Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Geo 730: March 11, Day 435: Setting the Stage

This is the scene at the best rhyolite outcrop I know of, at least in terms of "pretty." It was getting later in the day, and I was getting tired. When that happens, I'm less focused on getting photos, more focused on staying coherent, and this outcrop is plenty confusing. As a result, I only have a few pictures here. But the primary purpose of this shot is to help establish the location with some notable landmarks. The big hill on the right is composed of horizontal layers of ashy tuff; you can tell in other, accessible, locations that it has mostly been reworked by water, though there are some spots where it looks as if it's more likely direct airfall. The hill looks to be capped with one or more basalt flows. Also in this photo, the farther slope looks deceptively dark due to it being in the shadow of a cloud. The road cut on the left is our target.

The best spot to park is about a hundred yards up the hill (westward) on the north side of the road. There are some real safety issues here, mostly due to traffic. It tends to be very fast in remote areas like this, and as you can tell from this shot, the visibility into (and out from) the cut is basically nil. The best exposures are on the outside of the turn, unfortunately, but the berm is good and wide. The upside of being remote is that you can hear isolated vehicles approaching well before they arrive. Move away from the road as best you can, and turn to face the oncoming vehicle- as with crossing an intersection, everyone is more comfortable when everyone knows that the other one is aware of and paying attention to them. The other issue is the nature of the rock itself: even though it doesn't really look it, it's very glassy. Use hammers carefully, eye protection is a must, and leather gloves wouldn't be a bad idea (though honestly, I've never used them here- but I almost always shed a minor amount of blood at this site). All that said, it was still a spot I stopped at with properly prepared and informed high school students.

And speaking of setting the stage, the valley in the distance is Virgin Valley, one of the few places in the US where one can find gem-quality opals, the site of a CCC camp, and home to a very pleasant warm spring, which was our ultimate goal on this day. Among numerous other features, it's also the headquarters of the Charles Sheldon Antelope [Pronghorn] Refuge. Virgin Valley is very high on my list of "most awesome places you've never even heard of."

Photo unmodified. August 19, 2011. FlashEarth Location.

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