Sunday, September 30, 2012

Pahvant Butte volcano

I was reading up on volcanic activity in Utah on this site (great site, by the way) and discovered that there are several volcanoes (relatively) close by, in the Black Rock Desert. We set off to see what we could discover, armed with not much information. We hoped we would recognize what we saw, since there are no state parks or informational signs in this area. We looked first for Pahvant Butte, which was a volcano that erupted within Lake Bonneville. It was quite easy to recognize, with its distinctive (and large) eruption crater on top! It must have really blasted out with a lot of force, like Mount St. Helens!
On the way we passed this small cinder cone, which I think is the one called Tabernacle Hill? We wanted to go explore it also, but, as you will see, circumstances did not allow this. (*Ominous music*)

We also passed this very cute mother cow and her calf.

As we got closer we began to see lots of lava flows and lava rock scattered around everywhere! It was really interesting to see the way it extended from the volcano. Several places looked like they contained projectiles (lava bombs) from the volcano. We had read that there would be pahoehoe lava flows, but we didn't find anything that looked exactly right.

The layering in the volcano was quite fascinating!

But its most distinctive feature is called the "lace curtain." Because this volcano erupted in the lake, it was subject to wave erosion. This north side in particular was hit with heavy storm waves, and they carved out the rock in these strangely delicate, lace-like formations. There are all sorts of holes and crevices to climb around in, and the sheer scale of the formation is amazing---there are tremendously tall cliffs, all carved out in this intricate way. It is beautiful! We can't believe there isn't a state landmark or some sort of . . . something . . . to draw attention to this place!

More of the lace curtain:
Isn't it amazing?
Up close, it was even more interesting---so many fascinating little holes to explore!

I should perhaps have mentioned that this place is out in the middle of nowhere. Really. There was nothing, nothing, nothing around, as you can see:
As we drove up to the butte, we were on a dirt road, but it was well-maintained and we had no trouble on it. The road branched several times and we didn't really know where to go, so we headed up as close to the volcano as we could get, and eventually the road became too bumpy for our car, so we stopped to get out and hike. Sam decided to turn the car around so we'd be ready to go. It was a one-lane road and as he tried to turn, he had to leave the road, which was a mistake. The ground was really sandy and the tires sank in almost immediately! We pushed and pushed (Sam and Abe and Seb, while I tried to steer) but we couldn't budge the car one inch. It was awful. But thank goodness we had our phones, and cell phone service! We would otherwise have had to walk the 20 miles or so to the nearest town . . . such an awful thought. We were able to look up a towing place in Fillmore and find someone there on a Saturday. We tried to describe where we were, which was difficult.

So, that was stressful. Sam and I both felt bad that we hadn't done . . . something different (backed the car up instead of turning around?) and we were worried that the tow truck wouldn't be able to find us. But on the upside, it gave a long time to hike around and explore the area. We luckily had some apples in the car (we had certainly not planned to be out this long!), so we gave everyone some fuel and continued the adventure!
Can you find the intrepid explorers in this picture?

Our hero, the tow truck driver, finally found us after much phoning back and forth. The sun was just starting to set and I was praying my heartfelt thanks (again!) that this whole thing hadn't turned out so much worse. What if we'd had to try to get out of here in the dark?!

The children would have been happy to stay forever and play in the dirt. It was a great place to play!

The sunset light was very beautiful:

And the children were beside themselves to get to see a real tow truck in action! It was so exciting!
And we're out! Abe checks out the cavernous hole our car was in. (Our engine was resting on the ground. That sand was deep!)
We got on our way as the sun went down over the desert.
So beautiful! And we were so grateful that our car was okay (once it was out of that hole) and that we had the nice tow-truck man to lead us back to civilization!
And the full moon was coming up over the volcano.
One last look back at Pahvant Butte---you can really see the blast crater clearly from this angle.

And that was our fun and eventful trip to the Black Rock desert! We hope to return someday to explore some of the other geologic sites here, including lava tubes and several other volcanic landforms!

Midway Crater

There's a bunch of hydrothermal activity up in Midway, which has produced several "hot pots," including one they call "the crater." I thought we'd go up there for a field trip to see some of the mineral formations, and we decided to swim in the crater too. (The crater is part of the Homestead Resort. Sam and I stayed there one time but didn't get to swim, to our great disappointment. I knew that you could swim and scuba dive there because Rachael went there in high school on a date one time, and I was jealous because it sounded so cool!) Anyway, because it was a weekday and sort of off-season, it seemed like a good time.
The drive up was really lovely

Once there, we found several empty hot pots to investigate. Some were enormous! . . . 

Big enough that it looked like someone had once made this into a shed
and you could stand inside like this! So cool.

I don't know if the water in this was actually warm, or if it had just filled with rain or something

"The crater" itself was SO amazing. It's huge!
When you get inside, the water is perfectly warm (95 degrees or so) and the cavernous setting is otherworldly. It's like swimming in a cave---quiet and echo-y and lamplit. And the mineral-y walls are fascinating up close! I loved swimming around near the edges and trying to figure out how the deposits had accumulated. The water is deep, so everyone has to wear life jackets, but the children all kicked and bobbed around like little fish. It was so relaxing! We could have stayed for hours if Junie hadn't gotten tired of it. You're only supposed to have a 40-minute session, but there was hardly anyone else there, so the man let us stay in for closer to two hours. We loved it!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Stratovolcano Model

I didn't really get great pictures of this, but it was fun---one of our books told us how to build "Mount Krispies, a stratovolcano." The idea is that you use the rice crispie treats recipe (we used the peanut butter kind because we like those best) to simulate ash and cinders (explosive eruptions), and melted chocolate to simulate lava flows (effusive eruptions). A stratovolcano, of course, is formed by both types of eruption. As we built up our volcano I made up a story about unsuspecting picnic-ers enjoying a lovely day on the mountain when they suddenly heard a rumbling . . . and so on. The children really loved that. :) We did a couple layers of each kind of eruption.
The result looked like this. (Abe insisted on adding some lava bombs to the outside.)

And inside, some nice composite layers like this!
We loved this project. So fun!
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