McFarthest Spot and Smoke Creek Sam’s last stand

20 October 2010

Shows what I know.  What I thought might be a challenging “Where on Google Earth” was correctly pinned down in less than 12 hours. Winner Lockwood has already posted #218 on Outside the Interzone and it has stumped me, at least.

My not so mysterious mystery photo shows lower Guano Valley, straddling the border of Lake County, Oregon and Washoe County, Nevada.  As Lockwood correctly noted, Doherty Slide, descending from Guano Rim is visible in the upper right.  The rim and the valley take their name apparently from the distasteful water found in the playa lakes that dot the valley floor, remnants of a pluvial lake that once filled the graben valley.

Doherty Slide is named for some Irish dude and the manner of descent adopted by wagons of yore wherein the wheels were locked and the wagons slid down the rocky slope.  Today Oregon 140 follows the same route, and by all accounts remains a harrowing trip.  I haven’t done it yet.  Looking forward to it though.

I don’t have much to add on the geology, already quite adequately summarized by Lockwood and typical for the region: Plio-Pleistocene volcanics and lake deposits modified by extensional faulting.  It’s worth noting, for those to whom such things are noteworthy, that the USGS geochemical standard for andesite, USGS AGV-1 (since replaced by USGS AGV-2 from the same locality), was collected on or around Doherty Slide.

I also want to call your attention to some other features visible in this otherwise desolate and unpopulated corner of the Great Basin:

  • The current location of McFarthest Spot, the furthest one can possibly get from a McDonald’s in the CONUS (+DC), is just below center.
  • A briefly held early hang gliding record was set by Chris Price in 1974 from Guano Rim, which remains a popular launch location.  At 13.5 miles the flight was an order of  magnitude shorter than the current record, but given the state of the sport at that time seems pretty impressive:
  • Smoke Creek Sam’s Last Stand, a decisive battle in the Snake War fought between the 2nd California Cavalry division of the United States Cavalry and an alliance of Paiute, Shoshone and Bannocks took place on the alluvial fan right of center.

From Michno 2007 The Deadliest Indian War in the West

here is an account of the battle from Fairfield’s Pioneer History of Lassen County 1916

  • Not easily illustrated in the photo, and perhaps not in view at all, obsidian sourced from Guano Valley has been found some 500 miles away in the California Channel Islands, which blows my mind.

If all of this seems to you the making of some awesome historical fiction centered on a few square miles but spanning some 5 million years.  Well I’m right ahead of you there. Just kidding, I’m super busy scienceing dude.

One Response to “McFarthest Spot and Smoke Creek Sam’s last stand”

  1. Jessica Says:

    Plus, that fan is super-cute.


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