Tuesday, May 6, 2008

What A Gneiss Chert You're Wearing Today!

As promised, details of my trip!!

So the day began actually the night before with me packing everything up nervously checking and re-checking everything, making sure I had all my wipes and other cleaning things. We then made a run to Vons because I forgot food for dinner that would actually be able to be eaten at a campsite.
Anyway, that night I didn't sleep I was so excited. The next morning I woke Kevin, to his dismay, early enough to be at school at 7:30. No one was actually there when we arrived, so we sat in the car as other people arrived and finally the bus. Then Kevin left and we all got on the bus. I had a seat comfortably to myself until the guy everyone decided is a dead ringer for Joaquin Phoenix had to sit in my window seat so two incredibly annoying girlfrieendz could sit together in front of me. So I didn't really get to sleep on the bus either.
We watched some incredibly stoopid movies, including "Broken Arrow", "Demolition Man", "Talladega Nights", and "Transformers". We didn't actually see the end of any of them actually, except for Talladega. The only one I actually enjoyed was Transformers, so I think I'll rent that so I can see the last half.
Anyway, so we were scheduled to go to various locations throughout the Mojave Desert, camp the night at Calico (the ghost town), then spend the next day in Rainbow Basin nearby. Things didn't really go as planned though, as I will tell you...
Our first stop was Pisgah Crater, a cinder cone volcano caused by extension in the crust due to tectonic movement in the San Andreas and other faults (I won't go into too much detail). Anyway, it's inactive and probably over 10,000 years old. We traipsed across the incredibly hot fields of sharp, wobbly lava flows searching for a fabled lava tube said to have a register at the end of it for those who'd completed the incredible journey to sign their name in.
We found probably 6 false tubes that were actually just caves, until finally our teacher (known affectionately as "Charles Fair", both names together) found the entrance to the tube. Not everyone went down, but those who did had quite an experience. You had to slide in on your back or belly and carefully make about a 5-ft drop to another slim entrance. Once in, you had to watch both your feet (being careful not to trip over old lava flows) and your head (there was a very low, sharp ceiling in some places). I didn't have my flashlight with me because Charles Fair neglected to tell us we would need them, (actually a lot of people didn't have them, which will prove fateful...) so I tagged along with an army girl who was intelligent enough to bring hers with her. We helped each other through the long, dark tunnel until we finally made it to the end, where I signed the register "I'm not claustrophobic anymore!!" which isn't true, but it made for a more interesting entry than just my name.

When I got back out, it was still incredibly hot and sunny. I also noticed there had been a few more casualties other than my tunnel partner rolling her ankle on our way out. One girl had fell off the first ledge because she was wearing her sunglasses and couldn't see (they were prescription so she didn't want to take them off). She ended up getting a divet in her knee and scratching her arms. 'Scratch' and 'divet' are a bit of an understatement actually. There was blood all down her leg and arm. Another guy who had been just behind me in the tunnel had banged his head about 5 times along the way came out with a little bloody patch on his scalp. Another girl twisted her knee. But the ultimate injury was in a guy who had no flashlight and was following a little behind his partner with a flashlight. "Hey wait up," he called, and his partner (Joaquin Phoenix, actually) shone the light, but at the guy's feet. The guy took only a few quick steps and hit his head so hard on a low part of the ceiling he was knocked to his back. When he got out there was blood all over his hat, seeping through and getting darker the longer he sat there.
In any case, as soon as we were done at the crater and the evil tube of doom, we had to bypass the rest of our stops for the day and swing by the Barstow County Hospital...
...so the divet girl could get cleaned, stitched, and bandaged, and bleeding head guy could get cleaned, stapled (yes, 4 staples to the head), and tetanus-shotted. It took all of about 4 hours. Towards the bus driver took some of us over to a bus depot for "refreshment" (more like half the guys decided to take the opportunity to get tons of alcohol). Amanda, one of my pals, and I were asked to watch some lady's dog while she went to the bathroom. The dog's name was Rusty and was pretty cute, although a little wary of us.
Here is a shot of the depot, which was composed of numerous old train cars:
Then we went back to the hospital to pick up the stragglers, Charles Fair, and Staples, who went with us the rest of the trip, providing great amounts of applause upon his entrance into the bus. We drove over to Calico while it was still light and tried to set up camp in the 70mph wind. Then we went and explored the hills and ruins, then came back, built a fire, ate dinner, chatted for hours, then I went to the tent and read, took a walk with a veteran stripper turned professional geologist and talked about stars (I saw a shooting star!), then I went to sleep. Well, I tried to. In the morning we had breakfast and waited for the bus, which finally came, so we packed up and were on our way. The first slide show is camp-related stuff and the second is our explorations.

The first stop on our second day was to Rainbow basin, which was incredible, but also incredibly hot. We hiked a mile into the basin along a road through towering green formations. The rock is green because it cools in an anoxic environment, which is without oxygen. Some parts were red, which is when there is oxygen present in cooling. The namesake of the basin is a syncline of red and green rock, which supposedly looks like an upside-down rainbow. A syncline is rock layers that folded into a U (or V in this case) under compression stress.

Then we had to climb up several ridges in order to map various bits of Skyline Tuff (a common igneous rock that marks fault lines in the area), all the time wondering why Charles Fair was making us climb up all these ridges in order to do something we could've done perfectly well at the bottom of the valley. It was 1 o'clock, everyone was starving, tired, hot, and Charles Fair was still making us map things-- unbelievable!! Finally he released us and we forged our way through the river bed to loop back around to the bus.
After a lovely, lengthy lunch we took a pretty long drive to our next stop, which was yet another lava flow from some other cinder cone. We looked at the polished surfaces of the vesicular basalt (caused by wind weathering and microorganisms) then went to the bottom of the cliff to look at the 10 million year old metamorphic rock that the basalt had flowed onto. There were grasshoppers everywhere, it was rather eerie.
We then went to an outcrop of limestone from when the area was under ocean water. On the other side of the outcrop was a bunch of shale with trilobite fossils in them. I spent 15 minutes looking for the durn things and I never found a single one, even though the guy who told me what to look for found three within the first like 45 seconds. No one else found any either, but the trilobite guy gave me his most complete sample, which was really cool of him, even though I was a little disappointed in the fossil because I was living under the delusion that everything ancient was at least 6 inches long, but this thing was only 3/4 of an inch long, and very difficult to spot amongst the cracks in the shale. But I still have a trilobite fossil. Woot.

We then made our way to our NEXT stop (after being promised we could go home) that was a very large outcrop (actually mountains) of highly weathered granite. It was fairly interesting I guess, but it was a beautiful view, and the wind was bringing in rain clouds. I liked the rock because it reminded me of home. It's actually part of the same giant batholith (cooled magma chamber) that got uplifted that puts the huge granite boulders through all the hills of Fallbrook, Temecula, etc. There were a lot of mating black beetles with orange heads. Creepy.
It was a long drive back, and we got stuck in traffic for a bit in Victorville, but I still made it back in time to run to the Recital Hall to see Kevin's saxophone ensemble concert.
I'm still catching up on sleep and energy lossage from the trip, but it was incredible fun.
Oh, and here's a picture of a half of a turtle I found outside the bus at the Basin: (Just for you)

P.S. The girl in most of my picture is the Amanda I mentioned. The other one you see is Rachel. The big guy in striped pants is Matt (these three were my tent-mates), and I don't know who the other guy is, probably one of the 5 Michaels. He just came with us in our explorations part of the time. We were all pretty closely bonded and friendly in that class. That's part of the reason it was so fun. Anyway, if anyone has any questions about any of the pictures, just ask, and I will tell.


Janeite42 said...

half a turtle? creepy! did the bus run over it? some of those rock formations are incredible, and I'm learning so much about geology from your blog. now I can tell people who comment on all the rocks around here that they're from a giant batholith. but I think batholith sounds kind of like the name of a star wars creature. very cool, anyways.

Marlyse & Kenny said...

Yeah, Shannon! I totally met him and my inlaws know him. Small world!

eric & adrien said...

holy pictures batman! that sounds like a fun adventure. yay geology. i'm sort of excited for that class in the summer.