Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Future Stories from the Palmetto Moutains

It's 58 miles to the next gas station at Lida Junction on S.R. 266, looking west.
In later years—in the future of the 1976 "present" of these ongoing thesis-hunt stories—I made my way back into the Palmetto-Magruder area barely a handful of times. Once, while taking a back way into Death Valley in the fall of 1986, we made some stops between Lida Junction and Lida to find some blackbrush. This notably unsuccessful endeavor was instigated by a palynologist—he preferred the pronunciation "pollenologist"—who swore he would surely be able to show us some fine examples of the cryptic bush (cryptic to us). At the time, however, most of the bushes lacked leaves (it was fall, or extra dry, or both), and while many had the dark grayish woody stems and trunks reportedly diagnostic of blackbrush, it was nigh impossible to tell one bush from another. Our palynologist couldn't positively identify a single bush! I’ve consequently never been able to ID the plant.
Corral near the junction of SRs 266 and 174, the road to Gold Point. Halogetin in the foreground, unidentified scrub beyond the fences. 

And now I'm going to deviate from my usual format to tell a story that may or may not have occurred in the Palmetto Mountains, one which I am assured by a certain geo-type, who may or may not have been present, not only did not occur, but could not possibly have occurred. Some details may or may not have been changed in this retelling. Any similarities to certain Former Mining Company trips made in the area during the mid- to late 1980s are unquestionably coincidental.

There were four of us geo-types, four geos on a 2-truck expedition into an area of old mining prospects on the south side of an east-west-trending mountain range in a relatively arid area. The sun was high in the sky, as it often is at about midday. The white Chevy pickup (this part is clear in my mind) was ahead of me, going more slowly than would have been comfortable in my company truck, which was a half-ton, 4WD Ford pickup, probably an '85. The Ford could take the deep washboard that was pervasively present through the area at higher speeds than the Chevy because of its better sway bars and other off-road accoutrements. (I know, I know; this sounds like a trite Chevy-Ford rivalry.) Consequently, I was staying a ways back, letting "the guys" go ahead. (In my truck, we were two youngish women, both geologists.)

And now we come to the controversial part of this possibly apocryphal story.

The two ahead of us—those two in that white Chevy pickup, the truck that also lacked enough gumption to go up hills in anything higher than middle gear (I won't mention here its barely SFW nickname)—took off on a hummocky-looking, powdery-textured two-track that was running straight up a steep hill. I won’t exaggerate and say this was the steepest dirt road I’d ever seen (or driven on), but something about it, besides my aversion to being right behind someone on a dirt road—ugh, the dust!—made me stay at the bottom of the hill while I watched them ascend steeply and make a sharp, overly banked turn to the right.

Up ahead in the distance, they stopped. By now we could either barely see them, or they were beyond our sight. We, who had stayed below, walked on up: it wouldn't be that far to the next prospect, and we wanted to check out the road. Oh, look! Beyond the curve the road cuts straight across the hill at a complete sidehill! Any forward or backward movement and the rear end will slide out! (The rear end is usually the part to go first; a complete roll down the side of the mountain is less common).

Disclaimer: The driver of the white truck maintains that there was no sidehill too steep for the truck at this particular locale (which I remember as being in the Palmetto Mountains), and that there was no winching uphill to a Joshua tree in progress when I showed up on foot (and no winching to any Joshua tree ever, anywhere). And the usual statement—pictures, or it didn't happen—could apply. There definitely were no pictures.

I’ll stop for now, not to leave anyone hanging or anything, and will come back to the Palmettos once more, with some roadside geology.

Related Posts:
Thesis: Finding an Area
Finding a Thesis: Battle Mountain to Austin to Gabbs
Finding a Thesis: Pole Line Road
Finding a Thesis: Pole Line to Belmont
Finding a Thesis: Klondyke District
Finding a Thesis: A Joshua Tree Aside
Finding a Thesis: Into the Palmetto Mountains
Finding a Thesis: Farther into the Palmetto Mountains
Finding a Thesis: A Bit O' Geology in the Palmetto Mountains

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