Sunday, December 2, 2012

Wet and Wild Caves 2012

In the Sierra Nevada foothills tucked secretly away are wild caves that seldom have human visitors. The last human in one wild cave visited today by four members of the MJC Geology Club was back in January 2012. A log sealed in a watertight container yielded the last visitor in the beginning of the year. The cave welcomed us with open arms and we treaded carefully and with respect into her darkness. Back into her depths we crawled - mostly on our stomachs - until we reached the back of the cave. Gathered as a small group, we turned off our headlamps and quietly sat.

She spoke to us in the sounds of water trickling down the walls, or dropping from above down to the floor. The flow of cool air enveloped us like a hug given by a close friend. The smells were a mingle of mustiness and wet earth. We enjoyed the darkness and the peace inside. Places such as this are remarkable - not only in how they were created, but how they evolve and continue to change. I hope the lack of visitors persists so that these caves stay as beautiful as they are - untouched and unmarred by destructive human hands. The only downfall was that we didn't see any bats which are always exciting to see.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Crystalized Gold at California State Museum of Mining and Minerals

The Fricot Nugget was discovered in 1865 by William R. Davis while mining in El Dorado County. What is believed to be the largest surviving specimen of gold from the Gold Rush days weighs in at 201.4 troy ounces (about 13 pounds). The specimen was purchased by Jules Fricot who exhibited it in the 1878 Paris Exposition. The Fricot Nugget seemed to have disappeared for many years when it was rediscovered in a bank in Angels Camp in the 1940s. The bank manager did not even know its existence until an employee from the State Division of Mines located it. The daughter of Jules Fricot then donated it to California State Gem and Mineral Collection.

As a geology student visiting the California State Museum of Mining and Minerals, I thought about how just a little piece of it would pay for the rest of my education...and the other students with me! Truth is, it is a beautiful specimen that literally takes your breath away when you first lay your eyes on it and I would not want to see even an ounce missing from it. I would also hate tot see the California State Museum of Mining and Minerals closed its on the list of State Park closures. California's rich history involving the Gold Rush should be preserved and viewed by those who live here and by those visiting our state and passing through Mariposa. I watched as a couple of young children who was at the Museum visiting with their family stood at the counter with right hands lifted, saying the Junior Ranger Pledge with serious and focused faces. I felt disheartened for them in that they might not be able to bring their children here one day to do the same Junior Ranger pledge.

Our State has lost sights on what matters most. Family, education and employment. How much are we expected to lose? Why are we paying for bad planning, bank failures, and state over-spending? Why are our California politicians getting cars and cell phones (not to mention all the travel expenses)? Can they not drive their own cars? I know they all have their own vehicles and cell phones and truthfully do not think we as Californian taxpayers should be paying for this wasteful spending. Politicians get your heads out of your butts and start WORKING for us instead of stealing from us! I have a great idea for you all up in Sac - start driving your own cars and using your own cell phones and the money we save from your wasteful spending can go to saving OUR STATE PARKS!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Zyzzyx - Yes Its a Real Place!

A conference in the Mohave with geoscience teachers made for an interesting and productive weekend. Getting back into the desert was enough for me however a day of basalt and rhyolite with Brandon Brown of CSU Fullerton was the highlight. Modesto Junior College will be hosting the next NAGT Conference in Fall - so this was also a great learning experience. Through the observations of others who organized this conference at Zyzzyx held at the C.S.U. Desert Studies Center, I was able to see what obstacles might be awaiting us. There is definitely a lot of work that needs to be done, however I think we will be hosting a great event in Fall the High Sierra Institute (a.k.a. historic Baker Station). All-in-all - a great weekend and made some new friends to boot.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Curiosity...Not Just Another Mars Rover

NASA launched the MSL (Mars Science Laboratory) last year, expecting the craft to take about 8 and a half months to reach Mars. In 161 days it will descend down to the red planet and travel to the Gale Crater. There at the crater Curiosity will collect rock samples and using the on-board CheMin, it will analyze the samples for minerals on Mars. We already know that olivine and pyroxene were found on Mars by earlier rover missions. These are associated with the volcanic rock basalt. In addition, the earlier mission also found evaporates (minerals left from water). I am praying that Curiosity has a successful mission and look forward to its discoveries!

Last week I was able to visit a place that reminded me a little of what I think Mars may be like in areas. On our trip to Death Valley we stopped at Fossil Falls. Having been there last year, a few of us geology majors sidetracked over to nearby Red Mountain, a cinder cone where "volcanic bombs" are found. While "trying" to walk in this environment, I thought about the future Curiosity trek on Mars and wished I had wheels instead of legs to maneuver this terrain. I imagined Mars as a geology wonderland (no ground cover or vegetation to prevent geologists from studying the rocks). If you would like to follow the MSL Mission visit

Friday, February 24, 2012

Memories of Death Valley 2012

My favorite stop on my second trip to Death Valley was that of a playa bed where rocks are known to move across the surface. Whether you read blogs or the National Enquirer - speculation on these mysterious rocks range from aliens to one's man claim that the "Death Valley Sailing Stones Mystery is SOLVED"...although the youtube video on his blog is inconclusive (embarrassing!), and it does not even show one rock moving back to the aliens. Really? So highly intelligent extraterrestrials travel across the universe to our little planet so they can stop off to play with rocks in the desert? I don't know about you but this is just not logical to me! A lot of people have their thoughts on how these stones move...but I want evidence on film! I want the mothership!

That reminds me..has anyone seen the Apollo 18 movie? Has anyone thought about alien rocks?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Crafting with Rocks!

Creative outlets for students are important. It is a chance to decompress after studying, reading textbooks, doing homework assignments, writing papers, making flashcards, spending time with study groups, going to club meetings and working at club activities. One just needs to do something fun and mindless!

What creative outlet does a geology student have? The answer is: gluing googly eyes on rocks of course. This is a project that our Geology Club is doing in preparation for the upcoming Earth Day that we will give these out to visiting elementary school children.

Sitting around with my peers gluing tiny eyes on these rocks was so enjoyable. One of our newest club members joined us and it was great getting to know George better. I looked down after we ran out of eyes to glue, and realized that looking into these cute little rock faces, that I so wanted to adopt them all. I just loved their sweet little faces...unfortunately though I had to help pack them away for the children on Earth Day. Much to the gratefulness of my husband I am sure, since there is literally no more room in my house for "another rock" (like that would stop me? - as I through my head back and attempt my best villain laugh)!

P.S.: Yes, the Cyclops rock was my creation... o )

Return to the Valley

In a few short weeks I will be returning to Death Valley with my Geology professor and fellow students. I am extremely excited to be able to return for my second chance to learn more about this amazing section of California. Death Valley in the minds of many, might be called a desolate or barren place. I would argue that that DV is far from those descriptions, and that what 'might appear' to be barren is far from it. A small stream on a long wooden walkway turns out to be the home of pup fish, rare and indigenous to DV. Varying colors on the distant mountains across the valley turn out to be beautiful layers of rock. It is a wondrous place of uplifted, folded and tilted rock. A place where sunrises cannot offer any additional color to the beauty of Mosaic Canyon or Artists Point. It is a place where one could sit alone for hours and never feel alone with the vast views for company. Each mountain has a story, and every rock on that mountain a memory from Earth's geologic past. I love Death Valley, and I look forward to being enchanted once again!