Sunday, March 3, 2013

Eagle Mts., Texas 1978...Intro

So many stories to tell about that summer. 

Late, late on a Saturday night.  Can't sleep.  Posted this photo of East Mill, Eagle Mts., Texas on Facebook and began to reminisce.  Even in normal daylight hours, my kids (daughter 26, married with two little boys and is too busy and my 18 year-old son, trying to get out of high school and into some sort of job) are not yet interested in my Field Geology "war stories".  Other Geologists and Southwestern outdoor-enthusiasts identify with the "desert solitude" and experiences of Trans-Pecos mountain ranges and the surrounding flats (or bolsons).  The swapping of such stories is best done over one or more beers, but time, distance, and money prevent such reunions (in their proper context, they would have to be in El Paso).  So while I wind down this temporary Saturday night insomnia, I will write a little.  For my little bit of cyber-posterity and in the hopes that someone will find these tales interesting.  [I did write a bit about the Eagle Mts. and this photo in a prior blogpost a couple of years ago.]

I spent 10 weeks during the Summer of 1978 in the Eagle Mts., of Hudspeth County, Texas.  The purpose was to work on a Master's Thesis project, along with 3 other UTEP grad students, Dan, Mike, and Bob.  We were each supposed to do a quandrant of the mountains.  Dan and I worked on the southern "half" of the mountains in my 1976 Jeep 4x4 pickup (with a camper shell), while Bob and Mike worked on the northern "half" - I think they may have used university vehicles. 

Mike (NE quad) and I (SE quad) each got burned out later (personal stuff) and didn't finish our projects, but each of us helped our field partners get theirs finished.  A doctoral student later did his dissertation on the eastern "half" of the mountains, that we didn't finish.  Mike and I each finished our Master's Theses on separate subjects - in other areas - a few years later.

Basically, the Eagle Mountains are largely composed of caldera-deposits superimposed over "Chihuahua Tectonic Belt" thrust sheets, similar in some ways to the Quitman Mountains to the northwest and other calderas related to the "ignimbrite flareup" of the Tertiary period in Trans-Pecos Texas, New Mexico, and elsewhere in the southwestern United States.  Without searching through files for maps, essentially this view is ENE, towards the vicinity of Van Horn, Texas.  The hills in the near-background are Cretaceous carbonates and clastics (Wyche Ridge) that formed part of the rim of the caldera.  In the far-background are various mountain ranges including rocks from Proterozoic metamorphics to Oligocene volcanics.

Just a few of the headings/subjects/memories to be covered in this series include (as the spirit moves me):

Welcome to the Eagle Mountains
Adventures at East Mill
Adventures at South Mill (or whatever it was called)
4x4 Adventures in Driving
Weather Events
Critters Great and Small
A Few Beer Cans
Back to Town for Supplies

A return visit to the Eagle Mountains is on my Personal Geo-Bucket List under "wanted, but unlikely", as I would first need a good 4x4 and permission from land-owners.  And time and money. 

So, please come back and check on the progress.


  1. Great Post "Joe"........This is actually Mike...from in the story and as Joe points out we had a great field season in the Eagle Mts. Actually rather than being burned out I left for a job with Noranda Exploration in Reno Nevade doing precious metals exploration. I had finished all my courswork and had a summer in the field mapping the NE Eagles for my thesis when I left. I figured I could finish writing my thesis while working.

    A word of advice for any students reading this.......don't do is much harder than you think. Finish and then go to work. Anyway, after about two years of working in various calderas throughout the western US the District Geologist came in and told me to go back and finish....he guaranteed my position and sent me back. I showed up at school only to find out that my area had been given to a PHD student to do...but I was able to compromise my thesis subject and I actually went back to the Eagles Mts. and switched my focus from the volcanic stratigraphy to focusing on the intrusive ring dike system and the central syenite intrusion.

    Of course after having a couple of years of mapping in various volcanic centers in Nevada, California and Oregon, which included the original mapping , sampling and drilling on Noranda's Hog Ranch Claim Block which later became an operating gold mine I was much more seasoned and was able to do my field work in just a few months. I finished my "revised" thesis in about four more months and instead of going back to Noranda I took a job with Tenneco Minerals working and worked on projects in South Texas, Nevada and the western US. I have had many other jobs with many others companies spanning many years as an oil and gas exploration geologist, and as a hydrogeologist at NASA and the Department of Defense. I have spent the last 15 years with an Oil and Gas Company and am currently the companies Corporate Remediation Manager working on projects throughest the US.

    Like Joe....I would love to re-visit the Eagles again and walk the outcrops and skinny dip in the same tanks in the cold, cold water of Eagle Spring. Not to mention downing a few beers around the campsite with Joe, Dan and Bob again.

  2. Mike, sorry I had missed your comment. As I got burned out and drifted away from the Geology Department, I lost touch with some people. Sorry that I got your story wrong.

    I regret that I never visited Eagle Springs. I would love to go there and just daydream about how it was when the springs were an important "stopping off point" for travelers, soldiers, and outlaws.