Tuesday, July 12, 2016

A Hike at Red Pass, Titus Canyon Road, Death Valley, CA

Arriving at Red Pass, which has a couple wide spots for parking, you're about half way down Titus Canyon Road (TCR), and only now are you about to enter the Titus Canyon drainage. Of course, half way depends on how you look at things. You're about half way, as the crow flies, from beginning to end of the TCR, including the western part down the alluvial fan to Scotty's Castle Road; you're less than half way, as the crow flies, from the eastern range front to the western range front; and you're more than half way, as the crow flies, from leaving pavement on the east end to exiting the narrow part of the canyon on the west end. I usually think of the road that last way, but any way you cut it, Red Pass is a good place to stop, get out, look around, take a few photos, and go for a hike. That's what MOH and I did back in early May, 2009.
I know of two trails beginning at Red Pass. The first trail, south to Thimble Peak, has a Class 3 scramble near the top that sounds awful to me (though it doesn't look too bad here). Maybe on our next visit, we'll explore climbing the peak from the west side, rather than the usual east side, or maybe we'll hike the trail part way.

You can't see Thimble Peak from Red Pass, but here's a photo of the peak, way over on the left, taken from White Pass.

The second trail leads up to the hoodoos and rock formations that sit immediately above the pass. I'm not sure if this trail does anything more than wander up to and around the rocks and hoodoos in the Panuga Formation (formerly the Green Conglomerate facies of the Titus Canyon Formation), but I took our hike as an opportunity to walk out to the red ledge that had been visible for miles. I had suspected that the ledge might be a tuff bed, but knew that without a field inspection I'd just be guessing.
The main rock formation, as seen from the east. This oddly shaped mass of eroding conglomerate is sometimes called "Quail Rock."
Here's the red ledge we've seen in two past posts.
We already know the red ledge consists of a crystal tuff marker bed, but MOH and I didn't know that at the time of our hike. Because I'm really not giving anything away, here's a labeled version of the photo, with map unit symbols once again from Niemi (2012).
The Wahguyhe Formation (Tw) overlies the Panuga Formation (Tg), which contains the reddish marker horizon that consists of a crystal tuff (xtl = crystal).
Let's get a little closer.
You can see a very light brown layer near the base of this part of the light brown weathering, massive-looking ledge.
For scale, we've got some smallish plants, including a red-flowering one.
And here's the lighter layer seen up close with field boot for scale.
It turns out that what we're seeing as a lighter-colored layer is a more crystal-rich portion of the tuff bed. I've zoomed in on this below. A finer-grained, fairly crystal-poor, biotite-bearing section lies above a coarser-grained, crystal-rich section.
My fingers are about at the upward transition from crystal-rich to relatively crystal poor.
I'm not sure exactly what kind of tuff this is, although I suspect it's an airfall tuff, possibly reworked in places. I would have needed a bigger hammer and willingness to break rocks in a National Park to have figured things out better. I also would have prefered a cooler day.

And that's about the end of this little hike. Before leaving, let's zoom in for one last, closer look at Quail Rock.
We can see definite layering with coarser and finer layers, and a texture that looks like lithified fanglomerate. Next time, I'll hike higher on the hill so we can take a closer look (and get better scale).
I like the faint cloud texture, which reminds me of microcline twinning.
After hiking back down to the parking area, we can walk over to the western edge of the road and finally look into the easternmost reaches of the Titus Canyon drainage. We'll see more of this next time. In the meantime, you can explore this gigapan, by Ron Schott, which looks west from Red Pass from about this same vantage point.
Where's the Leadfield cabin?
You can see the farthest cabin at Leadfield from Red Pass if you know where to look. And although it's very difficult to pick out in my photo (in the cropped version, above, it consists of just a few pixels), you should be able to find it on Ron's gigapan. Try it! In case you can't find it, I'll point it out next week!

A Couple References:
Lengner, K., and Troxel, B.W., 2008, Death Valley's Titus Canyon & Leadfield ghost town: Deep Enough Press, 175 p.

Niemi, N.A., 2012, Geologic Map of the Central Grapevine Mountains, Inyo County, California, and Esmeralda and Nye Counties, Nevada: Nevada, Geological Society of America Digital Maps and Charts Series, DMC12, 1:48,000, 28 p. text.

Location map

Related Posts:
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
The Approach to Titus Canyon: Tan Mountain
The Approach to Titus Canyon: Up and over White Pass
The Approach to Titus Canyon: To Red Pass
The Approach to Titus Canyon: Just Below Red Pass

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