News from the Field: Day 6--Mammoth Mountain and the Inyo Craters

Today was our 'natural hazards' day. Michael led off the day with a discussion of hazards at the SNARL dorm. We then started off the field work with a visit to the the misnamed 'Earthquake Fault' (actually a volcano-tectonic fissure), where a giant cleft has opened in the ground beneath Mammoth Mountain. We proceeded to Mammoth Mountain, for a long-awaited gondola trip to the mountain summit, at 11,000 feet, for a spectacular view of the Long Valley area, the high Sierra, and Yosemite Valley. The weather was gorgeous and the view magnificent. After lunch on the mountain, we tried to visit the Horseshoe Lakes area, where a grove of pine trees has been poisoned by carbon dioxide gas emanating from Mammoth Mountain. Unfortunately, the late snow didn't cooperate--the road was blocked off several miles from the site, and a snow-covered ridge blocked our attempt to trudge to the site. We made a quick stop back in the town of Mammoth Lakes for a quick latte (and a new tire for the van!), followed by a late afternoon hike into Inyo Crater, a site of a large explosive steam eruption at the base of Mammoth Mountain. After an early dinner, the group split up into two groups--one headed to an evening SNARL guest lecture on wildlife management in California and the others headed up to the caldera for a chance to observe the US Geological Survey's laser ranging station, which monitors present-day movements of the caldera. And a special, unexpected treat--a full lunar eclipse rising over the caldera. What a view!

    May 15th
The 'Earthquake Fault', a giant cleft in the ground near the base of Mammoth Mountain.
The group works on some geological observations--and interpretation.
Nicole and Preethi demonstrate the dangers of going too close to the fissure.
The group poses in front of the famous Mammoth of Mammoth Mountain.
The view from the Mammoth Mountain gondola.
Happy travellers on their way up the mountain.
The view to the North from Mammoth provides a great view of the volcanic structures of Long Valley, with Mono Lake visible in the distance
With the town of Mammoth Lakes and the southern edge of the caldera visible to the south. Our 'home' is right across from Crowley Lake, visible in the distance.
And a beautiful view across a snowfield to the crest of the high Sierra
A group pic from the Mammoth Summit
Tabitha tries to stay warm in the blowing snow
Lunch in the gondola hut--and Megan learns about the dangers of opening yogurt at high elevations!
Jack 'takes a dive' on the way out.
On the way down, the gang plays 'roller coaster' in the gondola
On our aborted hike to Horseshoe Lake, the group strikes a pose
Preethi gets stuck in an ice cave!
The spectacular Inyo Craters, the result of explosive eruptions only 550 years ago.
The beautiful Jeffrey pines on the trail to the Inyo craters.
The boys strike a pose by one of the Jeffrey pines.
After the long hike to and from Inyo, Lauren collapses on the van.
Back at the ranch, our super-chef Linda Dore has a great dinner waiting for us.
After dinner, a visit to the US Geological Survey's laser monitoring station. Stuart Wilkinson sets up the two color laser
The laser instrument set over an old surveying benchmark
Nicole and Preethi posing by a GPS antenna
Preethi, Nicole, Alicia, and Chris, with the sunset over the Sierra Nevada in the background--and a full moon rising in the opposite direction.