from the Applegate Trail.
I don’t do it often, but on this trip I went ahead and took a couple photos of two of the old mining cabins at Mandalay Spring. I’m not sure why these shacks are present (besides the spring) or what era they date from. I’ve been inside at least one of them—for some reason the entire enterprise struck me as depressing (maybe it was the peeling wallpaper or strings of disintegrating clothes; maybe it was just me).
This cabin is located a little closer to the spring and at about the same elevation; whereas the first cabin sits up above overlooking the spring.
I took this photo at one of the first spots to pull over and get a good look at the Black Rock Desert, which on this day was partly obscured by summer haze. Black Rock Point, for which the desert was named, is a small, dark hill just to the left of the road as it points off toward the vast playa; a closer view of the point can be seen here. The little hill in the foreground is part of a Pleistocene Lake Lahontan shoreline. There was another obvious shoreline just 200 m east of this smaller one.
We'll end this part of our trek at Pulpit Rock.
Google Maps location map.

Selected References:
Crafford, A.E.J., 2007, Geologic Map of Nevada: U.S. Geological Survey Data Series 249, 1 CD-ROM, 46 p., 1 plate.

Ludington, Steve, McKee, E.H., Cox, D.P., Moring, B.C., and Leonard, K.R., 1996, Pre-Tertiary geology of Nevada, Chapter 4 in Singer, D.A., ed., An analysis of Nevada's metal-bearing mineral resources: Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology Open-File Report 96-2, p. 4.1-4.17, 1 sheet, scale 1:1,000,000.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Road Song: Stairway to Heaven

Led Zeppelin: Stairway to Heaven (lyrics)
Album: Led Zeppelin IV, 1971

I've don't often think of this song as a road song, but it does mention "the road" twice and "two paths" once, so is definitely a road song by any definition. It's also a gold song, for any of you miners out there.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Things You Find in the Field: Sulfur at Sulphur

I recently drove across northern Nevada from Winnemucca to Gerlach to the NV-CA state line in the upper reaches of Smoke Creek, and while the temperature was holding steady at about 89°F, I stopped at Sulphur to take a few quick pictures. It turns out that Sulphur is a bigger place than I had realized on my several stops through the area, and so I spent a little extra time there.

In the first photo, you can see the roof of a building on the ground—this roof has been photographed many times and is easy to find on the internet—and you can see a well-built cabin. I'm not sure where exactly the cabin came from, because it, and the sign, were not present the last time I drove through the area, which was last May (2017). Although I didn't get photos last year showing this precise area, I do have photos from 2013 without sign or cabin, and Google also currently shows the area without either.
The sign says the town was at least 400 acres in size (about 0.625 square miles), and that claims for sulfur were first filed in 1875.
I wandered over to take a closer look at the "new" cabin, which has bars on doors and windows to deter entry.
An interior shot.

Then, having ventured farther than I expected when I first stopped, I decided to brave the slightly above average temperature to wander around. I used only my out-of-date phone for these shots; the photos turned out better than expected. 
Looking east toward the barely active Hycroft gold mine.
Upside down washer?
Remains of a root cellar.
Looking west toward the Black Rock Desert—not visible for the raised railroad bed—we can see the many remains of Sulphur in the foreground and the Granite Range near Gerlach (left) and the Calico Mountains (right) in the blueish background.
Sulfur at Sulphur!
Old bed springs.
Partly shot up old stove.
And then it was time to move on. I had 44 miles to get to Gerlach, and many more miles beyond that.

Strangely enough, very few of the Nevada or western ghost town sites have any information about the place; those with the most info are (1) the Sulphur and Sulphur Mining District wikis by the Friends of the Black Rock Desert, (2) the Black Rock Explorers Society's page on Sulphur, (3) a blurb at the Winnemucca Convention & Visitor's Authority, and (4) an article at Nevada Magazine. I'm not sure who has added the new sign and moved in the "new" old cabin (actually, the signs there are marked National Conservation Lands, part of BLM, and the sign says "Funded by the Hycroft Mining Corporation") but upon my Google search for new sign at Sulphur Nevada, the 6th hit is Zillow reporting it has 0 homes for sale in Sulphur, NV. I'll henceforth be excluding Sulphur from my new home searches!


Tuesday, May 29, 2018

#fieldworkfail BINGO

This space has been fairly quiet this year, and while I'd like to blame my lack of posting on work, the truth is that most of the blame falls on ye olde personal life, which has been in a dumpster since early November. But rather than going into the sordid details here, I'm going to post on something that was big on Twitter a couple months ago, thereby continuing my present trend of running behind (on the blog — thankfully not elsewhere).

Yes, that's it: #fieldworkfail BINGO. I present an unadorned, unplayed BINGO card:
It was Kat Black who presented this Bingo card to fieldwork-Twitter (largely but not entirely composed of biologists and geologists of various flavors), back on the 30th of March. Most of the entire ensuing Twitter convo can be read here (though I don't know how long Twitter-search keeps things available, so maybe the link will fail in the future).

Thinking about my field work history in some detail, I created this BINGO card from my experiences. As you can see, I did get a BINGO. Without the free space in the middle, though, I wouldn't have made it.
By way of a little explanation, I've added a few details in the next version of the same Bingo card:
You might notice that I replaced "Animal attack" with "Plant attack" and added an extra mark. While I've been stared at closely by 3 to 4 coyotes at once and also by a protective stallion once or twice —  the former causing me to unnecessarily grab my rock hammer and the latter causing me to give up on that canyon for that day —  I've never been attacked. I have, however, been mercilessly attacked by wild cholla balls, which definitely have a mind of their own and can be quite persistent in trying to attach themselves to parts of your body, especially feet and legs.

(I've had a few close encounters with wild cats — mountain lions, bobcats, and a possible jaguar — and I've come closer than I prefer to snakes several times, and closer than they prefer judging by their rattles or swift slitherings away from me — but these were merely close encounters, with none of them resulting in anything resembling an attack.)

In my line of work, especially when doing mineral exploration recon, a moderately routine hazard not listed would be getting shot at or being run off a property with a gun, which has happened to me once (American Girl), maybe twice or thrice —  although the second time was unclear and so probably doesn't count (Old Woman Mountains), and the third time was merely a threat without any visible gun brandishment (Tumco). In addition, there can be various helicopter-related hazards, the least hazardous of which might be being left out by the helicopter pilot, who for various reasons, including forgetting part of the crew (me!), might not pick you up —  a story that was told in brief here.