Wednesday, August 27, 2008

News from the North

Well, the connection at the cabin is indeed dial-up, so I'm sending this little post via email and phone.

It's cool, green, and a tad mosquito-ey here on the banks of the Kenai River. Sounds are of boats, waves from boat wakes, seagulls screeching as they fight over dead salmon, small planes flying by, the river running, the fish jumping.

Our first fishing expedition was successful, with eight halibut 'chickens' - small, good-eating ones of 20-30 pounds - caught.

Now we're on to bank-fishing for silver salmon, in one of the every-other years that the pink salmon - or humpies - are also running. Humpies are easy to catch, then release, because by the time they get upriver, they are too far gone to eat.

Tomorrow: our second expedition, to catch silvers by guided tour on the lower Kenai. Hope they know some good fishing holes!

Will get back to people later for questions and other info. Stay tuned!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Food Meme

JaneB at Now, what was I doing? had this food meme on her blog, and although I haven't been tagged for it, I thought it was interesting. Also, EcoGeoFemme at The Happy Scientist has been tagged, and sometimes she tags me. She's in France, though, so I thought I'd go ahead with this post-published post (is that what you call it? pre-published?).

Following JaneB's slight modification:
bold = have eaten, italics = tried but couldn't keep down, red = no way ever, blue = would eat if starving-in-the-wilds, regular = haven't tried and don't have an opinion or might like to try. I'm not sure exactly what to make of the "couldn't keep down" - possibly an exaggeration of just really, really don't like.

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare - actually, this is probably good, just like sushi.
5. Crocodile - how do you kill a croc when starving in the wilds? Just a regular rifle?? An elephant gun?
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush - it sounds good, but I haven't tried it.
11. Calamari - yuck!
12. Pho - also sounds good/okay, haven't tried it.
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi - don't know.
15. Hot dog from a street cart - in D.C., where lunch is always served that way!
16. Epoisses - might be good.
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes - does Boone's Farm apple wine count?
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras - might be good/okay.
24. Rice and beans - a normal part of many meals!
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters - but only under some circumstances, like in a turkey stuffing, or when too young to know any better, or when trying to prove I can try something new - yuck! But it might be better than starving.
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda - sounds good.
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi - sounds good/okay.
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float - a favorite from my Grandma, so it brings back fond memories.
36. Cognac with a fat cigar - have had both of these separately, prefer the cigar to the cognac.
37. Clotted cream tea - might be good, might be bad.
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O - why?
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail - yikes!
41. Curried goat - this is probably fine, but who has a goat around?
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal - sounds good.
44. Goat’s milk - a childhood staple.
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more - maybe, who's counting?
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala - sounds good.
48. Eel - don't like the sound of this, though maybe it's as good as snake, and maybe I've tried it as sushi.
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear - this might also be difficult to tackle in the wild.

Hmm... This is making me hungry, will have to stop, now, while I make some nachos. Back later... (nachos wasn't on the list, but like I said, I don't have a goat handy)

52. Umeboshi - sounds okay.
53. Abalone
54. Paneer - sounds okay/good.
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal - one of my least favorite food from McDonald's, not sure if you can find a McDonald's in the wild.
56. Spaetzle - sound just fine.
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV - Old Rasputin is quite good, and at 9%, a 4-pak is plenty!
59. Poutine - sounds odd, but probably okay (or maybe even yucky!).
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin - everyone eats this every now and then, it's a great filler.
64. Currywurst - sounds very yummy.
65. Durian - might be okay, might not, certainly would be okay in the wild.
66. Frogs’ legs - probably tastes like chicken.
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake - sounds very good.
68. Haggis - might be okay.
69. Fried plantain - is probably good.
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho - very yummy.
72. Caviar and blini - the blini sounds fine, and I like caviar.
73. Louche absinthe - I think I've had absinthe, but not the "louche" variety.
74. Gjetost, or brunost - very yummy.
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu - have no idea if I would like this.
77. Hostess Fruit Pie - probably.
78. Snail - in Galveston Bay.
79. Lapsang souchong - a wonderful, smokey-flavored tea that many people don't like.
80. Bellini - might be good.
81. Tom yum - sounds very good.
82. Eggs Benedict - yumm, a favorite.
83. Pocky - could be good/okay.
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant - haven't tried this.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
- don't think I've had this, but I figure I could get a rabbit with a rock in the desert if needed.
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse - probably doesn't taste like chicken.
90. Criollo chocolate - maybe?
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa - sounds good.
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor - haven't had it, but next time I'm in France (ha!), I will try it.
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake - a great emergency food!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Incest and Overlays: Part 1

I've wanted to map the interconnections amongst the players of the exploration game in such a way that you could see the tracks, the paths, the name changes, and the reorganizations that have gone on inside the exploration industry through the years—well, at least that portion of the industry in which I’ve been involved, the portion which has affected me. For that purpose, I’ve imagined a map—a map of the western United States where most of that exploration took place—a topographic and geologic map that could expand, enlarge, and zoom in on specific areas as necessary, and which had as many overlays as needed with which to show the movements and interrelations of all the actors throughout time: a 3-D map analogous to a regular 2-D map the way 3-D chess on Star Trek is analogous to regular board chess as it’s usually played today.

But how could I do this? The number of overlays required would make such a map bulky and unmanageable. The movements of the characters involved—the players or actors: the exploration geologists themselves and the companies they worked for—was so complex as to defy description by even the most elaborate models of quantum particle motion. Possibly, if each one of us had been assigned a code, a number, or had been colored by some tracer dye, we could have been followed in retrospect as movements of colored lines on the overlays or as flashing numeric codes, showing up here and there in our travels and travails through the west.

But we weren’t. And we were the sort of individuals who resisted that sort of intrusive observation longer, I think, than many outside the industry. We wouldn’t be the sort of people who would carry cell phones dutifully into the field if it meant having to be on call at all times. We didn’t even care for our own company muckety-mucks to know where we were. They didn’t need to. They often didn’t understand what we were doing, anyway, so why should they know where we were. That understanding would, of course, depend somewhat on whether we were working for a company that had been in the business of exploration and mining for a long time, or whether we were working for an oil company recently gotten into the minerals and hardrock mining business, or even—heaven forbid—a manufacturing company who had an assembly-line mentality, who expected everything, worker and assembly piece, to be in its right place at all times, and who expected things to proceed neatly and orderly from point A on the assembly line to point Z.

But exploration and development didn’t really work that way (still doesn’t!). And we knew it: some of the most fortunate finds were made by geologists stopping to look at areas that weren’t on the plan, by geologists driving down a different road on the way back to town in the evening, by geologists looking for an entirely different commodity than was in the five-year plan, by geologists finding a different commodity that what they were looking for, or by people who weren’t geologists at all (shh--don’t tell the boss!).

The maps and overlays would also have to show what I always called the incestuous nature of the exploration business—of the people, the companies, and even the places. This group of people worked together at this company in this area back in that year. Later, after big layoffs or changes in orientation, some of these original people were working over here, some of them over there, all of them for different companies. But we still had connections—and we still all talked to each other at meetings.

"God forbid," our boss's bosses would think of this talking-at-meetings enterprise—after all “loose lips sink ships” was a byline of many mucky-muck types.

Later, the same aforementioned geologists would meet up at another company, one that had only been doing exploration outside the U.S. up until then, or one that hadn’t even existed before. People from earlier times and earlier companies would come together and form their own company—sometimes, it would seem, just so they could work together again: they had worked together so well in the first place, they might as well do it again.

Sometimes, our connections were more subtle. I’d meet new people at new companies, not knowing any of them, but they would have worked closely with people from the first or second company I worked for, or they would have worked closely with those people’s mentors or colleagues from even earlier times, times before mine. And this continuous network of ever overlapping, ever widening, ever complex web of people would simply continue onward and onward, throughout my entire career. Try playing 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon in the mining and exploration industry, and you should easily be only two or three away from anyone. The person standing next to you at some convention should know at least one person you know or have worked with, and you are likely to know at least one person they know or have worked with. [This kind of connection is all based on the idea of the "six degrees of separation," which is also a movie - one I haven't seen - although it has Will Smith in it, so maybe I have.]

panamintsA Google Earth - One Geology image looking north from the south end of the Panamint Range toward Telescope Peak.

Speaking of 6 degrees, if you’ve worked in the Mojave Desert, or even if you've worked almost anywhere in Nevada, try playing that game with Charlie Manson or one of his girls. I know at least two ways to get to CM in only 3 steps, one through actual encounters by people I know who worked in the Panamint Range in 1975, another through people who lived in a small cabin up some central Nevada canyon that we worked in during the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. Either way, it’s a little scary. And another weirdly scary thing: the person I connect through the first way hired me for my first real job in the mining exploration industry at Company 1, and his connection to CM is only 2: a certain in-jail one-of-the-girls caught for attempted assassination. Too close, and not just because I worked in the same area—the Panamint Range of California—for another company, Company 2, several years later, or because another one of our then colleagues worked in the same area later for even another company, Company 3, at about the time I first worked there for Company 2.

goler Looking east up Goler Wash, a good dry wash in which to practice your 4WD skills.

And so, as time continues and all the faces change, all the connections - of people, companies, and places - continue, and they can come to the forefront anytime and anywhere. Sometimes it's all about who staked what claims when or where, who worked on that same area before or after, who drilled the property and who didn't drill, who made the discovery and who walked away from what was later to become a mineral deposit. In other words, the beat goes on...

This is a submission for the Accretionary Wedge #12 about geological connections, which is being hosted by Callan Bentley at his NOVA Geoblog, linked to here.

Part 2 of this story may be continued later in another format.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Gone Fishing: Woo Hoo!

alaska Click image to enlarge.

I will shortly be visiting this part of the world, along with MOH - a real vacation! Anyway, posting may be light, it's hard to say. We'll be busy going here and there with family, and relaxing at times, too. Don't know what the internet connection is like down at the cabin, but I do know that the river is always fine.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

To My Wayward Drillers

To DD and DR - if you happen to be making it in to Los Anchorage on your days off and have access to the vast world of online communications...

Now that you are both up north, what do you expect us to do down here? Train more drillers? I don't think it's fair at all, our best being taken, as it were, just because there are problems in the northlands!

So hurry back, we are all awaiting your return! In the meantime, enjoy the late summer weather for a few more days. Termination dust fell in Anchorage more than two weeks ago! It will shortly be cold, snowy, 20F below zero and colder, and the ground will be frozen. Of course, I hear it can be better to drill on frozen rather than muddy ground, and the mosquitoes, no-seeums, and white socks will go away. Along with the bears. I hope you have good dog-houses built around your rigs!!

If you are in Anchor Town in the next couple weeks, drop me a line, we can have coffee at B&N, or maybe you can buy me a beer or two - surely you owe me at least one (each) for leaving so suddenly!

Best wishes from down here in the southlands, I'll be heading from Outside to Inside soon,

Yours, sfx
Otherwise known as Your Drilling Commander-ess (ha!)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Another Road Post


And then downhill...

(And no, that's not snow on the road - not yet - just a bit of glare on the windshield.)

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Road...

...turns to dust.

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

- J. R. R. Tolkien
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Mud Hole?

waterOr deer watering hole?
deerEvery time I drive through this little spring-made pond in the middle of the road, a bunch of deer run off into the trees, usually before I get anywhere near them. It turns out that not only is the spring a watering hole - for various animals including birds - it's a morning-time deer bedding spot. The deer bed down in the moist to wet tall grasses on the side of the road, staying cool as well as hidden.
Squirrel-tail grass, wild rye, and thistle growing at the spring on the side of the road.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Mapping at Night

So, after two days of mapping, it's night, my feet are sore, and I'm trying to go to sleep. And what's going on? Every time I close my eyes, I try to draw outcrops on my map sheet. For some reason, that then wakes me up. Or, I'll be walking around an outcrop taking GPS readings, and my foot steps on a soft bit of earth or a hackly rock, and that wakes me up. It feels so real that I jerk my foot back, which makes my whole body jerk.

Well, time to give it another shot: my 4:30 alarm comes early, even if I do snooze it until 5:00!


How I Get to Work Some Days

door View from our side door.

treeView on the way to work.

stuffView at work, as I get my stuff.

dirt road View from the road I drive in on.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Austin: Is it Time to Leave Yet?

So, you're still in Austin, at The International? Remember you can check out anytime you like...

Wait, that's for the Mojave, what am I thinking?

While you're here, enjoy some music, lose a few bucks in the slots. (I swear those didn't used to be there.)

The International is a relaxed, friendly bar, where anyone can find a spot.

Upwards-facing horseshoes for good luck are popular in Austin these days, as are those ever-proliferating signed dollar bills on bar walls. I think this fad started in Middlegate, and now that fad is starting to overtake The International, which I personally find to be a shame (reprehensible?) in such a nice, old bar. If you look very closely at the gun hanging from the ceiling, you'll see that "International Hotel" is carved into the stock. And what's that below the BudLight sign?

Ah, it's a pool table. Time to shoot some pool - reminds me of the good-old days, shooting pool at The International: C. and I would stop in after dinner, after our 10 to 12 hour field days driving all over the entire Millett 2° sheet. That summer, 1977, we worked 12 days on, 2 days off, drive on company time (thankfully!).

On your way out of the bar, check out the *awful* bar picture on the wall over the window. I think that painting has been there for a long time. Reminds me of an old story.

The story goes like this. I was shooting pool during a drilling party, wherein the drillers take you to town and buy all the beers. Sometimes a drilling party happens as a celebration that the drilling is over, other times it's just a random thing. If you happen to get involved in a drilling party, remember that when the drillers buy another round, it doesn't mean that you have to keep up with their rate of drinking. Simply put the coldest (freshest, newest) beer in front of the other half to quarter-finished beers, which you have already placed in a line on the bar counter. Always drink from the coldest one, unless you are drinking something like Guinness, or unless you like warm beer. The drillers will bitch and moan about this for a short time: stick to your guns and they'll settle down, and they'll continue to buy all the rounds.

Anyway, for this particular drilling party, Austin was a good 1-hour drive away from where we were actually staying, which was in Kingston Canyon - I actually have no idea where the drillers were staying, probably in some trailer out in the middle of the valley or pulled into the now defunct (gone, burned down) Frontier Station. The night was getting on - it was getting later and later. I was shooting pool at The International with two other geo-types, RL and DMC, and our expediter, BobS. My field assistant, a young woman, had disappeared - which is an entirely separate story.

The bartender and bartendress, his girlfriend, were taking care of the bar. He was a round-faced guy, possibly in his mid-thirties, a few years older than my late twenties age. The bartendress had been getting a little wild, and got up on the bar as though she was going to start a strip dance.

The bartender, who was the owner, immediately walked over to the front entrance and closed and locked the door. We were locked in! He then jumped up on the bar with his girlfriend, took off his shirt and jeans, and started dancing on the bar in his shorts. It was a strange sight. Really strange. We stared for a couple minutes, then went back to our pool game. He was dancing on the very same bar you see above. (Yikes! Although no one said yikes back in those days.) End of story (E.O.S.) - except for the long, dark drive back to Kingston Canyon.

Possibly by now, you are feeling lost in Austin. Well, don't worry - you can leave. It's not the Mojave. You don't even have to return, but you probably will.

You'll return because, after all, there are only so many places to stop on Highway 50 - for motels, for food, for beer and pool. After losing one too many pool games, or after getting your fill of beer at the bar, wander on up to the Toiyabe Cafe for dinner: burgers, shakes, steaks, and other good food. It's not Alice's Restaurant - which was in Silver Peak, by the way - so you can't get everything you want, but you can get many things, including bottomless iced tea, espresso, and thick espresso-chocolate milk shakes.

An especially good thing about the Toiyabe Cafe is that they are open for breakfast by 6:00 am, in case you want to get an early start in the morning.

UPDATE 3Feb2012: I no longer recommend stopping at the Toiyabe Cafe: diners change. Eat at The International instead. I can't, however, predict how things will be next week, next month, or next year.

Notice that the sign on the wall pointing to the beach is pointing west. That either means the beach is on the Pacific Ocean, or is an old shoreline in Lake Lahontan (or it's a beach at Lake Tahoe?). It certainly doesn't mean the nearby Reese River!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Dust Devil Links

Dust devil in the Salt Wells Basin (Eightmile Flat) in April 2008

Chuck at Lounge of the Lab Lemming recently posted about a dust devil (AKA willy willy in Australia or Chindii in Navajo land), wondering about the formation of the inner core of a dust devil. I don't know the answer to his specific question - about why an inner core should look white when the dust it's picking up is red - but I did find a few links about our ever-present desert phenomenon. It may be that this is a research area worthy of further work, as much current research seems to be directed towards tornados. Fairly recent discovery of dust devils on Mars might spur more research on this planet, where we can actually examine these devils or spirits of the desert. Dust devils on Mars were first observed in the late 1970's and early 1980's during the Viking program and were (probably) first encountered on the ground during the 1997 and 1998 Pathfinder missions.

For the record, although most dust devils form on relatively calm, clear days, they also form underneath cumulus clouds that mark thermal uplift below the clouds. I personally observed one in west-central Nevada in the late 1980's that had formed on a playa from the ground up, in the usual fashion. A large, dark cumulus cloud sat overhead, and gradually a small funnel dropped from the cloud. The funnel cloud and dust devil briefly hooked together, forming what was technically, I suppose, a small tornado. I unfortunately no longer have a photo of that unusual event.

A blowing-apart dust devil in Salt Wells Basin (near Fourmile Flat) in June 2008

A few dust devil (and tornado) links:
  1. Dust devils at the Alaska Science Forum.
  2. Dust devils in Flagstaff at NOAA.
  3. Dust devils of Maricopa County from Glendale Community College.
  4. Dust devils and other atmospheric circulation phenomena from the Planetary Environment Research Laboratory.
  5. Tornado facts, including info on dust devils and whirlwinds from TORRO.
  6. Highly technical stuff about Rankine vortexes.
  7. An abstract about dust devil simulations and pressure drops in the core.
  8. Ask Jack about dust devils and tornados at USA Today Weather.
  9. Dust devils at Wikipedia.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Yay! It's Wednesday

Yes, you all knew it was Wednesday today, but for me it's a double Wednesday: it's hump day in my currently long stint of work days. Now that today is over, I'm more than half way through. Woo hoo!

So far at work, we've had two barbecues and one get-together dinner. Also, I've had bits of my own celebrations - some cards, letters, gifts, dinner out - with me having fairly recently grown into my old-haghood. (I'm not sure at exactly what age that starts - maybe someone can enlighten me.)

A few days ago, I managed to scare up a deer or two while stomping around looking for drill sites (and looking at some interesting rocks along the way). The weather has been variable: nice clear blue skies; some cool, crisp, breezy mornings with hints of fall in the air; a few damp to rainish monsoon-like afternoons; and warm to hot afternoons, especially on non-tree-covered, reflective slopes.

I've felt a bit slumpish this last week, after some hurried rushing around that everyone got involved in the first several days after I arrived earlier in the month. A few days indoors, cool and calm, seem to have cured that. Too much excitement and too many things to do at once sometimes just drives me nuts, sometimes it wears me out. Now that I feel well-rested, I'm hoping to get back out into the field in a real way - that is, to do some mapping. I feel fortunate to be able to do this. Prior to this summer, it has actually been a couple years!

The general mapping technique I'm currently using is a little different than past mapping methods I've used, relying considerably more on the GPS than I'm used to doing. It does, however, seem to be a moderately fast way to map - although some days don't seem to be as good for getting GPS readings as other days. I really don't know why there should be any variation in that at all, unless I'm on some kind of edge between several different sets of satellites, or something equally far-fetched. In a few years, I will have been using the GPS so much that I might not be able to read a topo map anymore! I sometimes think that all this technology (including my computer), is actually going to drive me into premature senility - but maybe it's just that I've finally gotten past 55 into - what? What would you call that? Finally grown up? Well, maybe.

Anyway, I did want to mention that the rabbitbrush seems to blooming late, and the sagebrush seems to be blooming early. Pollen (or something) was bothering me last week - or was that just a couple days ago?

People in Reno are reportedly more allergic to sagebrush than to rabbitbrush (according to my former allergist) - or at least sagebrush elicits a larger allergenic response - but because the bright yellow flowers of the rabbitbrush stand out, and the pale greenish yellow flowers of the sagebrush are unknown to many, people will sometimes latch on to the rabbitbrush as the cause of their allergy-type woes. The rabbitbrush takes the fall for the sagebrush.

Rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus nauseosus and Chrysothamnus viscidiflorus in Nevada) has relatively large, heavy pollen that falls to the ground easily and doesn't carry as far on the wind as the lighter sagebrush pollen. If you are right in the middle of a rabbitbrush field, you'll get sneezy, for sure - the middle of Reese River Valley is a good place for that, and a few valleys in the Northumberland caldera are good for that, too. Sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) also starts blooming later than rabbitbrush (the onset of rabbitbrush season can be as early as mid-July, and the beginning of sagebrush season is often in late August or early September). And sagebrush blooms much later than rabbitbrush, often to the end of October or into November. If your allergies last way into October in the desert steppe, you might be allergic to sagebrush.

Chrysothamnus pollen

Artemisia pollen

I feel the end of summer coming around the corner. I'm glad for cooler days - I don't really like the heat. Maybe we will have an early winter? Hopefully the snow won't come too early - I think December would be just fine.

Monday, August 11, 2008

More Fun with Lassen Peak

The above three images (click to enlarge) are varying combinations of Google Earth and One Geology for the Lassen Peak area. All are looking to the northwest; all show Mt. Shasta in the far background to the right of Lassen Peak. The first image is just a plain Google Earth image, the second uses a 50% setting for One Geology, and the third uses a 75% setting (at 100% the image is all color and no background earth surface). The blue in the far distance is not the ocean but some Paleozoic rocks, the purple is probably serpentinite - see the Geologic Map of California on Andrew's site for comparison.

This last image, above, shows the Lassen Peak area looking straight down. The pink area on the right is underlain by a bunch of "older" volcanic rocks (Pliocene on the Westwood sheet - somewhere in the 2 to 5 million-year-old range, although they could possibly include some younger flows); the yellow area with pink triangles is underlain by younger volcanic rocks (Quaternary for sure - that is, less than 2 million years old - and some have only been cooling since 1915!). You can see more detail on the Geologic map of the Westwood sheet (and compare the geology) and a lot more detail on the Geologic map of Lassen Peak, Chaos Crags and Upper Hat Creek area, California (see below).

You can find geologic timescales here and here.

Some References:

Christiansen, R. L., Clynne, M. A., and Muffler, L. J. P., 2002, Geologic Map of the Lassen Peak, Chaos Crags, and Upper Hat Creek Area, California: USGS Geologic Investigations Series I-2723. Or click here for the 8+ MB pdf map.

Lydon, P. A., Gay, T. E., and Jennings, C. W., 1960: Geologic map of California: Westwood sheet: California Division of Mines and Geology, scale 1:250,000.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Where in the West: Lassen Peak

lassen peakMJC Rocks of Geotripper correctly identified our mystery mountain as Lassen Peak (sometimes incorrectly called Mt. Lassen). In my first WITW post, I didn't want to say "20th century" eruption because if you Google: 20th century eruption ash nevada - Lassen Peak comes up 2nd and 4th (without the ash it comes up 4th), hence my geologically vague "fairly recent" time descriptor.

Lassen Peak, the southernmost volcano in the Cascade Range, is about 70 km (about 45 miles) northeast of Red Bluff, CA, and about 120 km (about 75 miles) southeast of Mt. Shasta. Lassen Peak's most recent eruptive cycle began in 1914 and lasted until 1921. The largest eruption was on May 22, 1915, with locally devastating pyroclastic flows and lahars, a large ash plume, and ash falling as far east as Elko, Nevada.

lassen geologyThe generalized map above, from the USGS - Cascades Volcano Observatory site, shows the volcanic deposits resulting from the eruptions of May, 1915, along with the tree blow-down line, which outlines an area now simply called the Devastated Area. A better version of this map and a more detailed description of events can be found in the USGS Fact Sheet 173-98. You can find other good references and links at the CVO Menu page for Lassen Peak and the Lassen Volcanic National Park website.

brokeoff mountain Brokeoff Mountain, above, is part of an older, larger stratovolcano sometimes called Mt. Tehama, a volcano similar to today's Mt. Shasta, and almost the same size as Mt. St. Helens before it blew up in May, 1980. Mt. Tehama began erupting 600,000 years ago and continued erupting until about 400,000 years ago, when a collapse caldera formed, similar to today's Crater Lake, without the lake.

fumarolesOn Highway 89, between the south entrance to the park and Lassen Peak itself, you can drive right through the Sulphur Works hydrothermal area, which features hot springs, fumaroles, and bubbling mudpits. Sulphur Works is thought to be part of the central vent area of old Mt. Tehama. In winter, you can cross-country ski up the highway to this area (and elsewhere). For a really great hydrothermal tour, hike down the Bumpass Hell Trail to the Bumpass Hell hydrothermal area. They say that the area is named after a settler who fell into a boiling pool, but people have been wondering about the pronunciation for a long time (bum-pass or bump-ass?).

flow/dome Above, an example of the volcanic rocks you can see on Highway 89 going north (and switchbacking around a lot) toward Lassen Peak.
Highway 89 is usually open from sometime in June until sometime in October or later. The first time I drove through the park, I was coming south from a family-type get-together in Oregon. We drove over the pass from north to south and stopped at the old ski chalet, which has since been torn down in order to build a real visitor's center. They had some great "Go Climb a Volcano" T-shirts, so we all got one! Currently, you can support the park by going to the online store and buying green wristbands. They also have some great books and posters, inlcuding a poster of the 1915 eruption.

northeast side And here's a view of the "backside" of Lassen Peak, from the parking lot in the Devasted Area on the northeast side of the mountain. If you continue driving north on Highway 89, there are other stops to make, one at Subway Cave, an old lava tube - and if you continue on to Mt. Shasta, you can stop at Burney Falls.

UPDATE 18Jun2010: Lutz has a great photo of the Sulphur Works from 2007 at

UPDATE 22Sept2012: The above photos were taken in October, 2006.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Where in the West - August: Another View or Two

These two Google Earth images are attempts to duplicate the photo of the unknown mountain shown in my previous post. The first is an afternoon view at 2:49 pm, August 7th, today; the second is a sunset view at 8:05 pm, August 7th, today. The images use Google Earth's sun tool. Both images are looking to the northwest. As far as I know, there are no active ski lifts on this mountain.

As for the fairly recent eruption of the above unkown mountain - the Long Valley caldera has had earthquake activity and probable magmatic activity at depth in the last three decades, and erupted in a huge way about 760,000 years ago, sending ash half way across the U.S.

Our above mystery mountain erupted considerably more recently and sent ash a little more than half way across Nevada.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Where in the West: August

This mountain, seen from the east looking more-or-less west, is known for a fairly recent eruption that sent ash at least half-way across Nevada. The remnants of an older, larger volcanic edifice can also be seen in this picture, on the far left. The mountain is also known for x-c skiing, hiking, and a few hot springs.

Name the mountain - and can you name the smaller crag on the left of the photo or the earlier volcanic edifice that has since been blown away?

As usual, click to enlarge!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


I found this quiz at Karina's Ruminations of an Aspiring Ecologist. The Walk Score quiz takes your address, comes up with how close you are to grocery stores, hardware stores, schools, restaurants, etcetera, and comes up with a number rating based on walkability. It doesn't always show the correct location for everything, it misses a few things, and sometimes shows things that are closed.

For our little house in the Nevada outback, I get a score of 74 - very walkable. It says we have a grocery store within 0.69 miles, though I haven't heard of that particular one - the one we use is 1.25 miles away, a bit farther than I like to walk for groceries. We do have numerous restaurants, cafes, and bars (and a couple casinos) within 0.15 miles, two drug stores within 0.15 miles, a park, a school, and miscellaneous stores - clothing, video, electronics, gift stores, and a pawn shop - within 0.3 miles. I'm also very close to the library (0.3 miles) and the one-movie theatre (0.5 miles). The hardware stores are farther than I'd walk to unless I was just out for a walk and dropped in, at 1 to 2 miles away. I was surprised to find that we are virtually next door to a coffee shop or espresso house that is probably half-way across town (1 mile?), if it even exists with the name they gave. It definitely isn't next door!

It doesn't list several of the very close-by restaurants or bars, possibly because they are inside hotels, and it lists a few things that I'll have to check out, and at least a couple that aren't open currently. It doesn't list how close I am to the red-light district, which is definitely within walking distance but not of interest to me (this could be a selling point for some Nevadans or passers-through staying at nearby motels). Actually - now that I look again - it does show the red-light district: one adult bookstore I'd never heard of and one "ranch" listed under bars.

For our home at the lake I get a walk score of 15 - car-dependent. For sure! Our house is within walking distance of two restaurants (one closed), one coffee shop, a couple real estate outfits, and a defunct gas station selling sundries. The closest grocery store is almost 2 miles away; the one we use is almost 8 miles away. It doesn't list the nearby coffee shop that is sometimes closed in winter, nor does it list the restaurant that is open or the old gas station that has a few groceries. They are within 0.1 to 0.3 miles and would raise the walkability a little, perhaps. It doesn't list the fact that we are within walking distance of voting, the fire house, a heating repair outfit, one or two jewelry shops, and a boat storage and repair place. (It also doesn't list the nearby beach and picnic area or the boat ramp - we walk to the boat ramp for the view.) It does list a school, which is a tiny charter or private school within 0.15 miles. Most stores and all gas stations are 7 to 8 miles away, so we drive, and although one could consider some kind of mo-ped, I wouldn't use one on a two-lane, 55 mph highway with curves, hills, and trees. (MOH will use his motorcycle to get groceries - it's at the other place now, though.)

What's your score?

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Things to do in Austin, NV

First, settle in at your motel.
Second, look at the geology.


When you are good and ready, walk uphill from your motel (or across the street depending on which motel you are at and where you are going).

golden clubWalk past some old and older out-of-commission bars and remember the bar that isn't there anymore - see the old site next to the Golden Club there? What was it's name? Until it burned down in 1977, that was where CA and I ate every morning. It was a kitchen fire, they said - we woke up that morning to the sound of fire engines and the ruckus of people in the street. After that, the cafe at the International was the only place for breakfast. The tea was lukewarm; the eggs were runny. I ate dry cereal instead. I never have like eating there much, ever since, a kind of leftover bias from the past - the cafe did go through a spell a couple years ago where you could get good burgers. I don't recommend it right now, though: the waitress always seems to be in the bar.

owl club Speaking of bars, here's a live one: The Owl Club. Don't be too confused about this - there's an Owl Club in Eureka, too. This Owl Club here in Austin is the place where Austin Rules were invented: no slop, bank the 8. (At least I think it was this bar. I wasn't around when those rules were invented; didn't find out about them until years later.)

In 1977, this was a good bar to hang out in, as were all the bars including the ones no longer open or no longer extant. In 1977, you could take your beer outside the bar as you headed down the hill or across the street to the next one, and no one minded - unlike in Eureka of the same era when they would practically arrest you. Bar fighting was considered to be a weekend sport, a sport competed in by friends who made up shortly after the fight. I didn't compete, being from out of town. It was a sport just for locals, as far as I could tell.

[BTW, it is a good idea to start at the upper end of town when working your way from one bar to another, and then it's all downhill to the motel from there.]

The Owl Club had the song North to Alaska by Johnny Horton playing on the jukebox in 1977. Every time I stopped back in, I'd check to see if it was still there. Last time I checked, probably in the late 1980's, you could still play North to Alaska on the jukebox. I'd been thinking about this as MOH and I drove through Austin a week before. Would the song still be there?

We walked into the bar, looking for the pool table, which didn't seem to be there anymore unless it was hidden in the back somewhere or under some junk in a back corner. I walked over to the jukebox and examined every song - no North. As we sat down at the bar to await our beers, North to Alaska started playing - on a CD boombox sitting on a small stage in the front corner. We sat and listened - it's still there, just not on the jukebox!

The bartender had stepped out, said he'd be right back. Two guys down at the other end of the bar were arguing about something [maybe they were working up to an old-fashioned fight competition?], the song was over, and there wasn't a pool table to be seen.

international So we left. Without any beer. Walked down the street to the only other bar I'm at all familiar with, maybe the only other one open. The bar at The International.

barWhereas I can't can recommend eating at the cafe, (This part is simply not true anymore, updated 3Feb2012.) The bar is well worth stopping at. The Amberbock on tap is fine, and the bartender tapped a new keg for us (the old one was empty). I think he said that the old handcrafted wooden bar was made in 1842, or that the wood for it was shipped around the horn to San Francisco that year (stop and ask the bartender - he knows!).

unionliquorThe International Hotel building was built in Virginia City in 1859 and then taken apart and brought to Austin in 1863.

woodworkVirginia City then built a new International Hotel, which burned down in 1875. A third International Hotel was then built in V.C., six stories high - it is the International that was supposed to have been the largest hotel east west of the Mississippi. The third V.C. International burned down in 1914. In Austin, only the east side of the current building is from the original International Hotel, as I understand it. Some bits of history here, here, and here.