Saturday, June 11, 2011

Update and call for a hand......

Ok folks that gets you up to date to where I was this this Wednesday.....I am in a large town that has a few McDonalds so I should be able to get you caught up before I hit the road again.

To anyone in central and or southern Utah: Does anyone have a used 31" tire that is good for a spare? (Preferably on the cheap of free) I have had three flat tires so far thistrip and I have been traveling without the safety of a backup tire.......ANY help would be greatly appreciated!

I am currently in St George

Stonehenge and lace curtains

I woke up and spent most of my morning getting caught up on my blog entries. I have a tendency to get behind and then it really stinks to catch back up. After playing catch up I made my way back towards Delta. Traveling on the aptly named brush highway I passed a parcel of property for sale. Curiosity got the best of me and I pulled over to see the asking price. For just over $100 an acre you could be the proud new owner of a piece of property where even the sagebrush struggles to grow. I spent a most of the day in Delta doing miscellaneous errands. I occupied my time with: mailing off a few packages, grocery shopping, doing laundry at the laundromat, fueling up and topping off the fluids in the Jeep and finished up with stocking up on water and ice. So far I have only spent a fraction of what I thought I would on food. Fuel......well that's been really expensive.

On the way to Pahvant Butte I ran into a little bit of a road block. I shifted into 4-wheel drive, low range and eased out onto the sand. Turned out not to be an issue. The sand was so firm a passenger car could have driven right over it.

Pahvant Butte(or "old sugar loaf" as locals call it) is a saddle shaped mountain due south of delta. About 15,500 years ago  the butte was under the water of Lake Bonneville. A large volcanic eruption around this time caused an explosion which is responsible for the large crater on the south face.

Stonehenge perched up on the south peak of Pahvant Butte

These towers are the remains of a defunct wind farm that was suppose to generate power for nearby towns. In 1923 a man was hired by Millard County to build the structure. The contractor started construction of the project and then left the country with the rest of the money. The contractor was never to be seen again. Sadly the windmill site was never completed. I thought that it was very progressive for the residents of Millard county to embark on a project seemingly so far ahead of its time.

Looking inside the bunker like structure in the center of the towers.

I drove down from Utah's own Stonehenge and made my way towards the north side of old sugar loaf. The north face is home to a rock formation known as the Lace Curtains.

The "curtains are made up of partially cemented volcanic ash. The intricate shapes were carved by erosion from Lake Bonneville.

Many of the pictures I have seen of the Lace Curtains fail to give a sense of their size, so here is a picture of my Jeep for reference. You may have noticed in recent pictures that I have not been using the changing room that attaches to the bottom of the tent. For my needs It just took too long to set up properly. Out here in the windy west desert it flapped in the wind and woke me up often. Maybe it will come in handy when I am in a crowded area and need the privacy. But right now the places I am staying are pretty desolate.

With the tent set up and the sun setting I retired to bed just as the local coyote population started to wake up.

Topaz, garnets, beryllium and geodes

I started the day by eating some breakfast and packing away the tent for the day. With that out of the way i picked up my shovel and started to wander the washes in search of Topaz.

Looking towards Topaz Mountain

Looking out of the "Amphitheater"

Topaz is a semi-precious gemstone and happens to be Utah's state gemstone. Since Topaz Mountain is on state trust land the public is free free to collect crystals with hand tools. In the area there several are marked claims. Please respect the rights of the claim owners by not trespassing here. I was told before my departure that I would have the best success if I screened the gravel and silt in the surrounding washes. I was instructed that digging near the base of large rocks, boulders and brush I would yield the better specimens. I spent the whole morning wandering and digging in the washes finding only a few small stones no bigger than a pea. I did find one crystal that was the size of my thumbnail. That was an exciting find for me. I also found several small garnets about the size of a large pin head. Even though my haul was modest and the stones small it was still fun. Talking with the campers next to me I was told that if you want to large whole crystals you have to spent the entire day hammering, chiseling and breaking the rock. If you do that and luck is on your side you may find a few complete stones in the course of the sounded like too much work.

I made myself a quick lunch anxious to get back behind the wheel and making dust. I continued working my way north westerly around Topaz Mountain until I hit Beryllium Road. I noticed a purplish outcropping on the opposing hill that showed some signs of being mined and drove up to explore:

This mine was interesting. There was a large pit and several smaller shafts heading downward into the darkness. I threw several rocks into the darkness and counted: 3-4 seconds later the rocks hit bottom! I was very careful to watch my step as the edges near the pits were very unstable. I one were to have the misfortune of falling in they would defiantly be very injured and a very long way from medical help. It appeared the purple veins were what the miners were chasing after. Due to the name of the trail nearby one would presume it was beryllium.

I continued down the trail I ran across this bull-dozer. Although it has probably been sitting for decades it still smelled strongly of grease and diesel fuel.

An old ore chute along the way.

I then turned west to making a side trip to Wilson Health Hot Springs along the Pony Express Trail. This rusted and flipped over bus marks the turn for the hot springs:

Wilson Hot springs is a series of several pools and was once the site of a hot spring resort. The resort was in operation when the dirt road to the south was the old Lincoln Highway. However the highway has been bypassed by the modern interstate system and no trace of the original resort remains today.

The springs are a short drive across the playa. One needs to exercise extreme caution when driving on the playa. It may seem solid but it can quickly become soft and bury a vehicle to the axles. The deep ruts of past misadventures are witness to this fact. Drive as far as the playa is solid and then walk.

Watch you step! In places the salt crust is very thin and underneath is a horrible smelling black mud!

There are two tubs for adventurous soakers to try out. The actual hot springs themselves are too hot (145+ degrees) to bathe in. However the tubs are around 115 degrees, still really warm, but not too much for some.

Another abandoned bus on the playa. There is a story to how these buses came to be abandoned in this remote place. The tale is that a group of hippies came to the springs and set up camp in full burning man style. They decided that the hot springs would make an ideal place to squat and make their desert home. The local ranchers soon grew tired of their hippy neighbors and asked them to leave at gun point! The hippies hastily left, leaving behind the remains of two buses you see here today.

With the sun getting low in the western sky I made a b-line east towards the the Dugway Geode Beds. Geodes are hollow stones filled with quartz crystals. These hollow stones were created 6-8 million years ago when volcanic activity trapped pockets of air. During the proceeding millions of years crystals formed when mineral rich waters soaked into the hollow centers. The stones were deposited here by the wave action of the ancient Bonneville sea. The geodes here glow under a black light due to traces on uranium salt. I arrived to see a large excavator digging on a marked private claim nearby:

The owner of the claim asked if I was planning on staying the night. Fearing he was going to chase me off I responded yes. He then told me that if I kept an eye on the excavator during the night I could collect geodes in the area they had just been digging! He showed me where they had been finding the good ones and then drove off. There were many geodes littering the ground that they had already broken. Many of them were really pretty inside so I picked up several of those. I also collected some smaller unbroken ones to mail to good friends following my adventure. Collecting took me less than one hour from the time I had pulled up. I was content with what I had collected in such a short time. I see no point in hording the stones so I only took enough for me to have a few and some to send to dear friends. I set up camp, made dinner and fell asleep for the night.

Wonderstone and Paul Bunyans Woodpile

I headed from my camp and drove past the Dugway Proving Grounds
This facility was developed for the purpose of testing chemical and biological weapons! In 1968 6,000 sheep in Skull Valley were killed when a test involving VX nerve gas drifted out of the boundaries of the test site. Open air testing was banned in 1969....coincidence? I don't think so. The government did not admit that it was indeed nerve gas that killed the sheep until almost 30 years later. Here is an excerpt from that report:

From 1959 to 1969, hundreds, perhaps thousands of open air tests using bacteria and virus's that cause disease were conducted at the Dugway Proving grounds.....It is unknown how many people in the surrounding vicinity were exposed
-US Report 1994

With that comforting fact in mind I made my way out of Skull Valley via Lookout Pass road.
Along the way I came across a herd of wild horses.

I made a quick stop in the hills outside of the town on Vernon to collect some wonderstone.Wonderstone is a colorfully banded rhyolyte. The stone is colored by iron oxide. The land the area is on is BLM, however there is an active mining claim here. You are welcome to collect loose stones from the piles but you are not to dig or take from areas that show signs of recent excavation by heavy machinery.

Here are a few specimens that I collected. They ought to polish up nice in a rock tumbler once I return home.

On the way to my next destination I made a quick side trip to the town of Eureka. Eureka is your typical boom then bust mining town. The town flourished as long as the mines did. Today it is a semi-ghost town that is neat to wander through

The town jail behind the city offices.

History is literally just hiding on abandoned side lots in this town.

I bet you thought your washing machine was old!

This is the offices for City Hall, city court, recorder, treasures Sheriff and the Fire Station. It was built in 1889 and serves the same function today

This home constructed of an eclectic mixture of recycled material struck me as being unique and creative.......I would imaging the city has a different opinion about it.

I visited the Orrin Porter Rockwell cabin. Orrin is often referred to as: "The destroying angel" Orrin was the body guard for the prophet Joseph Smith and his predecessor Brigham Young. He was a an unflinching frontier sheriff that killed many desperado's. He attributed his invincibility and ability to win a gun fight to his hair. He never cut it and it is rumored that Joseph Smith told him as long as he never did he would never die.  Many legends and myths abound about Mr Rockwell and

My next stop was to Paul Bunyan's Wood Pile. This unique formation was created approximately 30 millions years ago by lava that cooled rapidly into columnar joints. Most of the logs have 3-6 sides. The hike from the trail head is about a mile each way and is moderately difficult.

The wood pile is so tall that it seems plausible that it was put here by Paul Bunyan himself.

The wind began to pick up steadily and so did the sand from the nearby sand dunes. The air was so thick with dust visibility was terrible once I made it back to pavement. Regardless I made my way towards Delta to get some food, ice and fuel.

I hunkered down at the local McDonalds, logged onto the internet and contemplated my next move. Luckily the wind and dust began to subside so I made my way to Topaz Mountain and set up camp just as the sun was setting