Thursday, February 23, 2017

Repost: Here's to You, Geological Heroes

My DSL lines and WiFi, provided by Frontier (or not provided, as the case may be), are currently quite lousy with 50%-plus packet loss. For some reason, Google pages and products, including this blog, work at least slowly and sporadically, as does the NWS weather site. So I can find out how many calories I'm eating (or drinking) while checking out the latest atmospheric river that has most likely been one of the culprits in decimating my internet connection. I can also do a little research by asking Google questions and submitting search terms. If the answers show up in the blurb accompanying the resulting list of search results, then I'm good; if not, I'm stuck with a list of websites that won't open. Consequently, I can't quite finish the current post I'm working on: It needs a little more research. So I'm reposting a post from 2010: a submittal to the now defunct Accretionary Wedge blog carnival. Here it is.

The Accretionary Wedge is coming up soon, so my thoughts are naturally turning to Geological Heroes, the topic of this month's Wedge, hosted at Mountain Beltway by Callan Bentley. Callan says,

I invite all participants (geobloggers and geoblog readers alike) to contribute stories of their heroes. It’s time to pay tribute to the extraordinary individuals who helped make your life, your science, and your planet better than they would otherwise have been.
As far as geologic heroes go, I was first thinking that maybe I don't really have any (or maybe I just don't have many personal ones that I feel I can write about on the blog). I thought, therefore, that I'd list two geologists who are heroes to me, although they aren't personal heroes:

  • Tanya Atwater - a leading plate tectonicist, geophysicist, geologist, and oceanographer. She is a hero to me by way of being a leading and famous woman in my field (or a related field), one who "is especially well known for her works on the plate tectonic history of western North America, in general, and of the San Andreas fault system, in particular...."

    I've not yet had the good fortune to meet her, but long ago (and not very far away) I named a dog belonging to my previous partner and me after her. Upon hearing of this dubious honor from an acquaintance of ours, Tanya A. reportedly said, "Ruff ruff," while making a motion like scratching her ear with a paw.
  • Tom Dibblee - a legendary field-mapping man, who mapped "565 quadrangle maps covering over 40,000 square miles, some fourth of the State of California." I first learned of his mapping while working in the Mojave, where his maps cover nearly every square inch of ground and provide the basics and details for every geological map that has come after him. He is known in that region for not having to use a Brunton to take strikes and dips (except when beds were dipping at shallow angles), because his sense of orientation and angle estimation were excellent, such that he was always within a couple degrees. He started mapping when in high school, and never stopped, completing a mapping career of almost 80 years only when he passed away in 2004.
Beyond these two, I was sitting out on the rig one day, and while thinking that I'd just leave this post at a two-person list I realized that the topic "Heroes" was making me think of Waylon and Willie, and I started singing "Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys."

Don't let 'em pick guitars and drive them old trucks...
[technically a road song because it mentions trucks] and then that somehow led me into "All My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys" followed by "Waylon, Willie, and Me."

Now, not all the lyrics of these three songs are applicable to whatever particular feeling they engendered in me on that recent field day, nor are all of the lyrics particularly applicable to the topic of geological heroes — except that:
When I start thinking about the real geologist heroes I've known over the years — whether male or female — they are rather much like cowboys, or like outlaws: out in the field all day, bouncing around in pickup trucks old and new, doing their own thing, making it on mottos such as "it's easier to get forgiveness than permission" or "it's all changed now," running their own programs, districts, and companies, shooting cans, rolling boulders, and participating in other shenanigans that shall go unmentioned here, some of which have involved various forms of (legal in Nevada) explosives.

These more personal heroes of mine include my thesis advisor(s), my major professor, the professor I T.A.'d for, several former professors and T.A.'s, many geologists from both Northern Exploration Company and Former Mining Company and elsewhere, the two Larry's, the two Nancy's (you *know* who you are), most of my former field assistants — one has or is now running her own company, one patented her Hg-gas sniffing method and has run her own lab, one is now running her own exploration group at a major mine, and some have gone on to other things but are nevertheless heroes to me for making it in the "man's field" of exploration and mining geology.

My heroes, over the years and decades, have also included several FOP/Quat people: JODavis, Bud Burke, Marith Reheis, and anyone who was present for the flying Vee in the middle of the Black Rock Desert in 1987 or who made it to the 1991 FOP down in Fish Lake Valley, Nevada.

And then there are some true outlaws or aspiring, wanna-be outlaws — hmm... should these names go unmentioned? (You know who you are: R, BS, JS, PG, S+D, et al.)

Really, when it comes right down to it, there are too many geological heroes to list, refer to, or name, including all the consultants and independents attending the hospitality suites and receptions at Northwest every year, going back to the wild S+D bashes in Spokane some thirty-plus years ago.
And so, here's to you (all of you)...
...from a copy of a print from an original slide taken here at a now burned-down hot spring cabin, by JODavis in the fall of 1981, photo credits to JODavis and LLLackey, photo ©2010 Looking for Detachment, all rights reserved, poem written by SH and CR.

The Spencer Hot Springs cabin, with roomy concrete bathtub and piped in hot water, was burned down later that year or the next, reportedly by the same individuals who, in their over-zealous righteousness crossed out in red marker the name "Asshole" (and other cuss words written on the interior of the cabin) — these individuals were apparently disturbed by the existence of such a den of iniquity as a hot spring where people *gasp* sometimes bathed naked. I don't know who these red-marker people were, nor do I really know that they were the arsonists — but that's the way the story goes.

The original from the 1978 album "Waylon and Willie."

April 2010 Accretionary Wedge: Heroes

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Tales of the Mojave: An Intro


I'm going to move into what I hope to be the blog-publication of a few of my old stories, which I began here quite a while ago with several posts that became the Caliente series and other posts that were part of my Finding a Thesis series (which I haven’t finished). I'm not sure how far I'll get into this new project, but it's something I want to start in order to see how my writing has progressed from the first drafts, which I probably began in the late 1990s. I'll no doubt be interspersing this Mojave set of posts with other field notes, road trips, or miscellany like Friday Fault/Fold, etcetera; we'll just have to see how it goes. Also, at this point the old stories have become tied up with some fictional stories or novel I've been playing with. The fictional book or novel doesn’t really have a plot yet, and it also has a lot of completely made-up to deeply modified or wildly intertwined adventures. I'm attempting, here, to remain true to life.

The Mojave

You can check out any time you like,
but you can never leave.[1]

My memory of the Whipple Mountains, where we'll be heading shortly, extends back to 1981, when Allie [2] and I conducted some preliminary geologic reconnaissance (recon) during June for Northern Exploration Company (NEC). It was my first visit to the Mojave Desert of southern California. (I can’t speak for Allie, but I think it was hers, also.)

The Mojave Desert is outlined in red.
Image courtesy USGS, modified from here.
Hell, that's not strictly correct. Looking back carefully, I really can't say that I had never been to the Mojave before 1981—though I do often say that very thing, not usually thinking about the technical boundaries of the Mojave The boundaries, right, largely though not completely faithfully, follow the range of that well-known Mojave denizen, the Joshua tree.

So when did I first visit the Mojave? Well, let me think. Sometime in the late '70s I was in Vegas for an archaeological conference—we had driven all night to get there and had beheld a truly spectacular thunderhead near Tonopah. Before that, I’d seen (and drawn and photographed and summarized) the Charlie Brown Outcrop during the third field trip in Larsen's Geology of Nevada class. On the way down to the Charles Brown Highway, we had camped in the Beatty dump on Thanksgiving night after a particularly mediocre meal at the C-rated Exchange Club. Fortunately for everyone involved, there had been plenty of beer afterward to settle the stomach.70

Beatty is technically just inside the Mojave Desert, and the Charlie Brown Outcrop isn't far from its center. So yes, using almost anyone's definition of that southern desert, I had been there before '81. Nevertheless, I usually think of June, 1981, as my first foray into the area, and indeed it was the first time I had been south of Shoshone on the California side or south of Vegas on the Nevada side...

Our Carryall probably had 4 doors.
Photo credit: CZmarlin.
No wait! Most maps place Baghdad, Arizona, in the Mojave, and I'd been to Baghdad during field camp in '73; that was the place we'd gotten a Carryall stuck in the sand while trying to take a short cut back to Flagstaff. We weren't even supposed to have gone that way, but we'd purposefully drifted to the rear of the caravan and then left the pack. It had taken us an hour to dig out. We had finally made it back to Flag for dinner, only to find that no one had even missed us! The mishap instantly became one of the highlights of field camp, albeit one with apocryphal overtones: We exaggerated our difficulties while building road to get unstuck, we gleefully inflated the story during the two-hour drive back to Flag, and we greatly hyperbolized the event while telling the story over beers later that evening.

This little spate of reminiscing has brought me to the realization that I still don’t always think of the Mojave by its technical definition, and that in 1981 I generally thought of the Mojave as a big hot unknown encompassing the entirety of the southern California desert, or at least the part of it that lies south of the Garlock Fault. Back then I often thought that the SoCal areas north of the Garlock, including the broader Death Valley region, belonged to a kind of never-never land that should really be part of Nevada. I still often think the CA-NV border should run along the crest of the Sierra, though I’m not sure where that line should jog eastward to leave the main bulk of southern California in California, and somehow place Clark County of Nevada in SoCal.[3]  Perhaps the new border would look something like this, with the CA-NV border in white, and the southern CA border in yellow:
Google Earth image with proposed new borders.
Later in my career—later being when I worked at Former Mining Company, AKA Forminco—we, the southern explorationists of Forminco's Western District used the presence of cholla as a key factor when trying to push our district north into Nevada, as far north as the Gilbert mining district in the Monte Cristo Range northwest of Tonopah. The Nevada District had responded with uncharacteristic equanimity and had let us in, mostly because they didn't really want that part of Nevada.
Anyhow, back in the early 80s I liked placing the northern boundary of the Mojave at the Garlock Fault: It made geographic and geologic sense to me at the time, and it affirmed a feeling I had, when driving south across the Garlock, a feeling of dropping off into another, lower land. And as far as I was concerned, the eastern boundary of the Mojave was the Colorado River. My boundaries, however, held as little water as most Mojave washes—for one thing, there really isn't an elevation drop when driving south across the Garlock along U.S. 395 or S.R. 14, and even though there is quite a drop when coming into the Mojave from the west at Tehachapi, one has at that point crossed the southern Sierra Nevada, so a drop is to be expected; and for another thing, the Mojave is really defined as more of an ecologic or biologic-climatologic region than a physiographic region—and I knew that, so I always spoke of the "Mojave Desert of California" when referring broadly to all of the southern California deserts, or even those just south of the Garlock, hoping that the phrase would exonerate my technical sloppiness.[4]
Google Earth image showing part of the western Mojave, a bit of the Garlock Fault (dark blue), and U.S. 395 and S.R. 14. Ignore the road marking for 58; it is inaccurate.
This recon program was completely mine. Prior to that summer, the target areas of grass-roots ventures I'd been involved in had been at least partly chosen by others. I did the research in the spring, generating several targets across the region, from Tehachapi to Barstow to Needles[5], and I decided where to start. We'd begin in a few relatively low areas along the Colorado River—the district boundaries of NEC were such that someone else was in charge of Arizona, so like an aquaphobic saguaro in reverse, I wasn't supposed to cross the Colorado River—and we'd work our ways toward higher elevations, hoping to get ahead of the summer heat.

Because of a delayed start to my recon targeting, it was late in the field season, probably the first of June, when Allie and I finally left Reno to drive as far south as Parker, Arizona. I wondered how long we'd last down there in the heat of early summer; we knew it wasn't the most auspicious time to begin field work in the Mojave, but we hoped we could stick it out and find a property or two to stake.

My first recon program! I was both excited and apprehensive.

To be continued...


[1] Felder, Don, Henley, Don, and Frey, Glen. "Hotel California" (lyrics) perf. by the Eagles. Hotel California (album), Asylum Records, 1976.

[2] Names have been changed.

[3]Northern boundary of Southern California, at Wikipedia.

[4] In reality the Mojave Desert is an ecologic area defined by plants and climate, which extends as far north as Beatty, Nevada, and which doesn't include all of southern California's desert, because some of that area belongs to the Sonoran Desert. Whether the Whipple Mountains is in the Mojave proper seems to depend on who draws the map. These stories will take place mostly in the deserts of southern California, and I'll usually refer to that area as "the Mojave." 

[5] A target area can consist of a whole region (like the Mojave Desert itself), an entire mountain range (like the Whipple Mountains in the eastern Mojave Desert or western Sonora Desert), a large or small mining district (like the Savahia Peak area in the Whipple Mountains), or a smaller area around one old mine or prospect (like the Dollar Bill Mine on the south side of Savahia Peak.).

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

From the Road: Talus Stripes and Shorelines along the Truckee River

Talus, shorelines, and fall colors.
It was a late fall day, and I stopped along Route 447 to see if I could get close to some of the brilliantly colored trees along the Truckee River a few miles north of Wadsworth. I didn't end up finding a good spot for pics of fall colors—other than maybe this one taken down near the Numana Hatchery—but I did find lots of wonderful talus stripes and some Lake Lahontan shorelines.

At two stops a little farther to the north, at and near the junction of 447 with Chicken Road and at the Historic Marker 448 pullout, I grabbed a hodgepodge of photos.
Looking SSE from the historic marker pullout.
These two photos look south-southeastward along the Truckee River toward distant Fernley. A good portion of the river in this area runs parallel or sub-parallel to Walker Lane strike-slip faults. Wadsworth Amphitheater, which shows up in the Google Earth images we'll see in a minute, is not visible from any of our photo sites; it's an amphitheater-shaped topographic feature cut into Lake Lahontan sediments right along the east bank of the Truckee, beyond the dark basaltic hills on the right side of these two photos (east side of the Truckee).
I love the lone Cottonwood in this photo.
I went ahead and drew a few lines on Google Earth, then I rotated the resulting images to two different orientations so we could see a little more of the terrain. Be sure to check the north arrow in the upper right! The linears I drew are parallel or sub-parallel to the trend of the Walker Lane. You might be able to pick out a few more in the images (or go to Google Earth and looking around a bit).

The Walker Lane—on Google Earth (G.E.)and on other aerial representations such as air photos—shows up best at very small scales; that is, if we zoom way out and observe the area from way above, we can see the trend of the Walker Lane better than if we zoom way in, like we've done here. Nevertheless, individual strike-slip faults have been identified throughout the Walker Lane, and a few of these occur right in this area.
The A is centered on Wadsworth Amphitheater. The purple camera icon shows the location of the first photo.
The next G.E. image zooms in to the area we can see in the photos. I've got all three photo locations turned on, the A for Wadsworth Amphitheater, and my drawn-in linears. These linears aren't necessarily faults, although I'm pretty sure the one on the far left is. Unfortunately, because I currently have a very lousy internet setup (thanks Frontier!), I can't load very many research web pages. Google works well—and Blogger is a Google product—so I can blog even with 25 to 100% packet loss (it's 50% this very moment). And because Google Earth is a Google product, it's working for me also! (But I can't routinely access my non-Google email.)

Back to the faults and linears. I do know from personal experience that Walker Lane structures pass through the Lake Lahontan sediments in the area where the Truckee is running in a particularly linear fashion. I know this from some work I did a long time ago with J.O. Davis, who was studying Lake Lahontan and using tephra beds to date various aspects of the stratigraphy. The two linears or faults in the lower right of the image cross through the area where I've seen older Lake Lahontan sediments faulted and highly contorted by the major structures that pass through the area. I can't say that my particular linears are right on the major structures, and I can see other possible lineaments.

UPDATE 3Feb2017: I now have good internet back, and I've been able to compare my "map" to a geologic map of the area (Bell, Garside, and House, 2005). My linear passing through the hatchery location (below) is spot on for their most prominent fault, which was mapped as a dominantly extensional fault.
A zoomed in G.E. view of the area.
Not sure why, but I prefer to spell amphitheater with an "re" at the end: amphitheatre. I also have a hard time sticking the first "h" into the word!

I sure wish Frontier was a better internet service provider! (I never had this kind of semi-routine trouble with AT&T in eastern and northern Nevada; their every-day speeds were faster, and service was (generally) provided more quickly.

Back to the photos! 😊
Horizontal Lahontan shorelines and vertical basaltic talus stripes.
Some of the same talus stripes in Google Earth.
This photo shows a juxtaposition of talus stripes, faint shorelines, and layered Lahontan sediments.
On this trip, I focused mostly on trying to get good photos of the talus, because that's really what caught my eye. I later noticed that a few shots showed the Lake Lahontan sediments fairly well.
White, gray, greenish gray, and pinkish layers of the Eetza Alloformation.
While driving through the area, I'd been assuming that the prominently exposed white units were part of the Sehoo Alloformation. I was wrong! The Sehoo is barely identifiable in this zoomed in photo, and it's the older Eetza that is most conspicuous. In fact, the Sehoo here is mapped as gravelly beach deposits, so it mostly comprises the dark gray or brownish gray layered deposits above the whitish units.

Note: I usually use "formation" when talking about the subdivisions within the Lake Lahontan section, but "alloformation" is technically correct. In explanation, Bell et al (2005) say this, "Lake Lahontan and related subaerial deposits were considered lithostratigraphic units in the early studies of Morrison and were designated as formations. With the revision of the North American Stratigraphic Code in 1983, new allostratigraphic and pedostratigraphic unit definitions were added which allowed the definition of time-transgressive, lithology-independent rock units and soils."
Qsm = middle member of the Sehoo Alloformation; Qe = Eetza Alloformation.
After taking all these photos, it was time to move on, so I looked to the north, in the direction I'd be heading.
What I saw was more talus, more shorelines, and more Lahontan sediments. (And some fall colors.)
Selected Reference:
Bell, J.W., Garside, L.J., and House, P.K., 2005, Geologic map of the Wadsworth Quadrangle, Washoe County, Nevada: Nevada Bur Mines and Geology Map 153.

Monday, January 23, 2017

A Little Report on Our January Storms

Intellicast radar image from 23Jan2017, approx 6:10 am, PST.
Our latest atmospheric river is passing through the area and will probably be gone by tomorrow (for more detail about the atmospheric rivers we've been subject to so far this January, see Garry Hayes' excellent live blogging of the storms here).

It was just three days ago, and this current ongoing storm or set of storms had just dumped an additional 8 inches in our area, which is at about 4560 ft (1890 m) in what is essentially the northern Sierra. The snow was wet and heavy, and had fallen on a base that included wet slush in places and thick snow drifts in others. I thought I'd better head out back to knock the weighty stuff off our fairly young fruit trees.
The gate to the back yard was frozen shut, so I went through our gazebo.
Small fir and pine trees weighed down by ice and snow.
A large cable spool.
As I tramped around in the back, shaking trunks and branches to knock snow off the thin limbs, I post-holed into the snow over the tops of my pack boots, to a depth of about 17 inches. Later measurements of this snow showed that the backyard was covered with about 24 inches.

After my backyard expedition was over, I wandered around taking a few pictures.
Snow on a rickety-looking ladder in our construction area.
A mini-avalanche on the roof from snow falling off a pine tree.
The road in front, not yet plowed, with tire and ski tracks.
Pine branches with snow.
Pine tree with needles plastered with ice and snow.
More plastering.
As I walked around, the temperatures were starting to rise, and large clumps of snow and ice started cascading off the trees. I became fascinated by this process and managed to get a number of action pictures.
The falling clumps drove me under some of our scaffolding structures.
Mostly protected from the falling snow, I felt a little more secure in getting photos without having myself and the camera caught by the falls.

Here I'm still under the scaffolding, looking up at a few large clumps of ice and snow that remain near the top of this pine tree, the same one that created the tiny avalanche above.
Finally, my patience in standing and waiting with camera poised was rewarded with a sizable fall.
One clump remains at the very tip-top of the tree, but it was time to go in to warm up hands and have a cup of coffee.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Notes from the North: Rime Ice and Birds

Well, it's weeks later, and I'm not up in the far northlands of Southcentral AK anymore (but instead am in the snowy middle-lands of the West), but indeed, the sun did come out the day after I took the ice and snow photos of my last post, and the trees, especially the deciduous trees, were covered with inch-plus-thick rime ice.
There were birds hanging out, in the birch trees especially, though we can't see them here—at least not clearly.
A tree partly in shadow.
Ice and snow on the back fence. Sparkling. Glittering.
Soft rime ice (from days of ice fog) on a shrubby tree.
Some ducks flew by overhead, as did a few ravens.
More trees!
Ice covered trees and icy cirrus clouds.
And here we can see a few of the birds.
These are Bohemian waxwings.
There were huge flocks of the waxwings hanging out in the tops of the birch trees, and until I got these close-ups, we didn't know what they were. These are fairly common in Southcentral, though I don't think I had seen them up there for a few years.