Thursday, December 4, 2008

Secret Tunnels

This is the entrance to the ice caves north of Rexburg; they're basaltic lava flow tubes. As lava flows, the outer layer exposed to air cools more rapidly than the molten material in the flow's interior. A basaltic rind forms, successive flows add layers to the flow tube walls, and the lava in the tube shallows as the flow decreases to a stop. This flow tube has since been percolated by water which, in Idaho's climate, turns to ice. Most of the cave floor is covered in thick ice layers. The combination of ice and basalt flow textures offered a double-helping of fascinating geology. The ice formed stalactites, stalagmites, and dendritic "feathery" snowflake-like crystals. There were also some neat flow layers and fractures in the ice. Here's a shot of ice crystals covering the ceiling:
Beautiful basaltic textures:
Me and the roomies (Kyle, Parley, me, Tom, and Trevik). At this point, the tube was segmented into an upper and lower passage; as the flow level in the tube dropped, the surface cooled and formed a shelf across the larger tube. That shelf is where we're perched for the photo.
Here's a shot of the ice-covered floor. Half the time, we were on our backs sliding along, pushing with our hands or feet. I came away from this cave with some bruised knees and elbows and a few scrapes on my fingers -totally worth it.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Over the Thanksgiving Break

I travelled with a friend back to Arizona for the Break. She was nice enough to stop for her rock-geek passenger to see some ash fall and tuff units. This road cut is on the stretch of Highway 20 that connects I-15 with Highway 89, just southwest of Beaver, Utah. The geological map I looked at labeled volcanics of the region as Bullion Canyon volcanics. The lighter-colored units are ash deposits and the massive darker units are rhyolitic tuff.

The ash units contain concretions.

A real treat on the way back north was the slight detour to see horseshoe bend just outside of Page, Arizona. It's a very photogenic meander in the Colorado River. We got there just as light was fading after the sun had set. No, this picture isn't mine. But the one below it is. The meander is so deep that it's difficult to get the whole thing into one shot. I may try to piece my photos into a panorama.

Igneous Rock Exam

The pictures are cruddy. Fluorescent lighting will do it almost every time.
Last week's Igneous Rock ID exam went well. I went into the exam feeling pretty comfortable, and left it feeling like I had done well.
Today, I got my ID portion of the exam back; 98%.
I once again give credit to David Morris for a job well-done. What would school be like without that firm groundwork of understanding from David?I shudder to think.

Some of the samples from the exam

Monday, November 17, 2008

Extrusive Igneous Exploration

"Please try to remember how you would've felt about this stuff when you were seven or eight."
-David Morris

Here are a few shots from the "Lava River Cave" located 13 miles North of Flagstaff.
There are plenty of lava tubes to explore here in Idaho. It's on my "to do" list.
Humans present for scale
Flow texture of the floor
Cooling fracture?
Flow lineations in the cave wall

Monday, November 10, 2008

I haven't posted that?

I can't believe I left my Yellowstone pictures unposted! Let me remedy that!
in the first photo, Bro. Dan Moore pin-points our location on a map of the Yellowstone caldera, just inside the caldera rim. Yellowstone is a playground for Geologists. I had fun watching tourists as they happened upon an expert geologist explaining Yellowstone's volcanism to students. There was an initial captivation; "Ooh! he's explaining the volcanoes!". Then they sat and attempted to decipher the lecture. Words like "isostatic" and "viscous" turned them right away. Poor saps.
Yellowstone Falls at the "Grand Canyon" of Yellowstone. See the yellow stones? That's where the park gets its name.
More staining of the ash flow deposits down the canyon
Hot Springs! You wouldn't want to swim here. The water is that pretty blue color because of the thriving thermophilic bacterium.
Mud pots! The only difference from a hot spring: proximity to the water table.
And one of the main attractions at the park, no, not bison; geysers!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Fluvial Systems

Hearing the word Fluvial should incite one of three reactions: you get really excited, you yawn, or you look confused. That's just the way it works. I happen to really enjoy studying fluvial systems, though anything too extensive can really bore me.
Here's a shot of the Snake River from Henry's fork. Notice the classic cut-bank and point bar deposition; it's about as good of an example of a meandering river as you could hope to find.
Here's a shot of the Snake River at the south fork.
Sedimentary structures near the south fork which are worth looking at

Tuff Stuff; more of the Kilgore

For another day-trip, we went out to the Ririe Reservoir dugway again. I managed to make it home without any significant ash fragments in my eye. These photos show more of the detail of the Kilgore tuff deposits. As seen in the photo above, these are very thick ash deposits.

We used Jacob's staffs to measure thickness of the different ash deposits.

So much pumice!

Another contact further up.

An "intraclast" (the brownish clast just below the pen). Clasts of the underlying bed are included in the subsequent depositional unit, in this case, a "rip up" clast.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Eolian Deposits

These are the St. Anthony sand dunes near Rexburg. They are lateral dunes at the flank of a mountain. I was surprised at the immensity and hieght of some of the hills. There is a shallow interdune lake near the edge of the dunes. The whole thing seemed a little surreal -it's something I've never seen before.
The shallow lake was full of ripple marks.
You can see the Tetons off in the distance.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Huckleberry, Kilgore, and Blacktail

This is a tuff post. Get used to corny puns -they are a significant element in communication in all the best geologic social circles.

At the nose of this outcrop, the Huckleberry Ridge tuff is exposed in the upper layers (above the darker flow layer, the Kilgore vitrophyre)

The Kilgore tuff vitrophyre shows displacement along a fault; typical of caldera rim zones.

Spectacular columnar jointing of the very thick Blacktail tuff (though the picture didn't turn out quite as spectacular)

More faulting -this reminds me of a GEOLOGY 101 textbook figure.

These sites are along the dugway near Ririe Reservoir in Idaho.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Faults and Folds

Over conference weekend, I spent part of Sunday afternoon at my roommate's house in Lake Point, Utah. The view from his front yard was spectacular; thanks to a wildfire last year sometime, the mountainside is an array of exposed faulted and folded beds. I'm not certain which fault system these are associated with -I'm looking into it. These photos show the different orientation in strata. If I had more time, I would've liked to have taken a closer look. But that's life.
I survived my exam in my structural geology class this week, and got my grade from my intro. to field methods class. I'm pretty pleased with it all. Now, if I can pass my mineral ID exam in my minerology class on Monday, and I feel pretty confident I will, I'll be satisfied.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


Ah, the Tetons. Aren't they grand?

There isn't really a photo to accompany this one. Now that I've stated that, I realize that maybe I should've taken one. Regret gets me nowhere.
Our Mieralogy/Petrology group went out to the Ririe Reservoir dugway last Thursday to study some ash-flow units.
I wasn't really all that prepared for the trip -after some catch-up work in the lab, I just "showed up" at the scheduled departure time.
Well, to be brief, I had no eye protection, and I ended up having a wind-blown pumice fragment caught in my eye-lid. My eye was irritated, red, sore, and watering. I knew better than to rub it; silicate materials can scratch your cornea.
After working out insurance details with the accountants at the school, I made a visit to the local eye-doctor. He inverted my upper eye-lid, found the fragment, and removed it with a cotton swab.
I had been trained from my earliest days in Geology to always wear eye-protection in the field. I realize the importance of this rule now.
A few people in the class weren't able to come on the trip, and so I'm heading back to the site tomorrow afternoon to help supplement what they've missed. This time, I'll be taking my camera, a water bottle, and, of course, some eye-protection.
Now that I've gone and told the story, maybe I'll throw in a pretty picture -just for the sake of enjoying the blessing of good vision. OK, so maybe I'll throw in a picture of the culprit, just to make my peace; here it is -pumice.

After looking at that picture in detail, I realized that my rock hammer bears the reminder: wear eye protection. A good rule of thumb, not just for hammer use.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Mr. Hansen, pick a category.

I'll take rocks that won't support a dam thing, Alex.
The Teton dam never even officially opened. It failed before the opening ceremony. What could've prevented this blunder? A little bit of GEOLOGY.

Curved joints -not a good sign of a stable rock body.