Tuesday, May 24, 2016

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

Before a mediocre breakfast with slow service at the casino at the north end of Beatty, I walked around in the early morning light taking various photos of some of the old (and old-styled) buildings.
The Sourdough Saloon and Happy Burro sit across the street from the parking lot of the Exchange Club Motel.
By the way, you can get a dinner at either place photographed above, and over the course of our two nights in town, MOH and I ate at both of them. Both establishments are relatively congenial. During dinner at the Sourdough Saloon the first night, we found out from other superbloom afficionados that "the best place" was down near Badwater. Additionally, the Sourdough has interesting graffiti on the ceiling: Geology, geography, and geoscience students from around the world (at least as far away as Norway) have left their mark while stopping in for burgers (or pulled pork) and beer.
Ceiling in the dining area of the Sourdough Saloon.
Unfortunately, I can't say that I recommend eating at the Sourdough (although I've since read that you can get a good pizza at the bar, something we didn't try). There seems to be no method for getting your order in other than finally realizing that you are supposed to go up to the kitchen window and harass the cook; the food takes nearly forever; and the sole person present does all the cooking, table waiting, and table cleaning—and she isn't shy about letting you know how put-upon she feels about that! Besides, my memory says that the beer was fairly standard. (I'd rate a bar average or standard if either Sierra Nevada Pale Ale or Blue Moon Belgian White were the best beer available—or if zero IPAs were offered—although the presence of either beer, bottled or on tap, would mean that the selection was better than what is typical of old-style Nevada bars, where Coors or Bud are standard and MGD, Killian's Red, or Heineken might be the best beers available). We relaxed with our ales and enjoyed ourselves as much as possible but didn't go back the next night (or rather we did, but we stayed only a minute or two—long enough to figure out it would be the same slow and dramatized scene as the night before).
The Exchange Club casino and restaurant, closed since 2004.
The Exchange Club holds a few old memories of mine, mostly of lousy food back on Thanksgiving Day, 1975, when the third Geology of Nevada field trip stopped there for dinner, and we all spied the "C" rating on the wall, saw the ghastly looking mayo they were serving, and hesitantly ate the pathetic sliced turkey. Canned cranberry sauce was the best part of dinner. Why were we there on Thanksgiving? That was just part of being a grad student. After dinner, we retired to the Beatty dump to camp. (Jokes about radiation? Yes, although we were not at that dump.)
Old sign for the Exchange Club near the center of town.
I took two pictures of the innacurate sign (I repeat: there is no casino).
On this particular morning, the third day of our rambling journey undertaken primarily to see the superbloom in Death Valley, I puzzled over a fold up in the hills just southeast of town.
Recumbent fold?
At first I was wondering what a fold like that would be doing in the Miocene volcanic formations that surround the city. I later realized this possible recumbent fold was in older rocks—Paleozoic or even Precambrian. Looking at Google Earth and the geologic map of the area (Monsen et al, 1990), there's definitely some folding on that hill, but I'm not sure of its geometry. The rocks are mapped as the Late Proterozoic (formerly Precambrian Z) lower member of the Wood Canyon Formation: quartzite, siltstone, dolomite, and limestone.

After breakfast and a fuel stop, we left Beatty's main intersection by going straight instead of turning left.
U.S. Highway 95 turns left toward Las Vegas; MOH and I went straight.
Our trip into Titus Canyon begins here!

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

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

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

On this leg, we will finally make it into Beatty! Yay!!

In our last episode we were at Black Rock (it should be Black Rock Point, or something, but isn't) checking out Lone Mountain and the Boss Mine. Before leaving, I managed—with my handy-dandy, relatively new Nikon DSLR with 18-300 mm zoom—to get this shot of the far-away Crescent Dunes solar thermal power plant, which reportedly went online in February.
The power tower and mirrors of Crescent Dune in front of the San Antonio Mountains. Part of the defunct Hall moly mine can be seen on the far left. The tower is about 18.5 miles distant in this photo.
And then we got back in the Jeep and proceeded down the road toward Tonopah, where we had some coffee and a snack, and went on our way—again.

As we drifted south from Tonopah, side roads tried to distract us from our goal of reaching Beatty that night. So much to see! So many possibilities! We resisted being drawn astray (resistance is sometimes but not always futile), but upon spotting the first batch of Joshua trees just north of Goldfied, we gave in and pulled over to take a look.

It turns out that we pulled over only to take photos of a tree I had photographed in 2010 and posted about here.

Several views of my favorite Joshua tree:
Relatively close view of the large-ish Joshua tree we stopped for.
 This particular tree is not far from Highway 95 and is just a skip and a jump down the Silver Peak Road. It might, therefore, be one of the more photographed Joshua trees in Nevada. Here it is on Google Street View.
A closer view.
We were unclear about a few non-branching types of yucca (next two photos), but I think this is probably a young Joshua tree.
Unbranched yucca with Lone Mountain on the horizon.
A closer view of the leaves of the non-branched tree.
The entirety of the Joshua tree from the first two photos. Lone Mountain is on the left (NW); the hill going into Tonopah is over there on the right (N).
I just noticed the snow-capped range beyond Hasbrouk Peak and the other hills near Tonopah. This is the high part of the Toiyabe Range, including Toiyabe Dome (11,361 ft, 3463 m) and possibly Arc Dome (11,773 ft, 3588 m), which is the highest point in the Toiyabes.

There was a weak to moderate desert pavement across the area, and we hunted around for ventifacts. Not sure if these two rocks qualify, but they do show typical varnish:
The varnished rocks are probably probably volcanic.
More Joshua trees against the backdrop of the volcanic mesas to the west.
We got back on U.S. 95 and headed south, passing through Goldfield, and pulling off the highway just one more time just north of Lida Junction. I looked down a dirt road I'll probably never travel, a road leading mostly into the unexplored Nellis area.
Stonewall Mountain is partly in and partly outside Nellis, so it's possible I'll get up to the west side someday, to look at those brightly colored volcanic rocks.
Sunlit alluvial fan rills, shadows on the colorful mountains, and Joshua trees.
We were ensconced in our Beatty motel room by 4:45 pm. We didn't waste any time before going out to find some food.

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

Thursday, May 5, 2016

A Few Geologic Words and Concepts Through Time (via Google Books Ngram Viewer)

I'm not sure how I got started on checking different words and concepts on Google Books Ngram Viewer yesterday, although my "History" tab suggests to me that it might have been related to some reading I was doing on science fiction. As for geology and geologic concepts, we'll first take a quick look our main concept, geology:

We see an upsurge in the word "geology" in the early 1800s, coinciding with the rise of active geology in Britain and elsewhere, with fairly steady overall use of the word since then. And this is what Google does when I click the "case insensitive" box:
The recent drop off in "geology," which began in 1980 or 1981, no doubt resulted in part from the changes at many colleges and universities in department names from departments or schools of Geology to departments or schools of Geosciences, Earth Sciences, Earth and Planetary Sciences, Earth and Environmental Sciences, and others. Andrew Alden has a bit more to say about "geology" v. "Earth science" v. "geoscience" here.

But it looks like that doesn't explain the decrease in "geology" entirely:
Any speculations?
And, for what it's worth, "geologist" began to decline in 1970:
As did "geologists":
As for other geologic concepts and words, I'll just show a couple more right now, and maybe get into some others later. (The Ngram Viewer is fascinating, and it's easy to just keep going on seemingly forever.)

This next set explains itself:
"Subduction" v. "plate tectonics" v. "continental drift" v. "geosyncline."

There's an interesting little blip in "subduction" from 1953 to 1959; not sure if this relates to anything real in the history of plate tectonics or is related to something else. Surely "subduction" prior to 1900 is unrelated.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

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

Onward! Onward! How far will we get this time?
Coaldale, as seen in August, 2010.
With Boundary Peak still in view, MOH and I rounded the corner at Coaldale Junction, and pulled in briefly at Coaldale. This particular ghost town, which was first a small mining town and later a roadside waystation with a tiny population, holds a few minor memories for me, dating back to my early days at Northern Exploration Company in the late 70s and early 80s. For some reason, it always seems like a depressing place to stop, and I can rarely bring myself to take a photograph or to get out of my vehicle to take a close look. This time was no different, so I've uploaded a photo I shot back in 2010.

A few miles on, we pulled in at Black Rock, a spot which may originally have been just a little prospect pit in some black chert of the Ordovician Palmetto Formation, but which is now a semi-convenient place to stretch your legs (although it doesn't really offer much cover as a pit stop, and the Millers rest area and the town of Tonopah aren't too much farther down the road).
Coming to Black Rock from the west, Google Street View.
Lone Mountain as seen from Black Rock, looking ESE.
From the south side of Black Rock, we had a good view of Lone Mountain beyond the playa and salt flat of the southwestern end of Big Smoky Valley. A tiny bit of the Weepah Hills is in shadow off to the right (west).
A closer view of the southwest to northwest side of Lone Mountain.
In this photo, the lighter colored rock formation toward the right (west) is the ЄpЄ Reed Dolomite, which, as I noted earlier, is usually listed as Precambrian or Precambrian to Cambrian, and sometimes as Cambrian only. Here it's on top of a thin, dark section of Precambrian Wyman Formation. Underneath the Wyman, and to the left (east), the Cretaceous Lone Mountain pluton forms the bulk of Lone Mountain.

A couple ways in which the Cretaceous may have intruded the Precambrian so sharply and neatly are developed by Maldonado (1984) in the explanation of his map of the Lone Mountain area. I personally think the contact is structural: a low-angle fault (detachment, anyone?), and, in fact, the area is noted as being part of the Silver Peak-Lone Mountain detachment system (Oldow et al, 1994) or Silver Peak-Lone Mountain extensional (or core) complex (Oldow et al, 2009). Also, this map shows the contact as a detachment fault  (Hulen, 2008, between pages 4 and 5). In the few places that I've seen the Wyman-pluton contact on Lone Mountain, I've noted shearing, faulting, or other complexities—and along the north and west side of Lone Mountain, the top of the pluton looks somewhat planar from a distance, and other planar features (jointing?) are apparent from some angles. If you're driving by, a good place to pull off to see these planar features (I'm really not sure what they are) is at the turnoff to the dirt road going to the northern Gilbert District a few miles east of Black Rock  (Google Maps location).
Google Earth image from the perspective of between Black Rock and the turnoff to the northern Gilbert District, and up in the air a bit.
Approximate mapped contacts of the three major rock formations, from Maldonado, 1984.
The same image with a few pink lines added.
I'm not sure what the pink lines represent, other than that they are supposedly entirely within the Lone Mountain pluton. They may be joints in the pluton; they may be Tertiary lamprophyre dikes, as on the 1984 map. Another possibility is that the intrusive-sedimentary contact is mixed, like it is on Mineral Ridge, where Wyman and intrusive rock alternate near or just below the detachment fault (or detachment faults). Or maybe all three possibilities come into play. These are just a few ideas to take with you if you happen to go hiking in the area.

Turning back toward the highway, I stumbled across a few interesting rocks.
Breccia.
The rock is a veined and brecciated chunk of Ordovician Palmetto Formation—chert or siliceous mudstone to siltstone. While walking around, I wondered what the remnant of an old mine dump was all about. Maybe this rock holds a clue.
Here's a zoomed in view of the same rock, focusing in on the quartz vein right and center.
The quartz vein contains brown blades of a relict mineral that has now gone to iron-oxide and silica. Possibly the mineral was calcite, and if so, the resulting mineral or texture is often referred to as "bladed quartz" or "bladed quartz after calcite," or more properly, "quartz [or silica] after bladed calcite." The texture can be indicative that you're in the right part of an epithermal system to find an economic gold or silver deposit. Most of the quartz after calcite I've seen has been crystalline; this silica is microcrystalline.

In fact, several smallish gold deposits have been found in the immediate area, and one has been mined (so far only one deposit has been considered economic).
The Boss mine, a small gold deposit mined in the late 1980s, can be seen just across the road from Black Rock.
A zoomed-in view of the open pit area of the Boss mine.
The Boss produced about 32,000 ounces of gold from 600,000 tons of ore (Diner and Strachan, 1994). That would mean the ore grade was about 0.053 ounces Au per ton (o.p.t). The other deposits, including the Black Rock zone, are described here and here, along with the geology of the Boss mining area. Gold is reported to occur mostly in both Tertiary rhyolites and andesites.

And that will be it for 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

Selected References:
Diner, Y., and Strachan, D.G., 1994, Geology of the Boss mining area, Gilbert district, Esmeralda County, Nevada: Econ. Geology v. 89, no. 5, p. 1176-1182.

Hulen, J.B., 2008, Geology and conceptual modeling of the Silver Peak geothermal prospect, Esmeralda County, Nevada: unpublished report for Sierra Geothermal Power Corporation, 23 p.

Maldonado, Florian, 1984, Bedrock geologic map of the Lone Mountain pluton area, Esmeralda County, Nevada: U.S. Geological Survey Map I-1533, 1:24,000.

Oldow, J.S., Elias, E.A., Ferranti, Luigi, McClelland, W.C., and McIntosh, W.C., 2009, Late Miocene to Pliocene synextensional deposition in fault-bounded basins within the upper plate of the western Silver Peak–Lone Mountain extensional complex, west-central Nevada: Geological Soc. America Special Papers 447, p. 275-312.

Oldow, J.S., Kohler, Gretchen, and Donelick, R.A., 1994, Late Cenozoic extensional transfer in the Walker Lane strike-slip belt, Nevada: Geology v. 22, no. 7, p. 637-640.

Strachan, D.G., 1988, Economic geology and exploration potential of the South Boss prospect, Boss gold mine, Esmeralda County, Nevada: unpublished report on file at Nevada Bur. Mines and Geology, 11 p. and notes.

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