Tuesday, September 8, 2020

New Song Category: Gold or Mining Song | Seminole Wind

John Anderson: Seminole Wind (lyrics)
Album: Seminole Wind, 1992

I'm claiming a new song category: Gold Songs. And kind of like the Road Song category—songs that have to mention roads, streets, etcetera—gold songs are those that mention gold, gold mining, and possibly just mining in general. As a new category, at least on the blog, the definition has not yet been set in stone, so to speak. Another example of a "gold song" would be Heart of Gold by Neil Young.

This particular gold song, Seminole Wind, specifically mentions "days of old" and men digging for gold and silver, after which they "leave the empty holes," i.e. mine shafts, glory holes, or open pits. The song particularly emphasizes a couple negative aspects of gold and mining, though it really focuses on a hope that the Seminole Wind, and possibly the ghost of Osceola, will come and blow currently existing things to shit. (At least that's my interpretation.)

And so, when you happen to be gathering in places where the wind can blow ferociously—for example in Florida, in tornado country and the Midwest in general, in the Mojave Desert, and even in Nevada—watch out.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Northumberland via old Highway 8A

Before I get very far into this blog post, I have to say that the Blogger interface, with its recent "upgrade," now sucks due to sudden changes in the way the HTML works. First off, the code for each photo is different than it used to be, such that I have to go back to older posts to duplicate spacing at the top, bottom, and left margins. I mean, I guess if I was 100% prolific with HTML, I wouldn't have to do that, but every time they’ve done one of their upgrades, I’ve had to modify the way I enlarge the photos to the right size, and have to recreate or copy the HTML that controls the way my photos display—and quite frankly I do give a damn!

Back to our trip. As I mentioned earlier, it was hot, so I didn't stop very often on my trip down old Highway 8A (now S.R. 305) from Battle Mountain to Highway 50 near Austin, en route to the Northumberland caldera. I did, however, make a point to stop at an old stone house along the Reese River—possibly the original Walters Ranch, though the USGS map shows the ranch down in the green valley closer to the river.
The old place is holding together fairly well, though it looked a little more rundown than the last time I stopped.
A closer view of the entry area, with quite a bit of carved graffiti.
An old rusty stove sits in the ruins of the old stone house, below the caved-in roof and amidst the partly discombobulated walls (stove = dark patch in lower right of photo).
The roof has slumped more than the last time I stopped, which might have been as long ago as 2012. The meadow beyond—the valley of the Reese River between the Ravenswood mountain range on the west and low hills that lie more or less between the Shoshone and Toiyabe Ranges on the east—is often quite green; here it's looking a tad dried out.

At 12:29 pm, toward the end of my little stop, it was 96°F.
A little farther south I drove past the location where FMOH and I canoed meanders of the Reese River back in 2006. This time, the meanders were choked with dark green sedge and the river was too narrow for a canoe. 

My next stop was Austin, for gas. I prefer to be fully fueled when traveling the back roads of Nevada. After fueling up, it was up and over Austin Summit on Highway 50, then up to Bob Scott Summit, where I stopped briefly for a pit stop and to consider Bob Scott as a campsite. But no, I wanted to keep going. Scattered clouds hovered overhead, and a light sprinkle hit the windshield. At 1:20 pm the temp was 84°F.

Beyond Bob Scott, it was downhill to the turn off on old 8A (now S.R. 376) into Big Smoky Valley. I thought about the old camp on Bowman Creek as a possible camping location, but blew that off. I was shortly at the turnoff to Northumberland Canyon.
In this photo, taken just past the turnoff from pavement, Northumberland Canyon is almost 12 miles across Big Smoky Valley as the crow flies. The mountain range that we're looking at, on the east side of the valley, is the Toquima Range; the singular mountain to the right is Mount Jefferson, third most prominent peak in Nevada. I've been to about 11,400 ft near the North Summit. The South Summit reaches 11,941 ft.
I arrived at the western mouth to West Northumberland Canyon at about 2:30 pm and pulled off on a side road where I had a relatively elevated view of Big Smoky Valley and the Toiyabe Range beyond. A low area in the mountain range (just left of center in the photo above) marks the drainage basin of Kingston Creek. The tiny town of Kingston sits on Kingston Creek, right at the range front. Bunker Hill, the rounded peak right of the low spot, reaches 11,473 feet in elevation.

* * * * *

2:45pm: It's now 92°F. I just walked a short ways up the dirt road behind the Jeep, thinking I'd check the road to the range front, but I gave that up for the heat. Instead, I'm sitting next to the Jeep in a lawn chair, enjoying the view. A few clouds overhead look threatening—possible T-storms. I won't cross the flash-flood prone Northumberland Canyon dry wash until...well, hopefully the clouds will dissipate. The crossing right now would be perfectly fine, but if the canyon floods, I'd be stranded on the other side. A long time ago, there was a road across Big Smoky Valley going back to 8A north of Kingston, providing a possible escape route if stranded; I have no idea if that road exists anymore.

There was a huge wipe out of a flash flood in West and East Northumberland Canyons back in 1979. Heavy barite ore from the small mine on the west side of Northumberland Pass was washed down canyon, as was a USFS truck. Fortunately no one was inside the truck.

Back in 1978, in the reddish hills across the dry wash of West Northumberland Canyon (behind the Jeep in the photo above, or somewhere in the low part of the reddish hills in the photo below) I left a standard Estwing rock hammer leaned against an outcrop of tuff as scale for a photo. I've looked for the hammer a couple times, both before and after the mega flash flood of 1979. I suppose it's part of the drainage, downstream somewhere. But who knows? Maybe it's still there, leaning against the outcrop.
The reddish brown tuff of Hoodoo Canyon, 31.4 Ma, overlies whitish volcanic and volcaniclastic rocks that include Ts6, an air-fall tuff related to the tuff of Hoodoo Canyon, and Ts5, 4, and 3—and possibly Ts2 and 1—which are all intracaldera sediments deposited after the partial collapse of the ~32 Ma Northumberland caldera and before deposition of Ts6.

2:53 pm: I've frequented this valley, these parts, since before 1978. In fact, the first time I camped in the area was up on Pete's Summit in 1976, after seeing the Ordovician graptolites in the Vinini Formation while on a grad school field trip. It's my country, I feel, and if I had a house up here on this pediment, I'd sit outside and stare at the basin, the way I did back in 1979-81 when the company put me up in a small cabin above Kingston. There's usually no no one around for miles, for at least ten to fifteen miles. The view is awesome.

It's 4:27 pm now,
and I've crossed the wash and moved to the site we used to call the Hot Spot, so named for it's anomalous gamma radiation and U3O8 minerals. From the camp I've chosen, I can look northwest toward Kingston Canyon, east into Hoodoo Canyon, and south toward Northumberland Canyon. The wind is coming in from the northwest, and it's 91° F in my little camp. It's five hours to sunset according to the hand method, though at five hours away, the method is grossly inaccurate.

4:51 pm: I'm cracking an All Day IPA. Until the sun is lower, I won't set up camp more than I have already, which is only to remove the ice boxes, the water cooler, and folding chair. I'm somewhat low on ice, and the beer isn't the coldest beer in the world, but it's refreshing. And now the sun has come out from behind those formerly threatening clouds, so I've moved into the shade of the Jeep. A tree would be nice!

* * * * *
As the sun got lower, I drank my cool beers and had a minimalist dinner of chips and dip. The sun finally went behind the clouds hovering over the Toiyabe Range. I watched the sunset colors change, took many photos, marveled at the yellow-orange crepuscular rays, took more photos, and basked in the quietude of the area.
Virga and a cliff of Northumberland Tuff glow reddish orange.

I had another beer or two and took more photos. At some point, the sun went down, but with the Toiyabes in the way and no connection for my cell phone, I could only estimate the time of actual sunset, guessing it to be about 8:05 pm. According to SunCalc, the sun set at 8:10 pm at my campsite. The hand method referenced earlier gave a time of about 9:25 pm—off by almost an hour and a half! (It's more accurate within one to three hours of sunset, especially when there aren't any mountain ranges looming above the true horizon.)

By 8:43 pm, I had my headlamp on, using the red light setting. It was way warm for sleeping, but I didn't check the temperature by turning on the Jeep. Overall, it felt strange to be camped there in the middle of nowhere during the middle of a summer heat wave. And for some reason, I felt creeped out by a long ago memory of a lone mountain lion in the Toquimas, so I didn't want to sleep outside the Jeep, making for a night that was hotter than necessary. Eventually, I slept, albeit restlessly.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Well, it's been so long...

It's been a long time—almost a year—since my last real post, the actual last post being a road song with brief blurb. And even though it's been a year, I haven't really started what would be the last in a series of posts reporting on a trip from Winnemucca to northeastern California, with geology and other points of interest along the route. It's been hard getting to that last post and to a few side posts along the route that would be possible if I would just maintain a bit of focus. And the stumbling block is basically that I'm not traveling that way anymore, at least not routinely: I don't live at that end of the road. Yeah, "the lake" is a thing of the past (which is really sad, especially given the exceptional heat that the summer of 2020 has brought to the northern Nevada area where I currently live).

Anyway, that's a roundabout way of getting around to saying...it's been a long time since I visited the Northumberland caldera in central Nevada. The current isolation of living by myself, social distancing to the extent of hardly seeing anyone who doesn't happen to be in line behind me at the supermarket, and WFH—which I've been able to do so far for exactly two months since leaving "the field" of northeastern Nevada—was starting to drive me nuts, as it does periodically, and I wanted to get away.

Unfortunately, it's been very hot here in northern Nevada (and elsewhere in Nevada, and in many other parts of the west), so though I contemplated going on a brief camping trip, it seemed too hot for that (did I mention the heat?), and the upper campground at Wheeler Peak is closed for renovations (I consider the lower camps to be both too hot and too crowded). So, with the highest, coolest camp in Nevada out of the question, I opted for a central Nevada area that I've been familiar with since 1978: the Northumberland caldera.

Yeah I thought, maybe I'll camp in the highlands, up in the piƱon-juniper, but I was unsure of any specific places up there so was sure I'd opt for the more familiar lowlands. Eventually, after much dithering accompanied by equally much grousing about the heat and why it's not a great time to go camping, all the while and nevertheless preparing, then reverting to no it's too hot, then more prepping, then etcetera, off I went.

The trip was a reprise of many, and because of the heat (the highs were around 100°F) I made few stops on my way out to an old drill site atop a location in the northern part of the caldera that we at NEC (Northern Exploration Company) called "The Hot Spot."

The Hot Spot (photo above) is a fairly small mound-like outcrop of welded ash-flow tuff (tuff of Hoodoo Canyon) mineralized with carnotite replacing feldspar sites. At least I think it's carnotite. Maybe it's autunite. That mineralogic tidbit is somewhat blurred by time. I didn't break a single rock out there this time, so didn't check the uranium mineralogy. I did, however, collect a couple nice hand samples of Ts2 and Ts3, formations within the intracaldera sedimentary package.

Anyway, I ended up at the Hot Spot, spent an overly heated night camping in the back of the Jeep, and then I returned via a slightly different route the next day, a partial reprise of trips made in the region as recently as 2012, a time which seems almost as long ago as those first days in 1978.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Road Song: Tucson, Arizona


Dan Fogelberg: Tucson, Arizona (lyrics)
Album: Windows and Walls, 1984

It's been awhile, I know. This is a pretty dark road song, possibly fitting our current times (cw).

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Winnemucca to Hwy 395 north of Susanville, Part4

And now we’ll say goodbye to the Smoke Creek Desert, which we saw on the last leg of this cross-country journey, and make our way south for a very short distance, where we’ll turn off the road skirting the entire west side of the desert, and head west up Smoke Creek. Photos you’ll see in this blog post are from three different trips taken between the Smoke Creek Desert and Highway 395 during May through August of 2006, 2014, and 2015. Which means that although we’re returning to my June 15, 2018 trip from Winnemucca to Susanville, which began here,I didn’t take any photos during this section of the 2018 trip.
Immediately upon leaving the great tufa mounds of the last post, we come to a hill with a view of distant trees that are growing along lower Smoke Creek. The sign indicates our upcoming turn onto the Smoke Creek Road. The smaller, hand-painted white sign says “Smoke Creek Road,” so we know we’re on the right track. (Photo: 17May2014.)
On the left side of the road, just as we turn right, a bullet-ridden sign points south toward Sutcliffe, a small town on the west side of Pyramid Lake several miles beyond our turn. This will be our last view of the Smoke Creek playa and the Fox Range to the east. (Photo: 14Jun2006.)
We’re now heading about due west toward the valley of Smoke Creek. In this area, a lot of the creeks and canyons are named on USGS topo maps, but very few of the hills are. As an example, the highest point on the volcanic-covered hills above is merely marked with an X and the elevation 6186 feet, along with a small triangle for a survey point with the name Smoke. (Photo: 17May2014.)
Smoke Creek Road
US 395 Jct 30
Litchfield 39
Susanville 55
(miles)
The basaltic hills, and the sagebrush in the foreground, were fairly green in mid-June of 2006. The buff-colored hills are underlain by Lake Lahontan lake deposits, possibly the Sehoo Formation, which are inset into the older, Miocene basalts. (Photo: 14Jun2006.)
We’re about to round the bend and drop in the valley of Smoke Creek. (Photo: 17May2014.)
Here you can possibly get a better idea of the younger lake sediments being inset into the canyon, such that although the buff-colored deposits are lower in elevation than the reddish brown basalt flows, they are not underlying them in a stratigraphic sense. This hill also shows the first example of Lake Lahontan tufa plastered on basalt (pale brown tufa on dark brown basalt in the upper left part of the photo). (Photo: 17May2014.)
The older sediments that underlie the basalt have been baked to a bright red color in this view not far up the canyon. (Photo: 14Jun2006.)
And there’s more! A large mass of light brownish tufa sits atop vaguely spheroidally weathering dark brown basalt. For locations of these photos, check out the map linked near the end of the post. (This and next photos from 15Aug2015.)
Less than a half mile from the sharp turn near the west end of the canyon, we come upon the “Cave in Smoke Creek Canyon,” which is along the Nobles Trail section of the California Trail.
“There is a cave ... in this canon, the entrance of which will admit a man on horseback several of the company having entered on horseback but I do not think that they saw much for it was dark as pitch in the cave” – Mary C. Fish, Sep 7 1860
The signs along the various trails are maintained by Trails West. A photo tour of the trail can be found on their website here.
Our first view of the mouth of the cave, as seen when coming in from the east.
A closer view.
The cave with wild roses in bloom. (This and next photos from 17May2014.)
The cave has plenty of room overhead, and people obviously camp within. The roof is darkened by soot from many fires over the many years.
The view from the cave.
Across the creek from the cave, I spotted a cinnamon teal

to be continued...
Google Maps location map.

Related Posts:
Winnemucca to Hwy 395 north of Susanville, Part 3
Winnemucca to Hwy 395 north of Susanville, Part 2
Winnemucca to Hwy 395 north of Susanville, Part 1
Things You Find in the Field: Sulfur at Sulphur
Blue Mountain (2012)
Pulpit Rock (2012)
Smoke in the Black Rock & Smoke Creek Deserts (2102)
Where in the West: Black Rock Desert (2008)
Where in the West - June: A Second Look (2008)
Where in the West - June (2008)
Name That Place (2008)