Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Finding a Thesis: Arriving at Blind Spring Hill

With Mineral Ridge in my rear-view mirror, I stopped briefly at the basalt cinder cone, The Crater, which is located right on the side of the road just a few miles north of Silver Peak. From The Crater, I set my sights on Blind Spring Hill, which was last on my list of thesis possibilities. Blind Spring Hill is a ridge-like hill or small mountain that extends southward from the road between Benton and Benton Hot Springs, CA, and which hosts a small silver mining district, Blind Spring Hill mining district. Blind Spring Hill is about 30 miles north of Bishop, CA, and not far southwest of the California-Nevada state line.It was supposed to be my last stop.

I drove north on old 47 (now S.R. 265) to Blair Junction.
Blair Junction is the intersection between S.R. 265 (old 47) and Route 6 (cosigned with U.S. 95).
I turned left...and said goodbye to Mineral Ridge.
Mineral Ridge, looking south from near Blair Junction.
The domal shape of the Mineral Ridge core complex is easily seen looking south from U.S. 95–U.S. 6 if you're driving east or west along the south end of the Monte Cristo Range between Lone Mountain and Coaldale; in fact, the best angle to see the shape of the core complex really is from right about at Blair Junction, as in the above photo, which I took in 2010 when coming back from a trip to Fish Lake Valley. The pyramidal peak at the top of the dome is upper plate sitting atop of the Mineral Ridge detachment fault, which follows along and just above or just below the overall outline of Mineral Ridge. The fainter mountains seen through a low spot at the right end of Mineral Ridge is part of the Silver Peak Range south of Red Mountain, which is hidden from view at this angle. Rhyolite Ridge, also part of the Silver Peak Range, sits at the farthest right. The low, black hill on the horizon and left of center, almost hidden in the saltbush and shadscale is not The Crater. Rather, it's hill 4833, a low hill located along a paleo-beach in the south part of Big Smoky Valley (USGS TNM location). I've never stopped to check it out., but it might be made of tufa-cemented gravel related to a Pleistocene shoreline, or it could be something within the Tertiary Esmeralda Formation, which is broadly composed of shale, siltstone, and sandstone, with some interbeds of conglomerate, tuff, and tufa.

From Blair Junction, it's a little more than 6 miles to Coaldale Junction, where Highway 95 splits off from this section of conjoined Highway 6 to head north, and Highway 6 continues west toward California.
These old buildings are part of the site of Coaldale, which was active in its day.
Colorful, volcanic hills in the north part of the Silver Peak Range overlook the highway a little west of Coaldale and Coaldale Junction. I've driven by these hills many times but have never stopped. Uranium and coal occur in the area (Albers and Stewart, 1972).
Volcanic rocks south of Highway 6 near Coaldale Junction.
At Coaldale Junction, I turned off the Highway 95-6 combo, to continue west on Highway 6. From there, it's about 19 miles to the California border.

From the NV-CA state line, just north of the north end of the White Mountains, it's 7 miles to Benton and 8.5 miles to the north terminus of Blind Spring Hill.
Here's a good view of the White Mountains, looking south from close to the state line (Google Street View).

Boundary Peak, Nevada's highest mountain at 13,140 feet (4005 m), is the snow-covered peak above treeline on the left; Montgomery Peak, at 13,441 feet (4097 m), is California's higher peak just to its right. Boundary Peak is often considered a subsidiary peak to Montgomery Peak. Without Boundary Peak, Wheeler Peak, in eastern Nevada would be Nevada's highest mountain at 13,063 feet (3982 m). As for the White Mountains, Boundary Peak is practically a low hill: farther to the south, the Whites reach the even higher height of 14,246 feet (4342 m) at White Mountain Peak.

From U.S. 6 at Benton, I took California S.R. 120 toward Mono Lake and Lee Vining. Highway 120 is the road that ultimately goes over Tioga Pass to join Highway 49 on the other side of the Sierra Nevada near Moccasin Reservoir, about 30 miles northwest of the western entrance to Yosemite National Park. If you have never taken 120 over the Sierra, you should. If you’ve taken that route, I recommend driving 120 between Benton and Lee Vining, in either direction (I most commonly drive it from east to west). The route is typically closed in winter, so you might have to wait a couple months.
The section of Highway 120 route I'm recommending (Google Maps).

This rather obscure, back-country paved road will place the White Mountains either in front of you or in your rearview mirror, depending your direction of travel. You will either begin or end on Highway 395 at the south end of Mono Lake near Lee Vining, where you'll be at the north end of the flow-dome complexes of Mono-Inyo Craters and just south of Panum Crater. No matter which direction you end up traveling, you will be in for some great views, and you will be driving through some incomparable volcanic geology.

After getting on Route 120 at Benton, on my first journey ever through the area in 1976, I drove west toward the small outpost of Benton Hot Springs, which didn't look at all inviting to me. I didn't stop. At the time, besides being focused on completing my journey, I was plagued by my usual reservations about being observed by people while in the field, and I felt out-of-place and conspicuous. Despite these feelings, I probably did enjoy a lunch or two in Benton during my intermittent stay in the area (or was that later, when doing field work and reconnaissance for Former Mining Company?).

Because of my qualms or suspicions around people, rather than turning south at Benton Hot Springs, I almost certainly drove a couple miles farther to turn onto dirt. Without a doubt that turn is the way to go into the area if coming from the west, which I did at least once, maybe twice or three times.
This is the turnoff into the area, as seen from the west (Google Street View). The prominent mountains are the White Mountains. Blind Spring Hill is the low, inconspicuous range in front of the Whites.

My campsite, 14.5 miles from the state line on the dirt road I took and about 215 miles from home, was centrally located at about the middle of the hill’s western range front. I had a smallish tent, one large enough to sit or kneel in, but not tall enough in which to stand up. I had a sleeping bag, a cook stove, a small table, and  afolding chair.

Beyond camp, the dirt road steepened, zigged or zagged a little, and began its ascent of Blind Spring Hill’s western face to the numerous old workings. My 1976, light blue Opel sedan had easily traversed the dirt road from pavement to camp, but I could see I’d better walk up the road before committing the Opel to it. It’s a good thing I did, too. A 4WD would have been able to drive partway up the road, sliding around the gullies and dodging the gigantic boulders, but the road was completely washed out right at the top of the hill, so I would have had a long way to back down, something I wan't that proficient at in those early days of field work.

I walked up and took a look around.
The spliced Benton, Casa Diablo Mountain, Glass Mountain, and White Mountain Peak 15' quads, courtesy USGS.
The main part of the area, where all those prospects are, is bifurcated by two topo quads, and less than three miles from the corner of four quads. The area is right next to two paved roads and is 35 miles from a bar. This latter means that it doesn't quite make the criteria for being a good place to "find a mine" (and maybe that's why no one has, recently), although it is less than 30 airline miles from bars at Mammoth Lakes, so maybe...just maybe. (It's also less than 25 airline miles to The Boonies bar and cafe in Nevada's Fish Lake Valley—in case you were thinking of flying over the White Mountains!)
A strangely distorted view of a bar in Dyer, NV.
Blind Spring Hill, the last area on my list, was the most intriguing of all the places I’d visited. The mines were in granitic rock, which hopefully could be mapped into distinct plutons. I could learn some of the differences between weathering effects and the alteration effects that often accompany the fluids that shoot through and infuse the rocks during a mineralizing event. I stopped and looked at a few prospects on the way up the road, I looked around a few workings on the top of the hill, and I saw some promise. I had collected a good many rocks before I made it back to my camp at the base of the hill.

Note: I would now choose Mineral Ridge and the Mary Mine hands down over all the other areas I examined, perhaps barring the Betty O’Neal mine up near Battle Mountain. I’ve always had a lingering fondness for the Betty O’Neal, but would still choose Mineral Ridge. For one thing, it’s not located near Battle Mountain!!!

Selected Reference:
Albers, J.P., and Stewart, J.H, 1972, Geology and mineral deposits of Esmeralda County, Nevada [available for sale only]: NBMG Bulletin 78, 80 p

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
Future Stories from the Palmetto Mountains
Lida Summit Roadcut
Finding a Thesis: Next Stop, Silver Peak!
Finding a Thesis: Coming into Clayton Valley
Finding a Thesis: On the Southern Route to Mineral Ridge
Finding a Thesis: The Northern Route onto Mineral Ridge and a Little Geology
Finding a Thesis: Up to the Millsite and Back
Finding a Thesis: Views and Geography and ... Oh, What's That?
Finding a Thesis: A Cinder Cone Aside


Hollis said...

Benton Hot Springs used to be a favorite stopping place--laid back, wood tub at each campsite, cheap. No longer. Last time I stopped, 5 years ago, it had gone upscale and was out of my price range (and the guy said he was giving me a deal!). I kept going.

Silver Fox said...

Too bad! We were by there recently but didn't stop to check the prices due to car trouble.