Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A Gallery of Sierra Nevada Scenes: Part I

Tufa towers on southwest shore of Mono Lake
If Geotripper has been quiet of late, there is a pretty good reason: I've been on the road and off the grid. I may have plenty to say about these scenes later on, but for now I've just gone through the entire collection and picked out the images that caught my eye for some reason or another. In the picture above, it was the one strip of sunlight on the Mono Lake tufa towers in a sky full of smoke. The lake is a vast saline evaporation pond that serves as a temporary stopover for millions of migrating birds.
Bodie Ghost Town
Bodie is a fascinating place. I picked this shot because it shows the close clustering of houses as a hedge against the barrenness of the hills beyond. I visit places like this and realize that you can choose to live comfortably in an equitable climate, or you choose to try and survive in a pitched battle with the elements. Bodie sits at 8,000 feet and suffers horrible bitter winters. It was an outpost of civilization on the edge of a hard wilderness.
Bodie Ghost Town
I still find it hard to believe that a gold mining company wanted to turn the slope behind the town into an open pit mine just a few years ago. Some places should remain as they are.
Owens River Gorge
Owens River Gorge is a little-known corner of the eastern Sierra Nevada that reveals some of the awesome power of earth processes. The 400 feet gorge has walls of rhyolite tuff, erupted in the space of a few hours or a few days in one of the most incredible explosions in earth history. Yellowstone's supervolcano might get all the press, but Long Valley Caldera put 150 cubic miles of hot ash into the atmosphere 760,000 years ago, blanketing the entire American West. Some deposits are found in Kansas and Nebraska. A lake formed in the caldera and eventually overflowed, allowing the Owens River to carve this deep only a few hundred thousand years.
Lake Crowley and the Long Valley Caldera

We soon found ourselves standing on the floor of the vast Long Valley Caldera. The eruption caused the crust to collapse in a massive hole 20 miles wide and 11 miles long. The two-mile deep hole was filled with ash and lake sediments over the years, but is still a striking feature. We were standing on one edge of the vast hole, while the mountain ridge in the far distance is the other.
Mt. Tom and Pine Creek

The eastern Sierra Nevada is an astounding wall of rock that developed when the Owens Valley fault graben collapsed and sank, forming a two mile deep valley more than a hundred miles long. Mt. Tom (above) is a 13,652 feet peak rising above Round Valley near Bishop. It lies at the edge of an intrusion of granitic rock and previously existing metamorphic rock. The interaction of the hot fluids around the intrusion produced tungsten minerals that were mined for years in Pine Creek. The mine is currently mothballed.
Minaret Vista

The Minarets lie just west of the Sierra Nevada crest in the vicinity of Mammoth Lakes. The high jagged peaks reveal Triassic metamorphic rocks that developed as an ancient caldera, perhaps similar to  the modern day Long Valley Caldera, collapsed into the underlying magma chamber during a giant eruption. The stunning view is from Minaret Vista on the Sierra crest just above Mammoth Ski Resort.

More to come!

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