Above is a fairly typical scene from a boulder that has weathered out of the quartz vein. The vein material itself is just massive quartz- there's very little to see that's of any interest, and very little hint as to the nature of the crystals. It occurs to me belatedly that it might actually be kind of interesting to see what a thin section of that material looks like under crossed polars. However, it's the void spaces in the breccia that hold little treasures. The colorful spot in the lower middle- above the salal and blackberry leaves- is an obvious example. A less obvious example is about halfway between the colorful vug and the hammer handle- less obvious because the crystals are the same milky white as the vein itself. Below are two crops from the full size photo.
Of the last three times I've been to Quartzville, twice with Hollie Oakes-Miller and husband Gary, once with Dana and Aaron, this was the only trip on which I had the energy to haul myself up this dratted hill. Then I got to this point, and realized I was so exhausted that it would be unwise and unsafe to tire myself any further: I still had to get back down. Hopefully, I'll do the trip backwards at some point, so this is an early stop, and I'm still pretty fresh. It certainly deserves more time than I've given it recently.
We're looking at the vein from nearly end-on in this shot. It's not easy to judge the scale of the photo, but that wall is maybe 3 meters/10 feet thick and about 12 meters/40 feet tall. The quartz crystals aren't massive and pure, like, for example, one sees in the Hot Springs, Arkansas, area. Nevertheless, as we'll see in coming days, there are some very pretty crystals to be found here. The impurities- mostly iron and manganese- often give them some awfully nice earth tones. And the weathering of the vein has broken some of the rocks into a manageable size. With the larger blocks, it's futile trying to break them with any size hammer. They're just too tough.
Climbing the long, winding road from the Snowstorm tunnel up to the top of the ridge, one arrives at the notch of Red Heifer Pass. Just before that notch, there's a logging access road off to the left. Though narrow and rough, it's passable for both large (up to 12-passenger vans and SUV's) and small vehicles if you take it slowly, and there's a wide area a hundred yards in or so where you can park and turn around. On the other hand, if you're uncomfortable with driving on a narrow road with a steep drop-off to one side, there's no reason not to park along the main road and walk in, other than it's farther to carry samples back.
The feature of interest in this spot is that black dorsal fin sticking up out of the hillside: a massive quartz vein. It's a bit beyond the pile of dirt and rock blocking the road, but if you look up the hillside just past that block, it's easy to spot. It's quite a scramble to get up to it. You have to clamber up a talus pile at the angle of repose, then hoist yourself up over a 6-foot dirt step to get to the spot where I took this photo. The hillside is a lot steeper than this photo makes it look, so even once you're past the first two obstacles, it's a lot of work getting around. I've never seen anyone hurt here (fingers crossed), but there is a real risk of injury. So if you visit, use caution.
According to Wikipedia, an adit is "entrance to an underground mine which is horizontal or nearly horizontal, by which the mine can be entered, drained of water, ventilated, and minerals extracted at the lowest convenient level." Above is a nice example, which, sadly, is no longer open to explore. In the diagram below, I've sketched out (from memory) the rough layout of the mine. The diagonal checks indicate areas of particularly intense brecciation- though all the host rock has been through multiple episodes of shattering and recementation. The breccia zones are exaggerated in width for clarity and continuity- the width of the addits more accurately represents the brecciated zones.
So the opening, shown in the top photo, is clearly where they started. My guess is that the miners started there, working back along the fault zone. I suspect they had identified the second fault zone at the outset; it's pretty easy to find, even with moss and other plant growth obscuring it. The first leg provided enough payoff to keep them going, but slowly started getting poorer. So they dog-legged over to the second fault zone, which, again, provided enough gold to keep them going a while, but also got poorer as they went along. At that point, they sent exploratory adits to either side, one back to the original zone, and a second to a possible third zone in the other direction. I have not been able to identify a third zone on the hillside, and all the rock in the tunnel is so torn up that it's difficult to make out anything with confidence. So that third zone may have been based on observations I haven't replicated, or it might have been a hopeful guess on the miners' part. At any rate, it was a lot of fun to talk with kids after they'd had a chance to get a feeling for the layout about why the miners had chosen to tunnel the way they did. Obviously, from the modern day, we can only speculate, but the story above makes good sense.
As I'm wont to do on occasion, I went on a Twitter tear yesterday. It started with this:
I had seen this quoted on a couple of my liberal politics blogs, rolled my eyes, and moved on. But Imani ABL caught it and responded:
Then Dr. Skyskull, bless him, posted the trigger:
Okay, so when a potential hashtag like #ConservativePillowTalk is dangled in front of me, I'll take it, hook, line, and sinker.
Then a couple more, in rapid succession:
And for the remainder (all mine), I'll just copy the text.
"Who needs Viagra? I have an AR-15."
"Not tonight, honey. I want to work on the tax deductions."
"I hate how gay marriage causes premature ejaculation. It's ruining my marriage."
"Ladies, just lean back, think about the Gadsden Flag, and do it for 'Murca."
"Here's a thought to get your motor running: Dozens of hacked nude photos from phones of male GOP politicians."
"Maybe we could just hire a couple of illegals to do this for us, so we don't have to pay minimum wage."
"Sorry... what? I dozed off."
"Say WHAT!? I thought "oral sex" was *talking* about it."
"Lights out, night only, because those *parts* are so icky, can't bear to see them.
Sad news for Russia's zero-G sex study: The geckos are stone-cold dead. [A tidbit of actual news that seemed humorously appropriate for this hashtag.]
"What do you mean, 'toys,' dear? Like Hot Wheels and cap guns?"
[Followup, 5:17 PM, 9/2- I'm essentially done with this hashtag, but another just occurred to me and I can't let it disappear; it's too good. One female Republican to another: "Just between you and me, I'm into anal. I have sex with assholes all the time."]
Also, a couple of us tried to figure out how we should be responding to ISIS. This is because John McCain knows Obama should be doing *something.* (Again, for time's sake, just copying texts.)
Me: We should do some undefined *something* about ISIS. I suggest scattering
a million tons of individually wrapped chocolates on the area.
That would distract them for a while.
Unfortunately, I guess that would only empower the dreaded military-confectionery complex.
MGHydro: The Pentagon counters with a million tons of individually wrapped bombs. Compromise? Chocolate coated bomblets?
Me: Chocolate-coated peanut cluster bombs!
MGHydro: Giant (and I mean GIANT) caramel popcorn balls.
MGHydro: Peanut Bunker-Buster® Parfait (co-sponsored by Dairy Queen)
Me: A Cracker Jack (TM) aerial campaign.
Me: Seriously, if we could pull this off, ISIS would be so bloated and obese, they wouldn't want to make any further efforts.
Me: STAHP! USA, enough already! STAAAAHP!
MGHydro: Gotta play the long game: an entire generation w type-2 diabetes. Coca Cola was just our first salvo…
So there you have it. domestic and foreign policy both taken care of in an afternoon.
It's not terribly apparent in this photo, but there's a fracture zone/fault running along the ceiling, roughly in the middle of the shot. It's clear that this structure was the one the miners were following initially. The target, I was told by another visitor to this area many years ago, was deposits of "blue-white" clay, which could be rinsed to give tiny amounts of gold dust and wire. The clay deposits were (and in small amounts, still can) found in open spaces within the fractured areas. It must have been terribly demanding and dull work. Knowing what I do about practices during the 1890's, when this area was first worked (there was another, smaller surge during the early 1930's, if I remember correctly), and knowing that there was no good power source, they must have hand drilled holes for dynamite blasting. This would involved repeatedly pounding a long steel drill, with a sledge hammer, into this incredibly tough rock. It would've been back-breaking labor, with no real promise of a payoff. I suspect at this mine, the payoff must have been pretty marginal- there's probably 300 to 400 feet of tunnel. So they found enough gold to encourage them to dig more, but not enough to persuade them to continue beyond a certain point.
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.
As indicated by the topo map I posted yesterday, this was an active gravel pit until fairly shortly before I started visiting the area in the early 80's. It was only getting started being recolonized by vegetation the first few times I stopped here, and it was easy to spot from the road. But on moist to wet ground, such as we have here on the north side of the cinder cone, alders move in fast, and can get big surprisingly quickly. As you're driving the road up toward the historical town site, this is easy to miss if you're not looking for it.
I don't have a photo of them, but several cinders I've picked up here appear to have pumice-like inclusions of melted rock of a different composition than the surrounding basalt. Next time I get back here, I need to look around and see if similar samples are fairly easy to find. My preliminary guess is that they are xenoliths (foreign rock inclusions) from the underlying hydrothermally altered rock, which, being heavily hydrated, "popped" when they were heated by the magma, and depressurized by being lifted to the surface. The unofficial name for these sorts of fragments is "xenopumice."