Thursday, April 14, 2016

Death Valley Trip, Getting There: Highway 95, Redlich, Columbus Salt Marsh, and Another View of Boundary Peak

After lunch, MOH and I drove back into Mina and turned south on Highway 95, continuing our journey toward our next stop (shown above and way down below), and our more distant destinations of Beatty and Death Valley, .

As a rule, I don't write much about U.S. Route 95—that preeminent north-south highway in the west ultimately connecting San Luis, Arizona with the Eastport, Idaho, border crossing into Canada—although I see that this is the 25th post tagged 95. I personally have traveled over a good deal of this road, missing out only on the southernmost portion south of Yuma and most of the northernmost section north of Moscow, Idaho.

Through Nevada, Highway 95 wanders around quite a bit, attaining a nearly north-south bearing only within four relatively short sections: 1) the Winnemucca to McDermitt section, 2) a section south of I-80, running from Trinity to Hawthorne, 3) the Tonopah to Lida Junction section, and 4) the section running from Boulder City to the California state line. Much of 95's wanderings, especially those that occur between Hawthorne and Las Vegas, are caused by the highway's attempt to stay within the state while being subjected to Nevada's western diagonal border. To do that, the road keeps cutting east, then south, then east again, every now and then actually attaining near parallelism to the diagonal, while completing three major south-to-east curves. These curves are at Hawthorne, at Coaldale Junction, and at or just south of Beatty.

From Hawthorne south, there are several opportunites for an unsuspecting traveler to veer from Highway 95 into California; a few of these occur at the three main south-to-east curves. (I always think of 95 as though I'm headed south, not just because in this series of posts that's the direction we've been and will be going, but probably because I'm often eyeing it from a northerly position.) The first—and second—potential deviations into CA from Highway 95 occur in Hawthorne, a town now largely bypassed by most road warriors. At the main light (the only light?), you can access both of these routes by driving south on paved S.R. 359. This road will take you south and then southwest into California, where it will become California S.R. 167. You'll end up on the north shore of Mono Lake south of Conway Summit. I don't think I've ever made this trip in either direction, but maybe, back in the way distant past... Prior to that, however, you have what I consider an even better opportunity to cut into California: Take the dirt road over the Wassuk Range into the Borealis mining area, past the Aurora turnoff, and then meander along the East Walker River north of Bodie to Nevada S.R. 338 and California S.R. 182, paved roads that will almost directly have you in Bridgeport, CA.

At Coaldale Junction, Highway 95 joins U.S. Route 6, essentially coming to a T while making it's second grand curve to the east. If you are persuaded to turn west, you might end up in Bishop, CA, by way of Basalt, Montgomery Pass, and the small berg of Benton. But before that, near a little jog at a place called Tonopah Junction, you might get suckered into heading into California at what is essentially a Y with S.R. 360, which cuts over to Route 6 at Basalt.

Beatty, just north of the third south-to-east bend in Highway 95, offers two alternatives for anyone wanting to leave the state before ending up having to drive through Vegas; both options require a sojourn into or through Death Valley. The most obvious of these escape routes is the paved Daylight Pass road, S.R. 374 in Nevada, which leaves Beatty at it's only stoplight. But before you make it to the stateline on this paved road, a one-way dirt road cuts straight west into Death Valley by way of Titus Canyon. We'll be taking that latter road later (ha!), and we'll be visiting the Nevada-California stateline along Route 6 even later than that.

MOH and I watched ourselves at Tonopah Junction, to make sure we didn't accidentally get sucked into California before we were ready. After ignoring said cutoff, we begin our ascent up to Redlich Summit.

We passed the turnoff to the Candelaria mining district, and soon arrived at Redlich Summit, an apparently obscure summit with surprisingly poor location information on the web (see my location map for the actual location if you are interested). Redlich Summit lies just north of an old gold exploration project mapped and drilled by Former Mining Company in the late 1980s, which we always called just called "Redlich." A little bit of Redlich's geology and exploration history can be found here and here. In the second linked report, it would seem to me that the reporting geologist confused Former Mining Company for another exploration company with formerly similar initials.

I had thought about stopping at Redlich to take a couple pictures for a story about the area, but we breezed on by in favor of looking for some ferrimolybdite, which as you might suspect from it's name, carries some molybdenum (Mo). I wasn't sure exactly where the collection spot was, but remembered it was at a color anomaly caused by hydrothermal alteration. We pulled off the highway just south of the main hill at the old Redlich property.
Some drill roads at Redlich, on the south side of the hill sometimes known as Conglomerate Hill (also seen in the first photo).
The canary yellow ferrimolybdite that I remembered from some field trip back in the late 70s or early 80s, maybe the same one I had learned about plating copper from what looks like plain-ole Mn-oxide while working for Northern Exploration Company, had been easy to find along a dirt road just west of the highway. I could tell without spending much time that this first pullout wasn't the spot, but we looked around a bit anyway.
The view from south of Redlich, looking SE toward the Monte Cristo Range.
A somewhat weak desert pavement had formed in the area.
While walking up the drainage looking for ferrimolybdite, I spotted this nice specimen of a cholla.
It's probable that the ferrimolybdite site noted for the Red Hill area (sometimes conflated with the Redlich mine, as in this Mindat list), is about 2 miles south of where we pulled out. We missed the turn, somehow, and instead pulled out at the historic marker for Columbus, an old borax mining town located to the west along the edge of the Columbus Salt Marsh.
Historic marker #20 can be read here. Boundary Peak in the White Mountains is out there beyond the salt flat.
I zoomed in to get a closer shot:
The north end of the White Mountains.
Montgomery Peak (13,441 ft or 4097 m) is a mere blip of a hill in California; Boundary Peak (13,140 feet or 4005 m) is the highest point in Nevada.
We turned back south, drove by Coaldale and made the second big south-to-east curve toward Tonopah and beyond.

Location map

Related Posts (in order of posting):
Death Valley, "Super" Blooms, Turtlebacks, and Detachments
Death Valley Trip, Part 2: More of the Badwater Turtleback Fault
Death Valley Trip, Part 3: Northward, and over Daylight Pass
Death Valley Trip, Getting There: Wave Clouds beyond the Sierra
Death Valley Trip, Getting There: A Hike to Pleistocene Shorelines

Death Valley Trip, Getting There: Walker Lake, Road Stories, A Bit about Copper, and Some Folds near Luning

Death Valley Trip, Getting There: A Jeep Trail, Folds and Cartoons of Folds, Even More Folds, and Boundary Peak

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