Monday, September 1, 2014

Geo 730: September 1, Day 609: Quartzville

This is, to me, the "iconic" Quartzville spot. The "Snowstorm" tunnel is supposed one of three, but I've never found the other two. Nor have I looked that hard. But sometime in the last ten years or so, they gated the entrance. If I wanted to, I'm pretty sure I could get through that gap. The warning sign on the wall behind the gate says something about hazardous materials, but unless some idiot was trying out mercury or cyanide extraction, I can't imagine what it would be. My personal suspicion is that it's a proactive attempt to control white-nose syndrome among bats... I've never noticed any here, but this would be a good winter refuge for them. And whoever controls this land (BLM or Forest Service) might have correctly guessed that many people don't understand or care enough to respect that issue, and decided to go with a scare tactic. Whatever the reason, when this much effort has been put in, I'll pay attention to No Trespassing signs.

The sad thing is, this adit is perfect for showing some mining techniques. It has an arched roof, which reduces the danger of collapses. It's in extremely tough, tenacious quartz breccia, which despite multiple episodes of fracturing, is not going to fall apart- it's all been re-cemented by subsequent quartz deposition. There are no shafts. Minimal wood was used in the construction, so issues of oxygen depletion are non-existent, and anyway, the tunnel system is small enough that air exchange is good. There's a slight slope down toward the entrance, so water doesn't accumulate (much). And while there are several small branches, the whole thing is limited enough that one doesn't need to worry about getting disoriented or lost. The only real "danger" here is that the ceiling is often low. I'm 60 inches tall, and needed to keep bent down a little, most of the time. You can see Gary Miller, above, has to stoop over a bit, even at the entrance, where it's pretty high. In short, kids found it very exciting to "explore" a mine, I felt safe letting them do so, and it provided me an opportunity to talk about why one should never enter an unfamiliar mine, as well as an opportunity to show what features and structures the miners were focused on and following. It was a stop students consistently rated as a highlight, even there were no "collectable," pretty rocks here. I'm sorry to have lost this resource, and hope that whatever the reason is, it's justified.

Photo unaltered. August 5, 2012. FlashEarth Location. (Park in pull-out here, walk back down the road a bit, and look up hill to right.)

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