A Toe in Salt Lake, Part One

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I just realized that it has been a month since I posted a blog entry. I am so very negligent. I could give you a million reasons, like the fact that I’ve driven through 21 states (and into another country!) since the events of my last entry. Or that I’ve been sick and drunk on Nyquil (except when driving) for the last week. I could tell you that this particular post has been sitting on my computer in partially-finished draft form for several weeks. But I know that none of those sorry excuses can assuage your anguish over going a whole month without me waxing prosaic on topics I know next to nothing about. So I’ll give you part one of this post now, and I’ll finish it up soon and post the rest.

This time the title is accurate, because ewwwwww. But we’ll come back to that.

Just like there was ancient Lake Lahontan in Nevada, there was ancient Lake Bonneville in Utah. And driving through western Utah, you see evidence of it everywhere. At its maximum, it was a huge lake.

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Nevada, You Were Surprisingly Interesting

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After leaving Lake Tahoe, I headed east down the Sierras on US-50, intending to drive across Nevada in one afternoon. I ended up spending three days there.

The stretch of US-50 through Nevada is called “The Loneliest Road in America” because there are only 5 towns along the route and almost nothing in between. Actually, it wasn’t very lonely at all, because there were plenty of other cars traveling in both directions. However, there were a few times where I could no see no cars either ahead of me or behind me. And you can usually see quite far on this road.

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The state tourism board (or whatever it’s called) has even come up with this little “passport” book that you can get stamped at all five towns and send in to get an “I Survived the Loneliest Road” certificate. I got my book stamped, so we’ll see when I get the certificate.

I saw more different kinds of “___ Crossing” signs during my transit across Nevada than I have ever seen: Bear (in Lake Tahoe), Deer, Horse, Cow, Antelope(?), Fire Truck, and Tractor.

One thing about this road is that if you’re at all unclear about what the term “Basin and Range” means, US-50 will straighten you right out.

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A Toe in Lake Tahoe

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So I spent a few days in Lake Tahoe. Well, I wasn’t in Lake Tahoe for a few days, more like a couple minutes. And I was in all the way to my ankles. But I was in the area for a few days. Was it ever gorgeous.

I dare you to click on that and not fall instantly in love.

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I left my <3 in San Francisco, Part Three: Field Trips

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I took another field trip during my stay in the Bay Area: to Napa Valley. Unfortunately, I picked Labor Day weekend to do this, and everyone else in the Western Hemisphere was doing the same thing. Between the crowds and the fact that I was driving, I abstained from imbibing the local spirits.

But, like me, my day was not totally wasted, because I found a few geologically interesting places. The thing that most defines Napa Valley, besides the wine, is the volcanism. Back when there was subduction happening on the coast of California, there was a string of volcanoes along the continental margin, usually 50 to 200 miles from the subduction trench. This is always the case when you have subduction because that oceanic plate dives into the mantle, melts, and goes the only way it can go: up! This is still going on in the Cascades, as well as in Alaska, and Japan, and Chile…hey that’s pretty much the whole Ring of Fire thing, isn’t it?

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I left my <3 in San Francisco, Part Two

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While I was in the Bay Area, I did some touristy things, like riding the cable cars.

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I left my <3 in San Francisco, Part One

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I love San Francisco. I really do. I’m not really much of a big city kind of girl, but San Francisco is one of the few big cities where I would willingly live. Except that it’s really, really expensive. And hilly. Ask my calves.

Of course, what other picture could I use to lead off my memoir of San Francisco:

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Sleeping on the San Andreas, Part Three: Field Trips

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In parts one and two, I talked about how the San Andreas fault formed the San Gabriel mountains. While I was spending the week sleeping in those mountains, I took field trips to a couple geologically fascinating sites in the California desert that are not directly related to the San Andreas, but are nevertheless evidence of the fascinating tectonic history of California.

The first stop was Rainbow Basin, near Barstow. This lies in an area that was once occupied by a shallow lake. The area is also the home of the Calico fault, which runs parallel to the San Andreas. On this map, the Calico fault is #21; the San Andreas is #30.

Like the San Andreas, it is a right lateral strike-slip fault. Also like the San Andreas, it has a bend in it. Which means that it creates local compressional forces while the blocks on either side try to slide past each other.

This is the beautiful result:

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