Painted Desert

Painted Desert

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Slumgullion stew

I still have many interesting pictures from our trip to the landslide a few weeks ago that I will now share. First, the story of Alferd Packer.

"You man eating son of a... there was seven Democrats in Hinsdale County and you ate five of them," reads the above interpretive sign, among other colorful details. Lake City is perhaps less famous for the Slumgullion landslide than for the story of this historical figure, who attempted to guide five other men through the region in the winter of 1874. Packer made it out alive. The other men were later found with their heads crushed in, and Packer was arrested and accused of murder and cannibalism. Click on the picture above to read more.

This hilarious interpretive sign was placed (by the BLM, I think) at an overlook of the landslide.

Trees on the landslide. Trees try to grow straight up. If they're bent like this, it means the land beneath them has shifted at some point... or at several points, leading the tree to "correct" its growth by curving.

Here is a place where the landslide is overrunning some trees as it slowly creeps down the mountain day after day.

A chipmunk. The chipmunks on the landslide are very bold and this day a couple came within three feet of me, watching me.

I have some pictures here taken by other people...

This is me and my fellow intern augering a hole. The auger bit is at the bottom of that long pole that reaches above our heads, with the handle for turning it at the top. We would have to keep adding sections to the pole to make it longer as the hole got deeper. We would drop it back into the hole, turn it for about 30 seconds to make it go another half a foot deeper into the soil, and then spend about ten minutes trying to pull it out of the hole, past sticky walls of sucking clay, and cleaning said clay out of the bit before we put it in again. Eventually the hole reached about 20 feet. In the hole we put a piezometer, or water pressure sensor, which was attached by wire to some electronics that would record the instrument's readings, and a solar panel to power it. Water pressure is very important in the movement of landslides.

A picture of the Italian scientist (right) and a local consultant installing the radar equipment that was in that long, coffin-like box you saw a couple posts ago. I chose this picture mostly for the background... it gives you a good look at the view from the top of the slide.

Here is a picture of me at one of my tasks... we had set up hundreds of flags to mark the path of the fault on one side of the landslide... marking the boundary between the part that's actively moving and the part that's not. This fault jumps around frequently, as the landslide "decides" it would be more efficient to shear through a new section of soil. (Really it doesn't decide, of course, but physics determines what is the most efficient way for the slide to move.) In the picture above, you can see that the fault used to be a little to the left of the flags, where that miniature valley had developed, but it had recently jumped right... you can faintly see its trace where the flags are set up.

I am in the background using GPS to map the locations of the flags. I stood on each point for one minute, allowing enough time for the GPS antenna to pick up a good signal from the satellites. (Later, back in the office, I plotted the coordinates of the points on a map using GIS software--that is, geographical information system software, which everyone uses nowadays--and drew in the fault.) Standing on 300 points for a minute each was a pretty mind-bogglingly boring job, but I look cheerful enough posing for this picture:

...probably because I was thrilled to be able to do something besides stand rock-still and watch the timer count up to a minute for the 300th time. (The white UFO-looking thing is the GPS antenna, and the pole has a bubble level on it so I can hold the antenna directly over the flag. In my backpack is the instrument that records all the data.)

Me, after climbing to the top of the landslide. I'd ridden the ATVs up every other trip. It is kind of a tiring hike.

After we finished work in Lake City, but before driving to Montrose to see Katie, I visited the Hinsdale County Cemetery.

Here is an actual wooden grave marker. The cemetery wasn't that thrilling... not that different from any of the zillion old New England cemeteries I've seen, with the exception of a couple "Died in a mine explosion" notes on tombstones, but it did have woodchucks:

...a mother and babies, who were hanging out next to my car when I got back to it. Or perhaps they are marmots, I don't know.

There are yet more photos from my trip, mostly from Great Sand Dunes National Park, which I visited on my way back to Golden, so I will make another post soon.

1 comment:

Mom said...

Great photography, as always.