Slip Slidin' Away

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

So, my gorgeous ex-fiancee says to me “Did you forget anything”? I sez, “If I did I don’t remember it!”, and we’re on the road again. House-sitters are sitting, and we’re back on the highway for a couple of weeks.

We’re heading for the Grand Canyon, by way of Lake Tahoe and Las Vegas. Like fools we decided to start our holiday on Labor Day Weekend, so the roads were jammed from the coast. California has been in drought conditions for a few years, but this time of year the coastal hills are always dry.

grand canyon 1Much of the land around where we live has been converted to wine grapes, and the conversion continues apace …

grand canyon 2From the coastal hills we rolled across the great Central Valley of California. Most folks don’t know that it is one of the world’s major rice-producing areas … but man, is it flat.

grand canyon 3The recent forest fires around the state had the air so hazy that we couldn’t see the Sierra Nevada mountains until we were almost upon them. We were heading for a campground in Coloma, on the American river not far from where the first gold discovery in California was made in 1848. It turned out to be a lovely spot, right by the river.

gc colomaIn the morning, we drove about five miles to the site of Sutter’s Mill, where the gold discovery was made. It’s a beautiful location, and there is a museum and a re-creation of the sawmill. The mill itself was run by a paddlewheel set in a mill-race alongside the river, and it was while digging the mill-race that the gold was discovered.

As usual, the big losers in the deal were what I call the “Early Asian Immigrants”, the Indians who lived in the area. Within a couple of years, hundreds of thousands of gold-seekers flooded their lovely, peaceful valley, and their way of life basically came to an abrupt end. Another tragic encounter in the endless struggle between the early Asian immigrants and the later melanin-deficient immigrants. The Indians called gold “the yellow metal that makes white men crazy”, and they were right.

Some people tried to do right by the Indians … good luck with that. From a plaque at the Mill:

gc indian leasesThere is still some old machinery at the mill. I’m always amazed at how much our forebearers were able to do with so little. Here’s a funkadelic old stamping mill, for crushing the gold-bearing quartz for further processing.

gc stamp millA belt run by a water wheel turned the wooden wheel at the left. That turned the horizontal shaft, and the “dogs” on the shaft raised the hammers and let them drop.

All of this got me to thinking about the idea of finite resources. People think that a “resource” is some kind of mineral or metal in the ground. Not true. A resource is something which we can extract from the ground and use. So for the Indians, gold wasn’t a resource, as they had no use for it.

Now, I’ve read that one of the world’s largest gold deposits is around Napa, California, not far from where I live. But there are no gold mines there. Why not? Because it is widely dispersed “flour gold”, very fine gold which is difficult and expensive to extract.

Which brings up another oddity. At present, the flour gold around Napa is not a resource, because it would cost twice what it is currently worth to extract it. This means that the amount of a resource is a function of economics. And this is where the peak oilers always get tripped up. How much oil is there in the ground? Well … depends on what the current price per barrel might be. If the price per barrel were $10 there is very little oil in the ground. But if the price rises again to $100 per barrel, suddenly there are oil fields producing all over the place.

From Sutter’s Mill, we went over the summit of the Sierras, and on towards Lake Tahoe … where the main feature of the highway are the big dropoffs over the edge:

gc tahoeIn Tahoe, we were invited to a concert on the beach by the Reno Jazz Band, along with a Sinatralike tribute singer. We picnicked on the beach in the afternoon, and that was lovely and warm.

gc tahoe sand bayBut by the time the concert started the sun was setting and a frigid wind was blowing off of the lake.

gc tahoe concerThe music was great, but I was glad to get back to a fireplace and a cup of coffee.

Today we went to Emerald Bay. It’s an ancient moraine lake with a narrow opening onto Lake Tahoe. The setting is amazing, and I fear my poor photo doesn’t do it justice.

gc emerald bay

The smell of the forest around the lake is heady, almost overpowering at times. At Emerald Bay there is old-growth forest. Most of the forests around Lake Tahoe were cut down back in the day to provide shoring timbers for the silver mines in Virginia City, Nevada. But Emerald Bay was privately owned at the time, so it’s one of the few remaining virgin forests in the area, filled with giant cedars, Douglas firs, quaking aspen, and Ponderosa pines. The leaves of the aspen are so delicately balanced that the slightest wind sets them aflutter, sending silvery reflections through the woods … ah, dear friends, what a world we live in.

Tonight, there are fireworks on the lake. Having learned my lesson, I plan to wear just about every piece of clothing I brought. I’ll likely look like the Michelin Man, or even the Goodyear blimp, but I don’t care. I packed for the desert, dang it, not for cold nights … that’ll teach me.

I did find out some good news from the locals, though. It turns out that the Early Asian Immigrants have the last laugh. The casinos on the Nevada side of the lake are doing very poorly, because of the proliferation of Indian casinos siphoning off all of the gamblers money before they ever make it to Nevada … gotta say that there is some street justice in that.

Tomorrow, we’ll likely roll into Nevada, and camp somewhere by Tonopah. After that, Las Vegas, where the gorgeous ex-fiancee bought us presents of tickets to Cirque de Soleil. From there to the Grand Canyon, Flagstaff, and maybe further south.

As always, any suggestions of things to see and do are more than welcome. We’ll be returning through Death Valley, Bishop, and Yosemite. If anyone along the way wants to hoist a beer, I’ve got a temporary travel email address which is willis.eschenbach at yahoo [dot] com, so give us a shout.

More to come, and of course, I’ll do my best to stay up with the ongoing scientific dialogue.

Best to all,

w.

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98 thoughts on “Slip Slidin' Away

  1. You must have driven within a dozen miles of me. 🙂
    “Adiabatic lapse rate” isn’t just a technical concept; it is, as you discovered, a very real phenomenon. Go into the mountains, and the temperature drops. Last evening, the forecast overnight low temperatures for Lake Tahoe were below freezing, and even here in the valley the high today was a very reasonable 90.

    • You don’t need mountains for it to cool off a lot after the sun sets (though it does help it cool more than just flat ground does).
      The main thing that got me to go download surface data was how much it cooled after dark while operating the camera on my telescope.

      • I packed for the desert, dang it, not for cold nights … that’ll teach me.

        I’m very surprised to see Willis make such an ill-informed comment. Deserts are not only known for being hot during the day time but also for being cold at night. This is mainly due to the absence of the most important greenhouse gas on the planet: WATER VAPOUR. Recent ‘catastrophic’ rise in CO2 does not change that.
        I’m sure Willis knows this and has almost certainly written about it during some of his articles about CERES data, though I don’t intend to start digging for a quotation.
        I guess he just found out what he forgot before leaving.

      • “Deserts are not only known for being hot during the day time but also for being cold at night. This is mainly due to the absence of the most important greenhouse gas on the planet: WATER VAPOUR. Recent ‘catastrophic’ rise in CO2 does not change that.”
        ////////////////////////
        Whilst I agree with you that deserts are cold at night because of the relative absence of water vapour, but one thing one rarely sees discussed is whether that is due to water vapour being a ghg, and hence a consequence of back radiation, or whether it is something rather more simple, namely a function of relative humidity and hence the amount of energy in a given volume of air.
        Air that is dry has little stored energy and hence it relatively quickly loses such energy as it has and we see this as (in relative terms) rapid cooling producing low night time temperatures.
        On the other hand if the same volume of air has high humidity, it has entrapped a large amount of energy, and hence it takes correspondingly longer to dissipate that energy resulting in slower cooling at night and higher night time temperatures.
        So whilst night time temperatures in deserts are low, and whilst this is undoubtedly due to the relative lack of water vapour, it may have little to do with the GHE, and may be nothing more than a function of the total energy contained in a given volume of air which in a desert is (relatively) small.
        In other words, it behavour is similar to a large volume of water. A large volume of water such as a lake does not cool much at night given the amount of latent energy stored. Air that is rich in water vapour behaves in a similar fashion.
        Put simply, the more energy there is, the longer it takes to dissipate.

      • Mike said:

        I’m very surprised to see Willis make such an ill-informed comment. Deserts are not only known for being hot during the day time but also for being cold at night.

        Richard Varney said:

        Whilst I agree with you that deserts are cold at night because of the relative absence of water vapour,

        I don’t mean to be the one throwing cold water on things…but these are good examples of climatology from memory. Now, granted, ‘cold at night’ is a relative term but let’s look at some actual data from the NWS of several spots around the US SW on a date this past summer;

        NWS Forecast for: 13 Miles S Furnace Creek CA
        Issued by: National Weather Service Las Vegas, NV
        Last Update: 2:38 am PDT Jun 16, 2015
        Excessive Heat Watch
        This Afternoon: Sunny and hot, with a high near 122.
        Tonight: Mostly clear, with a low around 93.
        Wednesday: Sunny and hot, with a high near 124.
        Wednesday Night: Mostly clear, with a low around 94.
        Thursday: Sunny and hot, with a high near 125.
        Thursday Night: Mostly clear, with a low around 94.
        Friday: Sunny and hot, with a high near 127.
        Friday Night: Mostly clear, with a low around 96.
        Saturday: Sunny and hot, with a high near 128.
        Saturday Night: Mostly clear, with a low around 97.
        Sunday: Sunny and hot, with a high near 128.
        Sunday Night: Mostly clear with a low around 97.
        Monday: Sunny and hot, with a high near 127.
        Just west of Barstow, ca.
        NWS Forecast for: 10 Miles NNW Helendale CA
        Issued by: National Weather Service Las Vegas, NV
        Last Update: 2:38 am PDT Jun 16, 2015
        Excessive Heat Watch
        This Afternoon: Sunny, with a high near 102.
        Tonight: Mostly clear, with a low around 68.
        Wednesday: Sunny, with a high near 102.
        Wednesday Night: Mostly clear, with a low around 69.
        Thursday: Sunny, with a high near 103.
        Thursday Night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 69.
        Friday: Sunny, with a high near 103.
        Friday Night: Mostly clear, with a low around 70.
        Saturday: Sunny, with a high near 104.
        Saturday Night: Mostly clear, with a low around 69.
        Sunday: Sunny and hot, with a high near 105.
        Sunday Night: Mostly clear, with a low around 71.
        Monday: Sunny and hot, with a high near 105.
        Near Lake Havasu, Az.
        NWS Forecast for: 20 Miles NNE Lake Havasu City AZ
        Issued by: National Weather Service Las Vegas, NV
        Last Update: 2:38 am MST Jun 16, 2015
        Excessive Heat Watch
        This Afternoon: Sunny and hot, with a high near 110.
        Tonight: Mostly clear, with a low around 76.
        Wednesday: Sunny and hot, with a high near 111.
        Wednesday Night: Clear, with a low around 77.
        Thursday: Sunny and hot, with a high near 113.
        Thursday Night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 79.
        Friday: Sunny and hot, with a high near 115.
        Friday Night: Mostly clear, with a low around 79.
        Saturday: Sunny and hot, with a high near 116.
        Saturday Night: Mostly clear, with a low around 81.
        Sunday: Sunny and hot, with a high near 117.
        Sunday Night: Mostly clear, with a low around 81.
        Between Phoenix & Tuscon, Az.
        NWS Forecast for: 9 Miles SE Florence AZ
        Issued by: National Weather Service Tucson, AZ
        Last Update: 2:17 am MST Jun 16, 2015
        This Afternoon: Sunny and hot, with a high near 106.
        Tonight: Mostly clear, with a low around 77.
        Wednesday: Sunny and hot, with a high near 108.
        Wednesday Night: Mostly clear, with a low around 78.
        Thursday: Sunny and hot, with a high near 108.
        Thursday Night: Mostly clear, with a low around 77.
        Friday: Sunny and hot, with a high near 109.
        Friday Night: Clear, with a low around 76.
        Saturday: Sunny and hot, with a high near 110.
        Saturday Night: Mostly clear, with a low around 77.
        Sunday: Sunny and hot, with a high near 109.
        Sunday Night: Mostly clear, with a low around 77.
        Monday: Sunny and hot, with a high near 108.
        Northwest of Las Vegas, Nv.
        NWS Forecast for: 14 Miles NW Tonopah NV
        Issued by: National Weather Service Elko, NV
        Last Update: 12:45 am PDT Jun 16, 2015
        This Afternoon: Sunny, with a high near 94.
        Tonight: Mostly clear, with a low around 57.
        Wednesday: Sunny, with a high near 94.
        Wednesday Night: Clear, with a low around 57.
        Thursday: Sunny, with a high near 95.
        Thursday Night: Clear, with a low around 59.
        Friday: Sunny, with a high near 94.
        Friday Night: Clear, with a low around 59.
        Saturday: Sunny, with a high near 95.
        Saturday Night: Clear, with a low around 60.
        Sunday: Sunny and hot, with a high near 96.
        Sunday Night: Clear, with a low around 60.
        Monday: Sunny and hot, with a high near 96.
        

        1) The lowest I saw in there was around 60F…and that was after a high of ‘only’ around 95F. To me, that’s not cold.
        2) If you notice, through all of the locations, there was only about a 30F-35F swing between high temps & low temps.
        Yes, desert nights get cold…in the winter. Data is your friend 😉

        • The average swing between min and max daily temp for all surface stations is slightly less than 18F, and would expect dry areas to be a little higher than average, so these weather forecasts fall in that expected range.
          Also note that in the 8-14u IR band, the temp of the sky when it’s dry is a lot colder than when it’s humid, I routinely see it to be more than 100F colder than the ground, and until rel humidity starts getting into the upper 80% range it cools really fast.

      • @ Mike and Richard – The Arizona desert not only gets hotter than hell this time of year (106 forecast for Yuma), it doesn’t necessarily cool off at night. The monsoon season brings moisture up from the south through mid September and you don’t want to camp out. The temps will only drop into the mid to low 80’s and be uncomfortable. Back in the early 90’s it only dropped into the high 90’s for several weeks at a time.
        The Grand Canyon South Rim is forecast for upper 70’s for highs this week and nights will be in the 40’s. You might want to do some shopping, Willis, for a jacket. Those temps are pretty normal for this time of year. If it’s not cloudy the sun will be intense at that altitude and it will feel much warmer during the day. If you are going to the North Rim it will be even cooler.

      • Mike September 6, 2015 at 11:44 pm

        I packed for the desert, dang it, not for cold nights … that’ll teach me.
        I’m very surprised to see Willis make such an ill-informed comment. Deserts are not only known for being hot during the day time but also for being cold at night.

        Thanks, guys. Having lived in the desert, I’m well aware of their hot day/cold night swings. However, at Lake Tahoe on Saturday it got down to 31°F, just below freezing … and my quick search through the temperatures at the other places we’re likely to visit didn’t reveal anything below about 45°F. The data from JKRob above confirms my thought.

        This is mainly due to the absence of the most important greenhouse gas on the planet: WATER VAPOUR. Recent ‘catastrophic’ rise in CO2 does not change that.
        I’m sure Willis knows this and has almost certainly written about it during some of his articles about CERES data, though I don’t intend to start digging for a quotation.
        I guess he just found out what he forgot before leaving.

        I do enjoy how everyone knows what’s going on in my head better than I do … yes, Mike, I know that water is a GHG.
        I also know, from both theory and personal experience, that when it is hot in the desert, say 90°F+ as it has been most everywhere in the southwest, it won’t go down to 31F at night. Not gonna happen. Perhaps you didn’t know that, perhaps you did, but I knew it.
        It’s a curious thing. I must be one of the few people willing to admit that the world surprises me. I say this because almost every time I write “I was surprised by …”, someone will patiently explain the twenty-three good reasons why I should not have been surprised.
        It appears that according to my online advisors I shouldn’t ever be surprised, but one of best things about my life is that this amazing world constantly manages to surprise me.
        Best to everyone, thanks for all the good ideas.
        w.

      • Richard, I believe it’s the hear stored in all of that water vapor, and not ghg action. Some days we get hot humid air from the gulf, other days dry air out of Canada, and it makes a 10 or 20F difference in temps.

    • kenwd0elq – if I may, you are referring to the ‘Environmental Lapse Rate’ where higher elevations are cooler than lower elevations. The atmosphere, in general, gets colder with height…but it is a dynamic & changing thing that depends on horizontal temperature advection and the rising/falling of air in the area (for whatever reason). But still, in general, that is why tall mountain tops keep snow on them year round, Flagstaff is cooler that Phoenix or Las Vegas & they are cooler than Death Valley…even though they all may have very similar atmospheric conditions (check out SPC Skew-T plots for proof. Follow the Dry Adiabat down from the LCL to the surface. It ends sooner @Flagstaff due to higher elevation than at Phoenix or Las Vegas so it is cooler. Now, the ‘Adiabatic Lapse Rate’ only deals with the temperature change of air that is moving vertically (up or down) from expansion (cooling) or compression (heating). The Moist ALR & Dry ALR are fixed rates of change.

    • Howdy Willis,
      My Dad, uncles, aunts and grandfolks lived in Tonopah, Nevada from 1941 through 1958 and there they witnessed many of the blasts and mushroom clouds from the atomic testing being conducted just a short distance south… Occasionally getting dusted by fallout when the wind didn’t cooperate with the weather forcasters, and many times over St. George, Utah.
      John Wayne and a company of actors and production crew filmed a movie out there called “The Conquerors” near St. George in the “50s during and after a couple of the dirty atomic “shots” (above ground, dirty blasts with lots of irradiated material in the fallout) and during filming there was a lot of blown up wind and dust from many of the scenes with horses. Within a few years, many of the people from that movie got sick, many died of cancer and eventually most of that cast and crew died of cancer and other unusual ailments. Look it up. Same with my family and many, many other families who lived out there in central Nevada and Utah. Radiation had even exposed some photographic film in a city in New York State one time.
      At the time, the AEC (Atomic Energy Commission) called the occasionally snowlike fallout, “Safe as Snow”, trying to alleviate peoples fears when their children would come in from sitting or playing outside completely red, like a bad sunburn from the exposure to fallout. Many, many sheep, horses and cattle would be found with scabby and unhealing sores and blisters on their backs from where the fallout had accumulated on their backs in their fur and hair.
      When you drive through Tonopah you can still see the excavations, piles of dirt, from the Uranium mining claims along the side of the highways leading into and out of Tonopah. These were Uranium mine claims made in the ’50s, after all of the fallout descended on the land, because the claim holders assumed that the radioactivity they were picking up with their Geiger Counters were Uranium deposits. Thousands of claim holes you can still see along the sides of the highway. They eventually found out it was just fallout and not uranium deposits.
      In those days patriotism meant believing whatever the government told you. Not many people understood radiation and it’s effects, and so a lot of people just went along with the AEC and the Government line that it was all good and safe, contrary to what many ranchers and families were seeing and experiencing. Leukemias, cancers, herd sickness and death, etc.
      The scientists knew…but the party line at the time, during the Cold War was, we need to do this testing for National Security. No questions. Just like Bikini Atoll and the people there. The health and welfare of citizens do not matter when the Government has an agenda. Just like today and the idiotic attempts (money re distribution) at controlling the Catastrophic Human Made Global Warming with stupid, unworkable renewable energy BS.

      • Ps. Willis. If you camp near Tonopah, try the Twin Rivers around Darroughs Hot Springs
        about 40 miles north of Tonopah in the Big Smokey Valley. Or even see if Darroughs hot springs is open and see if you can camp over there. Old lady Darrough died since last time I was up there and I don’t know what’s going on, but it was a great hot springs pool. A couple miles north of Round Mountain.

      • And if you do get to Death Valley, bring a big bag of green apples for the wandering desert Burros… Big donkeys. They love them things and will drool like you wouldn’t believe when you give them some to eat. They’re usually on the high sides of the Valley by the roads. But that’s during more wetter times. Green apples for them is like the best meal you ever ate Times 10.

      • A friend and his father hunted geods and topaz in the southwest parts of Utah back in the 50’s. Both died of cancer. My friend was only 40.

    • Water vapour is wrongly labeled a GHG. Deserts are hot during the day and cold at night because there is no water. Just as rainforests are cooler, plenty of water.

    • On Labor Day in Claremont, CA it was 99F at 1000 ft. elevation. We drove north for 25 minutes to Mt. Baldy and hopped on the chairlift to The Notch restaurant. It was 68F and sunny with a light breeze there at 7800 ft. elevation. Very enjoyable lapse rate.

    • @ stock I agree, and of course Willis and partner, just one thing,
      Your quote, “All of this got me to thinking about the idea of finite resources. People think that a “resource” is some kind of mineral or metal in the ground. Not true. A resource is something which we can extract from the ground and use.
      Wllis, I think the biggest resource if used correctly is that tiny space between our ears. Everything else sprouts forward from that.
      Thanks for your diary and I am looking forward to the next installments.

      • Willis et al: You touched on one of the first things a student in Economic Geology learns: ” An ore is a mineral deposit which can extracted using avaiable technology at a PROFIT.. Otherwise it is simply a mineral deposit. The same thing holds true for oil, gas and other commodities. The amount of available resources is extremely price dependent.

      • In the oil and gas industry, there are various categories of “resources”. The “reserves” that are often discussed with regard to the peak oil theory are proven reserves. Proven reserves estimates must conform to a very strict and specific set of SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) rules, and therefore represent only a small portion of the actual hydrocarbons in place. Another category is unproven reserves (sometimes divided into probable and possible), which are the resources that a particular company believes to be economically recoverable to a reasonable level of certainty, but do not conform to all of the SEC rules. These resources will usually require a significant investment to develope, and then may be moved into the proven category. The rest of the hydrocarbon in place ( the vast majority) is very much like Willis’ flour gold. It is called a “contingent resource” because it depends on a change in economic, technological, or political conditions in order to be considered a resource.
        Willis,
        I always enjoy your posts, and this one especially. I was stationed in Sacramento while in the Air Force, and recall visits to Sutter’s Mill and Lake Tahoe. My wife is the daughter of a Central Valley rice farmer.
        If you get a chance to stop in Panamint Springs at night, you can get an impressive dark-sky view of the Milky Way.

  2. The natural hot springs and Hot Creek, just south of Mammoth Lakes off 395 is not to be missed.
    https://www.google.com/search?q=mammoth+lakes+hot+springs&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ved=0CEUQsARqFQoTCPWh67Pb48cCFUs4iAodcZsCSg&biw=1708&bih=763&dpr=0.8
    Other Eastern Sierra hot springs.
    http://www.monocounty.org/static/index.cfm?contentID=769
    You could check out some bristlecone pines in the White Mountains outside of Bishop.
    In Vegas, if you want something different, try a skyjump off the Stratosphere.

    • I was going to suggest the hot springs. Willis, you may also want to visit Mammoth Lakes and/or June Lake.

  3. Willis, if you’ll be in Flagstaff, don’t miss the easy side trip to Sedona/Oak Creek Canyon where I grew up attending a three-room school of eight grades and now a burgeoning retirement area. Try to imagine how it looked in 1954 when my father built the bar, drugstore, medical clinic and one of the two churches.
    If that isn’t enough of AZ, blow south thru Phoenix to Tucson to have a long look at the world’s most beautiful desert, the Sonoran, where my wonderful wife and I now live after fifty years making a living in California and four more in Molokai. Of all the places I’ve lived, including Europe, Arizona is second only to CA in terms of natural beauty. If you decide the Sonoran desert belongs on your road trip, say so and we’ll arrange a suitable welcoming event.

  4. have a good vacation. great travelogue. nice break from numbers and charts. pls take the time to camp in the desert. you may be rewarded with a desert flower bloom. one of the greatest shows of nature.

  5. My sister and her husband went hiking at Grand Canyon last month. While they were there, they also visited Antelope Canyon. Their pictures of Antelope Canyon were amazing, so that’s another suggested addition to your itinerary.

  6. I just waded into a fantastic conversation of oil drillers and fracking experts – the recent downturn in oil prices has churned the innovating gears of these experts to a sizzling pace and even $20 a barrel oil is feasible, depending on the strata and depth and complexity, etc… LOVE your posts!

  7. There are two types of Grand Canyon photos: those taken from the top and those take from inside.

    The typical visitor takes a brief look into the Grand Canyon and departs pumped full of wonder. The typical stay lasts from five to seven hours, according to park surveys, and the average time spent looking at the canyon is 17 minutes.

    The photos from the top of the canyon have a boring horizontal line as the horizon. To do credit to buttes and other structures in the canyon you need to hike down far enough so that the stand out against the sky, not the north rim.
    There’s actually a third type of photo. Once you get past all the limestone and sandstone, the bottom third of the canyon are the roots of an ancient granite mount chain. The “inner gorge” has steep walls and by the time you get to the bottom you can’t see the sedimentary rocks. (And that’s why you won’t see the Colorado River most of the time from the top.)

    • The Vishnu Basement Rocks have granite-types intruding metamorphic rocks. The name “Granite Gorge” is shortened for “Granite Gorge Metamorphic Suite.”
      As you suggest, the hike down is informative and photogenic. Not a good idea for non-hikers, though.

    • If you ride the mules down to the river overlook you will have no sense of being in a canyon. The scale is to immense. It will also be much warmer. You can get a sense of the immense timelessness of the canyon by human standards. You will also feel like a cripple if you are not in shape when you get back to the rim The ride kills the front of your legs going down and the back of them coming back up. My wife and I cancelled celebrating the event with steaks at camp and ate at the Bright Angel Lodge instead.
      If you spend a few days going to the various overlooks the timelessness and wonder will soak into your soul and you will need to go back every so often to again experience that awesome feeling. The campground actually has full bathrooms throughout the grounds and a large shower house. Be on the lookout for Elk wandering through your space. They also graze on the grass around the village area.

  8. Willis:
    Don’t forget Bryce Canyon, where there are a gnarly bristle cone pines that make you wonder how anybody ever cores the damn things. You can’t be very far away.
    Enjoy.

  9. Skied Heavenly at Tahoe and I’ll always remember looking over the lake and then skiing over to the Nevada side of the mountain and looking out over flat desert. What a contrast! We could look out at rain clouds with rain falling that never reached the ground (virga).

    • Hardcore backcountry skiers will ski Mott Canyon nearly down to the bottom. Obviously at that point vehicles are involved, this is beyond lift served areas.

  10. A nice trip, nicely narrated. It brings back distant and not so distant nostalgia to me. In 1969, I was with a mining exploration company that sent four of us on a tour of the porphyry copper deposits of the US southwest so that we would know what we were looking for in the northern extension of the belt in northern British Columbia and Yukon. We flew Seattle, Boise to Salt Lake City, rented a car, drove to Bingham Canyon copper deposit and then headed for Nevada.
    On the Salt Flats, we could see a sparking light in the far distance that, after an hour or more turned out to be very tall neon sign of a cowboy welcoming us to Nevada. We stopped at Elko, where a seedy mini casino was jingling away and the first topless dancers I had seen outside of Nigeria were doing their gig. We visited the Carlin gold deposit which had been operating then for only a few years and then swung down through the open pit copper district of Arizona that ended in a 2 lb T-bone, baked potato and beans dinner at Tucson (you could have as many of these steaks as you could eat included in the price!)
    Forty-three years later, I was contracted to obtain representative samples of Li-B-K ore in a Cenozoic (about 30 million ya) hotspring sourced deposit in a long narrow lake that was subsequently buried under 40 metres or so of volcanic ash from an adjacent volcanic, collapsed caldera. With this material, I was to develop a mineral processing scheme to produce lithium carbonate (battery industry), sodium borate and potash fertilizer. The process was perfected over 2 and half years (2012) but a shortage of cash has left this in the ground for now. We rented a couple of rooms for offices and a storage place for samples at Tonopah. The deposit is in the Borate Hills about a dozen miles east from the Silver Peak lithium brine deposit in the valley.
    I keep in touch and hope they can raise the cash and have me back. On my many trips to the project I overnighted in Vegas and was probably one of the very few who didn’t give the games a try, although I like cards. BTW, coming from Ottawa, Canada in May of the first year of work I left in fairly warm weather, arrived at the project and nearly froze to death. They mustered up some parkas and told me they had to break ice on the horse troughs at the ranch that one of the workers lived at.
    I envy you the fine trip you and your beautiful ex-fiance have planned. Cheers, G.P.

  11. On your way to Yosemite, which looks to be via Tioga and hwy 120, when you turn west on 120 from 395 northbound, be sure to stop at the Whoa Nellie Deli for some lobster taquitos and a mango margaritas! It’s at the Mobil gas station right after your turn onto 120.
    The grassy area affords a very nice view of Mono Lake while enjoying the unique food!

    • Dang, fizzy, that sounds like mondo fun. The gorgeous ex-fiancee is the driver, though, so we just might have to spend the night camped out there … I’ll report back when we get there.
      w.

  12. Y’all might try Walnut Canyon National Monument, 10 miles SE of Flagstaff.
    Used by the Sinagua Early Asian Immigrants during the 12th & 13th centuries.
    These could be the first, or 5th, or 23rd climate refugees – or not.
    Anyway, neat place.

  13. Willis,
    Get down into the Canyon and visualize some unconformities. Once you see where nature erased 800 million years of evidence between two adjacent rock layers, think about how inaccurate paleo records really are.
    1 question: North Rim or South Rim?

    • PS recommend a night drive on the highway through Death Valley. Stars are usually awesome, and so is the desolation. Are you staying at Furnance Creek?

      • Thanks, Joel. Not sure where we’ll be staying around Death Valley, we tend to decide each day as it plays out. A night run through Death Valley does sound fun.
        w.

  14. Since you are down in that area, consider a route that will take you to Zion, Bryce, Capitol Reef, Arches, Canyonland and Monument Valley. It is a long swing into SE Utah but you will never see any scenery more beautiful. We did that trip last spring.

  15. Regarding “I’ll likely look like the Michelin Man, or even the Goodyear blimp, but I don’t care. I packed for the desert, dang it, not for cold nights … that’ll teach me”:
    Many desert places have cold nights. With low presence of water vapor and often low heat conductivity of the soil/sand, nighttime temperatures in desert areas often plunge like lead balloons. Especially outside of major urban heat islands like Phoenix and Las Vegas. I remember a meteorology textbook in the 1980s advising one to not lose his shirt in Reno even in July – with average daily low temperature for July being below 50 F IIRC as of then, 57.7 F as of now according to Wikipedia (with most of the increase being for reasons other than global warming).
    I have known one frosty warm spell in May several years ago hitting the Philadelphia area, especially agricultural parts of southern New Jersey, when the air mass was unusually dry, and soil was running on the dry side. And a lot of South Jersey’s soil is sandy. Record lows were established on days when high temperatures were 10-plus degrees F above normal. There was crop damage from frost. Some South Jersey farmers complained about daily temperature swings of 50-60 F in that dry air mass event, with afternoon relative humidity getting into the single digits.
    Rural Nevada should have areas able to do even worse for daily temperature swings, with the worst of them usually in June or early July before the monsoon season brings in some humidity. More north in Nevada means more opportunity for bombouts of nighttime temperatures on warm days, especially if sandy soils can be found there.

    • I have searched the surface station record, and iirc there are only ~250 days with min max differences greater than 40F. Out of over 120 million records.
      Now I might have also included low wind speeds, and low humidity in the search parameters as well.
      It not that I don’t believe more of those days exist, just they are not being recorded at surface stations.
      I’ve searched the SW US and the deserts of North Africa.

      • I looked at official NWS reporting stations for just California on Labor Day and I saw 8 stations reporting greater than 40F difference. Paso Robles had the largest difference of +49F, low 48F and high 97F. The forecast for today is more of the same.
        I would venture that during the time that the NWS has been reporting temperatures in California they would have reported more than 10,000 of these. While California is unique in that it is the only place on earth with all climate zones represented, I don’t believe it is unique with min/max.

        • Richard,
          You are right, there are closer to a million (I don’t have the excat number in front of me), and I poked around a couple minutes to see if I could figure out what the criteria I used for the 250 number and I didn’t find it, I’ll look more tomorrow, but I was trying to remove weather being detected as a day’s large range.
          but without looking deeper I can’t say more.

        • Here’s my criteria
          falling_temp_diff > 55
          AND wind_speed 55
          and dewpoint falling_temp_diff – 2
          and rising_temp_diff < falling_temp_diff + 2
          Where rising is Max day-1 – Min day -1
          falling is Max day -1 – Min day – 0
          Returned 258 records.

  16. Death Valley can be quite warm and DRY this time of the year. Last time I was there it snowed and blocked the road to Scottys Castle. The virga was at sea level -0- elevation and an exposed sandwich got stale faster then I could eat it. March of 1959 LOL! Somehow I would think spring would be a bit nicer then late summer for this trip. I hope you have good air-conditioning 🙂 …pg

  17. ‘Unlimited Wealth’ by Paul Zane Pilzer is a wonderful book that explains your point about what constitutes a resource.
    Have fun at the Canyon. Perhaps here you can have your “no greenhouse effect” epiphany. Think on where most of the sunlight hits the earth there. Think of the shadows at the bottom. Think of the atmospheric concentration of CO2 at the top and at the bottom of the Canyon. Think of the “thickness” of the air at the top and the bottom.
    Have fun!

  18. Try using SH375 known as the “Extra-terrestrial Highway” to cross Nevada dessert. Great experience.
    Make sure to top up on gas as there’s none for 180 miles. Not electric car friendly unless Tesla has built one of those diesel engine powered charging stations along the way since I last travelled it:)

  19. My great thanks to all who have written. Even though I can’t answer every suggestion and comment, they are much appreciated, keep’m coming.
    w.

  20. For the record, a ‘resource’ is often defined as something that might reasonably be expected to be mineable in the foreseeable future, given broad economic conditions. A ‘reserve’ is what has been actually proved to exist (by e.g. density of drilling), and under more specific economic conditions.
    It is curious how often these general concepts are misunderstood. For some resources, such as most metals, they may be finite, yet for all intensive purposes inexhaustible, since they are so large. Humanity will never ‘run out’ of just about any metal, such as gold, or aluminium, or copper, or virtually any other metal in the earth’s crust, as for most there is just too much of it around (there may be one or two very rare exceptions).
    For most metals, for roughly every 10% decrease in grade, you generally get 10-100 times more resource-the availability of the resource increases exponentially with decrease in grade, something the Club of Rome, for example, never understood. They assumed not only linearity, but also under vastly estimated levels of uncertainty. Sound familiar?
    There is a very good discussion of size of resources with changes in grade published the USGS, called the ‘resource pyramid’ which is worth a read.

    • I can’t remember in which newspaper I read it but they were reporting on a study that found that gold concentrations in sewerage was high enough in some cities to make it commercially viable to extract.
      This made me chuckle at those that like to say “the gold for my …… came from Wales (or where ever )” just imagining being able to say “the gold for my ….. came from POO”
      Willis enjoy your travels sometimes the journey is much more important than the destination.
      James Bull

      • Had to “mine” like that for a gold crown that popped out once. Found it. Dentist and I had great fun with the aghast response of his nurse as he reinstalled it.

    • Also note there is a planet or two of crushed rock and metal in the asteroid belt, one such metal body is reported to have iirc more gold, platinum and other rare earth metals than humans have dug up.

  21. Melanin-deficient native here…
    From Flagstaff – don’t go east, skip the Petrified Forest and the Crater. Those are fascinating, but mostly when you know someone there that will take you into the “no turista” areas. (So a later trip maybe – I’m sure you have some fans both places.)
    If you’re up to another, really edge-hugging drive, go south down to Sedona. Beautiful area this time of year – and the people around there believe in real food done right; I’ve eaten better there than in many “haute” places on the Left Coast. Further south, there is Jerome, another mining museum town, and Prescott if you want to go that far (a small town; I think they have their Arts on the Commons still going this time of year, too). On the way, there is a major rest stop along the highway – if you see a bunch of small vendors sitting there, STOP (unless the gorgeous ex-fiance has an aversion to jewelry).

  22. In Flagstaff treat yourself to a meal at Black Bart’s Steakhouse. The food is great and EVERYONE working there is part of the entertainment.

  23. Talking about hammer mill, I saw a program about ancient technology. China had water power hammer mills some 2000 years ago.

  24. It’s amazing the different smells and vibes of different parts of this country. California I miss a lot. The pacific is so special to me.The water and air is different there. The air in Miami is a whole other universe. The tropical feel is intoxicating. Then if course the air in New England in the autumn. I am jealous but I will return to the west coast soon. It seems like about time for that.

    • Ah so the air of New England as we come into autumn. Currently my wood burning Tacoma, my teeny 13 foot Scamp trailer, and I are camping along the coast of Maine having taken in 2 days of the Great Maine Air Show from former Brunswick Naval Air Station (retired). Here, the Blue Angels and other roaring jets have been enriching the atmosphere while we mortals have been grilling meats and veggies in a county sized tail gate party. Boats of all varieties have been anchored along the Androscoggin taking in the shows.
      It is heartening to know so many WUWTers are devoted wanderlusters.
      Many good suggestions here, but do get down into the Canyon. Imagine an average of 17 minutes viewing from the rims! As George Smith says here (paraphrasing) – the average is a meaningless and exclusively statistical score that only exists after the data, so hike a bit down into the data.
      Last summer I wandered into Yellowstone National Park and over to Old Faithful. I have pictures of the tourists watching the geyser through their smart device screens!!! Why not just dial up the web cam?

  25. …All of this got me to thinking about the idea of finite resources. People think that a “resource” is some kind of mineral or metal in the ground. Not true. A resource is something which we can extract from the ground and use. So for the Indians, gold wasn’t a resource, as they had no use for it….
    Whenever I see this statement I feel the need to remind people that it was the great Julian Simon who raised this comment to the level of a principle by incorporating it into his ‘Cornucopia theory’.
    This simply states that R=MH – Resources equal Raw Materials multiplied by Human Ingenuity. Raw Materials on any particular planet are limited (at the limit!) by the size of the planet, but Human Ingenuity is probably infinite – at least, we have found no limits yet.
    Consequently, Resources are effectively infinite…

  26. I have to admit, I was expecting some sort of a travel prelude to a dramatic conclusion about ever-so-degrading people’s behaviour. Sliding away from the right way sort of thing.
    Turned out to be a nice travel story. While I am not stating it was all rubbish and a waste of time, quite the contrary actually. At the same time, I did find the title somewhat misleading, could be my bad though.

  27. Really enjoying the first episode of your travelogue. It is almost exactly what we did in the mid 1960s, 1965 to be exact but in the late Spring. Quite fabulous. Our 1956 Buick had no air conditioning, so parts of the drive were a bit sticky!
    Let us have plenty more, Willis.

  28. Well Willis, we may see each other somewhere next weeks, as we fly tomorrow to Las Vegas for a 4-week camper trip in Nevada, Utah and Arizona, including the Grand Canyon and other highlights… Just like you we see what the next day will bring, but some of the smaller parks are on our list of “things to see”: organ pipe cactus NP, Kitt peak observatory, Saguaro NP, Tombstone all near the Mexican border and up to Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Bryce Canyon,…
    You never know where one may meet someone, we had the strangest experiences in that way…
    If you hear some Flemish voices with a Cruise America camper, have a chat (in English of course…)…

    • Ferdinand, we’ll be in Las Vegas tomorrow (Tuesday). Shoot me an email, let’s have a beer.
      w.

  29. Hi Willis,
    If you haven’t already seen them, a trip to the dinosaur tracks in Arizona (northeast of Flagstaff IIRC) is interesting. Renting a boat on Lake Powell is also a fun day.. You can take the boat up to the Utah boarder and see the Rainbow Arch. This time of year you should have the lake mostly to yourself. House boats are also available, but pricy.

  30. Ride the mules at the Grand Canyon, either down to the bottom (two day round trip) or along the rim. Amazing, but underrated, animals and perfect for the canyon. Their eyes are positioned so that if they lower their head they can see all four feet when climbing or descending. Their stubbornness is solely due self preservation – their main priority is ‘number one’ and the good news is that when you are on their back, you are a part of number one. Ideal for trekking along, a couple of feet from the rim, even though it’s a mile to the bottom! Did it last year and it made our trip.

  31. Willis:
    Stop in Boulder City (Old Town) if you head out of Vegas that way. Born there in 1950. Relatives worked building the dam and stayed. Old town is still the same. Identical as when I was a kid there. Stay a night in the El Rancho Motel. Still the same as the 40’s. Very clean. Stop by the dam if you haven’t before. The little short fences in the desert are to protect turtles. There were lots of turtles before there were lots of cars. For the gorgeous ex fiancé there is a great thrift shop – as documented many times by my wife’s loyal patronage – at Wyoming and Avenue B (caddy corner from my old home).
    I also witnessed two above ground Hydrogen Bomb Tests in 1957 or 1958. My Uncle Alvin, was the guy responsible for setting up the towers, fake towns, and such, prior to the blast, then cleaning everything up after the blast. Yes, he is still alive (90), and still living in Las Vegas. No, they don’t know why he never got cancer from it. But they studied him for a long time.
    About the H-Bomb test; Sitting on our brick fence at 50 Hunter Drive (still there) just north of where the Rio Resort is. 3:00am in the morning, Pitch black. Looking North towards Indian Springs and Mercury: 5-4-3-2-1:Instant daylight. (we were told to look away or it would blind us, I risked one eye). slow 30-40 second fade back to dark. Big mushroom cloud – still glowing red, billowing upwards. No sound, it “bounced” over us they said. You’ll drive right by Mercury and Indian Springs going from Tonopah to Vegas. Have a good trip.
    Ron Richey

  32. >> “Early Asian Immigrants”
    Genetic studies have found a surprising European component in “native Americans”. Therefore, the first Europeans in the new world was not Columbus, nor was it my own ancestors the Vikings landing in Vinland (presumably renamed Nova Scotia by some scots). but was in fact the native Americans themselves.
    As usual, great article. I envy the travelling lifestyle. You cleverly avoided the mistake that Peer Gynt made.

    • The Greenland Norse might well have visited Nova Scotia, but their only known settlement was on the tip of the Great Northern Peninsula of the island of Newfoundland.
      A recent study of Haplogroups C & X among indigenous Americans found against the Solutrean hypothesis, ie that during the LGM Europeans skirted the iced over North Atlantic to reach North America. At that time the Atlantic was less wide due to the ice sheets causing lower sea level. Both the Celtic Sea between Brittany and Ireland and the Grand Banks of Newfoundland were exposed.
      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22024980
      Am J Phys Anthropol. 2012 Jan;147(1):35-9. doi: 10.1002/ajpa.21614. Epub 2011 Oct 24.
      Mitochondrial haplogroup C4c: a rare lineage entering America through the ice-free corridor?
      Hooshiar Kashani B1, Perego UA, Olivieri A, Angerhofer N, Gandini F, Carossa V, Lancioni H, Semino O, Woodward SR, Achilli A, Torroni A.
      Abstract
      Recent analyses of mitochondrial genomes from Native Americans have brought the overall number of recognized maternal founding lineages from just four to a current count of 15. However, because of their relative low frequency, almost nothing is known for some of these lineages. This leaves a considerable void in understanding the events that led to the colonization of the Americas following the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM). In this study, we identified and completely sequenced 14 mitochondrial DNAs belonging to one extremely rare Native American lineage known as haplogroup C4c. Its age and geographical distribution raise the possibility that C4c marked the Paleo-Indian group(s) that entered North America from Beringia through the ice-free corridor between the Laurentide and Cordilleran ice sheets. The similarities in ages and geographical distributions for C4c and the previously analyzed X2a lineage provide support to the scenario of a dual origin for Paleo-Indians. Taking into account that C4c is deeply rooted in the Asian portion of the mtDNA phylogeny and is indubitably of Asian origin, the finding that C4c and X2a are characterized by parallel genetic histories definitively dismisses the controversial hypothesis of an Atlantic glacial entry route into North America.

    • Fun article!
      We are at Tahoe too and about to head to emerald bay then off to Yosemite via Tioga pass. I’m too curious if there will be any snow in the pass.
      We hiked to the top of Mt Tallac yesterday.

  33. Donald Duck included the Painted Desert on his vacation through the Southwest, back in the day (late ’50s, when Carl Barks famously drew him). Of course, all of the canyon and mesa lands in New Mexico and Arizona are surreally beautiful.

  34. really a GREAT article, Mr. Eschembach! As usual, of course… More or less the same trip I’ve done back in ’99 when I was in the US…. Lot of memories….

  35. Fun article. Have a safe and wonderful journey.
    Your photo of Lake Tahoe contained my favorite road sign; the two curvy lines coming off the back tires of an automobile. I lived in Florida years ago and had to take the Florida State Drivers exam to get a license. The test contained a multiple choice road sign identification section. When I came to this particular sign, I checked off ‘slippery when wet’, but further down was the opportunity to pick choice d) drunk driver ahead.
    Well, I just started laughing, right there in the DMV; I couldn’t stop myself. I wondered if anyone ever checked ‘drunk driver ahead’. I thought about picking it myself just because it was so funny!
    “Yep…we thought about pull’in old Joe over and maybe tak’in his car keys and arrest’n him or something, but it just seemed a lot easier to put up this sign and warn folks. Heck, he only drives that one quarter mile stretch, back and forth, drink’in and driven all day long. The sign works good, I think!”
    I kept giggling through the rest of the exam. I am sure that everyone else in there thought I was crazy. To this day, whenever I see that sign I think to myself “Uh-oh! There’s a drunk driver up ahead.” and smile.

  36. Travel suggestions:
    If you have never been to Zion National Park in Southwest Utah, I would strongly suggest it. The nice thing about Zion (besides the grandeur and breathtaking beauty) is the ability to tailor your visit to your physical ability that day. If your feeling strong, you can take the exhilarating hike to Angel’s Landing. If your tired, just ride the buses from one stop to the next and take comfortable strolls along the Virgin River at different locations.
    If you head south of Flagstaff, you will pass through the Sedona region, which is famous for its red rock formations. Its a great place to visit, but can be a bit crowded and more than a little touristy. If you would like a little more peace and quite, I would recommend a walk along the West Fork of Oak Creek, North of Sedona. The canyon is a more intimate version of Zion. The hike is easy and largely shaded, but you do have to cross the creek many times, with a risk of getting your feet wet. If you go during the week, you will have times when it seems that you have the canyon to yourself.
    If you are feeling more adventurous and like the idea of jumping off rocks into deep, clear, cool tavertine water, you could take a hike to the Crack at Wet Beaver Creek. (Yes, that is really the name of it.) The trail head is just a few miles off of I-17, southeast of Sedona. It is almost 3 miles in, and strangely, the same distance out, which makes it a little more off the beaten path. The hike is fairly easy, but gets a little steeper in the last mile. You will need sunscreen and water shoes. Some hike in and out in their bathing suits, but I prefer a change of cloths. Again, not recommended on the weekends.
    Of course, you can check out all of these places on the internet, but the photos and videos won’t do any of them justice.
    Happy trails!

    • Just read the link to “gorgeous ex-fiancee”. Great story. Mine sure is different at the start. After saying for months, my girl tossed me under the bus ( by long-distance phone call! ), left me broken-hearted for months more, then wrote a letter asking if we could try again. We started over, and a couple months later, in a quiet moment, I said, “I’d do anything for you!” She replied, “then marry me, you fool!” 5 kids and 6 grandkids later…our 40th is next month. I still tell her she is my 20-year-old bride.

      • ( correcting spell check error )
        Just read the link to “gorgeous ex-fiancee”. Great story. Mine sure is different at the start. After dating for months, my girl tossed me under the bus ( by long-distance phone call! ), left me broken-hearted for months more, then wrote a letter asking if we could try again. We started over, and a couple months later, in a quiet moment, I said, “I’d do anything for you!” She replied, “then marry me, you fool!” 5 kids and 6 grandkids later…our 40th is next month. I still tell her she is my 20-year-old bride.

  37. Dear Willis
    As always your posts a very erudite. I’m not jealous in the least:-)
    Take care and have a great time
    S

  38. Willis, You probably bypassed this suggested route by now, but next time check out: take Rte 89 SE of Tahoe, by a gentle pass get to Hope Valley (I learned to fish trout streams there as a very young lad), continue through Markleeville on the East Carson River to Monitor Pass that wondrously descends towards NV, whence to Bode old gold ton relic, thence to Mono Lake and its wonders of chemical sculpture and volcanic leavings, and finally on your merry ol’ way down south and east. Wonder well, Pilgrim. This country was my playground.

  39. Hi Willis: A heatwave is supposed to start here (California) tomorrow. This will no doubt trigger the usual hyperbolic claims of catastrophic global warming, so you will have plenty of work to do when you get back.
    Cheers,
    W.

  40. Those old stamp mills were very efficient machinery, and even those five-stamp models could make money at small operations. Up in Alaska, the four adjacent Treadwell mines had 960 stamps dropping 24/7, the biggest gold mine in the world (a big low-grade proposition) until Gastineau Channel got in and filled them up in 1917. If the stamps went quiet, everyone woke up and wondered what’s going wrong.

  41. Willis,
    Someone else above commented on the need to get down into the canyon to really appreciate it. One of our favorite memories is a helicopter trip we took into the Grand Canyon including landing in a side canyon. Spectacular view. Not cheap but worth every penny.

  42. Anyone interested in Lake Tahoe or the forests around it should read Mark Twain’s account of Tahoe in Roughing It, especially the forest fire.

  43. My vote for places to visit in AZ include Meteor Crater near Winslow, Homolovi State Park, and the Painted Desert. In Utah, Arches is worth a visit, especially if you are an Indiana Jones fan.

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