Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Approach to Titus Canyon: Tan Mountain

On our ongoing journey into Death Valley via Titus Canyon, we've left behind the Original Bullfrog mine (which can be seen from the road if you know where to look) and have made it past the eastern boundary of Death Valley National Park. As I've already mentioned, the Titus Canyon road can be distractingly washboardy in its early parts, and it's often barely wide enough for two vehicles to squeeze past each other, which only happens when a faster one wants to pass a slower one (it’s all one-way to the west).
Loose gravel typical of the Titus Canyon road east of Tan Mountain.
In the photo, we're looking back the way we just came, which happens to be northward here, toward some low volcanic hills in the northwesternmost part of the Amargosa Desert.

By the way, I took all the photos in this post in early May, 2009. A lot of flowers were blooming in the upper Amargosa Desert and along the Titus Canyon road. We stopped often on that trip, for flowers, lizards, and short hikes. We didn’t stop as often during our February trip to Death Valley: We were intent on getting to the lower elevations to see the superbloom.
Prickly pear cactus, which we saw along the road before entering the park (see location map way below). The cross-hatching pattern of the pads reminds me of the mineral alunite.
A close-up of the same plant.
An unidentified flowering plant with 1996 dime on the left for scale.
After about 50 minutes on the road, and about a half hour into the park (including flower-photo stops), MOH and I pulled over at a hill composed of exposed and outcropping ash-flow tuff. I found out later that this hill or butte is locally or colloquially known as “Tan Mountain.” It’s referred to by this name on Panoramio and in Death Valley's Titus Canyon & Leadfield Ghost Town by Lengner and Troxel (2002, 2008). The reason for the name is ... you guessed it, the color. It is not named on topo maps, and ordinarily, without knowing a local name, I'd call it hill 4915, for the 4915-foot marking shown on the Daylight Pass 7.5' quad (USGS TNM 2.0 location).

The road is widened somewhat at Tan Mountain, so it's easy to stop, look around, and go for a stroll. It can seem kind of warm on the slopes, even before ten in the morning; maybe the light-colored tuff reflects a lot of heat.
Tan Mountain, with geo-type hiker for scale.
We continued to take flower photos as we rambled upward.
An unknown yellow flowering plant with dime for scale.
Bright red fireweed on the slopes below the rounded spires and hoodoos of Tan Mountain.
Nearing the base of the cliffs, I stopped to take this photo of an outcrop of the pumiceous, lithic-rich, poorly welded ash-flow tuff that makes up Tan Mountain. I didn't climb to the top of the hill, so I didn't get to see if the degree of welding changed significantly in the 200 feet or so to the top.
A reddish brown lithic fragment in the poorly welded tuff.
Tent-like and hoodoo-like forms eroded into the ash-flow tuff.
I'm not sure what ash-flow tuff formation this is. It was mapped as Tr--Pliocene to Oligocene felsic lava flows and tuffs by Workman et al (2002), and Lengner and Troxel (2008) implied that it erupted from the Timber Mountain caldera, although maybe they were intending, on page 63, to refer to tuff sheets seen a little farther to the west when they said:
"...you will see volcanic debris only from the Timber Mountain caldera on this trip."
And that's how far we're going down the Titus Canyon road today.

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

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

Death Valley Trip, Getting There: Coaldale, Black Rock, Lone Mountain, and the Boss Mine

Death Valley Trip, Getting There: Black Rock to Lida Junction to Beatty

Beatty: Old Buildings, A Fold, and Onward toward Titus Canyon

The Approach to Titus Canyon: Amargosa Narrows, Bullfrog Pit, and the Original Bullfrog Mine

Mineral Monday: Close-Ups of Bullfrog Ore from the Original Bullfrog Mine, Nevada

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