Saturday, December 31, 2011

The snowcapped Lost River Range...

in central Idaho provided a photogenic backdrop during my long drive today.  The closure of I-15 at the Montana border due to icy conditions and gusty winds diverted me to a slower, but highly scenic, alternative route north (click to enlarge):
Borah Peak, the highest summit in Idaho at 12,668 ft, lies ensconced in this range in the distance.  It is also the location of a large earthquake in 1983.  While I've not yet climbed this lofty peak, it is on my "to do" list.  Perhaps next summer.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Hidden Valley...

is the focus of today's exploration, and it is bound by faults parallel to the main Moab-Spanish Valley fault, seen here in a textbook cross-sectional view (click images to enlarge):
After climbing more than 700 ft above the trail head, followed by a short walk, one arrives at a towering wall of varnished sandstone with abundant rock art along its length:
Most of the petroglyphs are easily observed at ground level:
I particularly like this chorus line of anthropomorphic figures:
At the point where I turned around there is a nice view into the densely jointed sandstone terrain of The Land Behind the Rocks towards the north:
And so ends my last sojourn of this holiday.  I'll pack tomorrow, shut down the house and say goodbye to my terrific neighbors, then head north on New Year's Eve day.

Rafts of frazil ice...

on the Colorado River caught my attention on the drive to Moab today (click images to enlarge):
The slushy pancakes drifted slowly along with the gentle currents:
And here's the view, looking upstream, from the bicycle bridge near Lion's Park near Moab:

A wet world...

not far from Earth.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Rambling around Richardson Amphitheater...

near Fisher Towers today was quite delightful, under azure blue and sunny skies with temperatures in the upper 40s.  The arkosic conglomerates in the Cutler Formation (Permian) are displayed nicely in craggy outcrops (click images to enlarge):
Dried flowers on last season's rabbitbrush were still hanging on:
Rocky ledges on overlying strata in the upper basin provided a purchase for snow that had fallen earlier in the week:
I discovered a monumented section corner established in 1929 as part of the early General Land Office Survey:
And this vertical metal monument marks the site of an abandoned wildcat oil well:
What a great day for a hike, my penultimate outing during my holiday stay in southern Utah.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

It was a sedimental journey...

in Culvert Canyon yesterday, where sedimentary structures galore presented themselves in the Kayenta and Navajo Formations (click images to enlarge).  At the base of the landmark sandstone spire lies a channel-fill consisting of an intraformational conglomerate:
Here's the context view of the entire spire:
Nearby, mudcracks were exposed as sole marks on the underside of a bedding plane:
And here's a fallen and rotated slab showing them as they are normally seen on the top surface of a bedding plane (that's my knee at the bottom of the image):
Lastly, at the base of Gold Bar Arch, there are multiple bioturbated beds, separated by laminated sandstones (perhaps tempestites?):

Clouds painted beautiful skies...

that inspired my photography today on my hike 'round Round Mountain (click images to enlarge):

Monday, December 26, 2011

Luna and Venus...

setting above Porcupine Rim, just moments ago (click to enlarge):

This culvert is a portal...

to the eponymously named Culvert Canyon, found along the Potash Road near the Gold Bar campground on the Colorado River, and the focus of today's backcountry sojourn (click images to enlarge):
There are no maintained trails in the branching canyon system, and route finding is not trivial, but here's a reasonably accurate description that can guide you on your own adventure.  This sandstone spire stands as a prominent landmark in the upper part of the basin, and serves as a natural guidepost:
Climbing higher and through the pass containing the sandstone sentinel the ultimate goal of today's exploration is found a short distance beyond, Gold Bar Arch:
The opening is about 40 ft high and 50 ft wide, and provides a fantastic stony frame to the distant La Sal Mountains:
Here's a view after passing through the arch, towards the west:
Critical stats:  1.75 miles from the trail head with 1,100 feet of elevation gain.  One large rockfall heard.  Zero humans encountered.  Priceless.

Upper Courthouse Wash...

on the west side of Arches National Park was the focus of a walkabout several days ago, and this Google Earth image shows the incised drainage east of highway 191 (click images to enlarge):
I stuck mostly to the upper plateau surface on the sunny and windless day, satisfied with views from the rim into the partially shaded canyon:

The national park boundary was obviously marked, and I strictly obeyed the instructions found there lest the rangers come after me:
Trace fossils consisting of horizontal tracks and/or burrows were etched in relief on some bedding planes in the Moab Tongue Member of the Entrada Sandstone:
There were good views into the Windows section of Arches NP to the east, and you can spy North and South Window Arches to the right of center:
And to the south, the snow-draped La Sal Mountains provided a distant backdrop as I meandered along the sandstone escarpment:

Timeless timepiece...

Engineering the 10,000-Year Clock

Saturday, December 24, 2011

What I'm reading...

right now:  Race to The End - Amundsen, Scott, and the Attainment of the South Pole by Ross D.E. MacPhee.  This is as much a coffee table book due to its lavish illustrations including archival photographs and detailed maps, as a rich account of two competing Antarctic expeditions and personalities.  The frigid evening temperatures here in the high desert make for a perfect setting to read this heroic, and tragic, tale.

From southern Utah...

Friday, December 23, 2011

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Castle Valley is getting dressed...

for the holidays with a light snowfall today (click to enlarge):
 Looks like we're having a white Christmas:

An exhumed paleochannel...

from the Jurassic stands out in relief as a sinuous ridge in these Google Earth images, located about eight miles north of Moab, Utah (that's the intersection of highways 191 and 313 at the top of the first image).  The following image is a view to the southwest (click images to enlarge):
This second image is a view in the opposite direction, toward the northeast.  The dry wash clips the western end of the landform, and coincides with the position of the Moab fault:
The paleochannel is part of the Salt Wash Member of the Morrison Formation, and stands more than five meters above the surrounding shaly strata belonging to the Tidwell Member:
Here's the view from on top, towards the west, where the sinuous geometry is very apparent.  If you look closely, my field vehicle is parked on the Moab fault at the distant end of the landform:
The channel feature is filled with coarse-grained quartz arenite sandstones, with distinct planar-tabular crossbeds that are oriented towards the east, consistent with the basinal dip during the Jurassic:
This bit of field geology was just part of my explorations yesterday of the area around Upper Courthouse Wash west of Arches National Park.  I'll post more later.

Periglacial processes...

alive and well on the red planet: Icy 'hand' moves boulders on Mars. Albeit at a very, very slow, um, glacial pace.

Here's the technical abstract: Boulder movement at high northern latitudes of Mars

It's always the last place...

you look: Working Pen Removed From Woman’s Stomach After 25 Years.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

I'm putting nuts up...

for the winter, at least metaphorically, by having a cord of firewood delivered to my desert hacienda today.  Although there's about a quarter cord left, enough to keep me warm for my short holiday stay, it's time to restock the log pile for when I return in the spring.  Looks like tomorrow's chore will be sorting and stacking.

The longest and shortest...

night and day, respectively, occurs today/tomorrow (depending on your time zone), known as the winter solstice.  Although this marks the beginning of winter in the northern hemisphere, it also means that daylight hours will begin to gradually lengthen.

And the apocalypse countdown commences.  Enjoy the next 365 days - they're all you've got.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

I'm heading south...

for a couple of weeks to my red rock desert retreat in Castle Valley, Utah, where the days are reliably sunny and temperatures a bit warmer.  Although the days are still short, I reserve a bunch of hikes in south-facing canyons for exploration this time of year.

I'm up early and will head out shortly.  Will check in on the other end.

UPDATE:  Arrived a while ago under a crystalline starry night - Orion rose above the La Sals as I rolled into the Moab area.  Will build a fire tomorrow to warm this place up, but I thought I'd update the blog while I'm waiting for the Scotch to take effect.  Good night.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Battle of fire and ice...

and the icy comet Lovejoy wins! Here's the video of the rapidly moving comet being slingshot through the Sun's corona:

Quite extraordinary, and you may want to replay it multiple times.  Here are more details of this amazing encounter.

Scientists find microbes...

in lava tube living in conditions like those on Mars.

That's where I'd look for extant life on the red planet - in thin films on the walls of lava tubes.  The cavern environment provides more moderated temperatures, and shielding from ionizing radiation, than on the surface.

Bicentennial anniversary of enormous quakes...

that rattled the Midwest occurs today, and over the next two months:  The New Madrid earthquake events.

Image courtesy Wikipedia.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A very unlucky year...

at the Lucky Friday mine in Idaho: Three miners hospitalized in Lucky Friday rock burst.

EWU's marketing motto...

seems like a natural domain name for a pornographic web site - - don't you think?

RELATED:  Washington colleges pay to fend off porn sites.  "At Eastern Washington University, school officials decided against purchasing any of the domains during the two-month window but are continuing to consider their options."

So is EWU's reluctance to jump on this a) a missed opportunity to protect the university's fine reputation, b) overlooking a potential money-maker during a time of diminished state support, or c) a failure to generate greater student interest in our institution?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Geographic South Pole...

reached for the first time 100 years ago on this date in 1911 by Roald Amundsen.  I've just ordered this book for some holiday reading, as I prepare for my personal mini-expedition to southern Utah.  When I'm not hiking or skiing or exploring I'll be reading.

UPDATE: Why the British Were Doomed to Lose the Race to the South Pole.

Know your antipode...

before tunneling through the center of the Earth as it may be helpful to have an idea where you will emerge on the other side of the globe.  Here's an easy antipode calculator.

For me, digging down from Cheney, America, it's in the southern Indian Ocean, near the Kerguelen Islands.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

An excellent visual comparison...

of the energy released by recent earthquakes (best viewed full screen):

Hunt for Higgs...

boson is still elusive, ambiguous:   Possible Higgs boson signals, but we won't know for sure until next year.

In the meantime the universe continues to exist.

Monday, December 12, 2011

What would you do...

if you were facing a similar situation?

Jupiter's moon Europa...

is target for possible NASA lander.  Why?  "Europa, I think, is the premier place to go for extant life" said one scientist.

But apparently NASA didn't get the message about not landing there.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Plan a hike...

on Mars using the new HiView software and HiRISE images acquired by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft.

This will have to do until you're able to get there.  Have fun.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

I get up early...

so you don't have to, and here's the fruit of my labor. The predicted fog didn't manifest itself in the 18-degree F early morning, allowing for a good look at the total eclipse of the Moon.

Image details: Canon EOS 30D with 400 mm EF lens on monopod.

RELATED:  Here's another early morning astroimaging project of mine from a couple of years ago.

Friday, December 9, 2011

I think he likes it...

It's field work Friday...

today, the last of the calendar year, as I check the dipsticks in the Rathdrum Prairie aquifer.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Watch the dawn eclipse of the Moon...

early this Saturday morning. You'll have to rise at 4:45 am PST if you want to catch the early show, and it will conclude by 6:57 am PST.  Get all the details at the linked article, and there's more information here.

Unfortunately, for eastern Washington, fog is predicted due to a cold, stagnant air mass.  This may frustrate my attempt at observation.

It's a volcano-palooza...

with this series of links that I've accumulated the last several weeks:

Gypsum veins discovered on Mars...

by Opportunity rover: NASA Mars Rover Finds Mineral Vein Deposited By Water.  This removes any and all doubt that water flowed through fractures in the past on Mars.  Be sure to check out the related images at the link.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Will a new volcano emerge...

from the sea at El Hierro?  Here's the latest information:
If this activity continues I will certainly be communicating with the ship's captain of the Clipper Odyssey to see how close we might be able to approach this interesting site on our upcoming Zegrahm Expedition to the Canary Islands in mid-April 2012.

Mythbusters stunt goes awry...

and sends cannonball through nearby homes.  Fortunately nobody was injured, and be sure to watch the video at the link.  Should make for an interesting episode when it airs.

UPDATE:  More here with another video.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Christmas cactus...

in my window is in full bloom for the holiday season (click to enlarge):
Enjoy the splash of color, and happy holidays to all.