Thursday, September 4, 2014

Clear Creek Redux & Recon

Today I had the pleasure and privilege of joining some of my friends from the Santa Lucia Rockhounds (Mike Judy, Denise Halapoff, Lisa King, & Wayne Mills) on a non-club reconnoitering day trip to the Clear Creek Management Area (C.C.M.A.) in Monterey County between King City and Coalinga. Our purpose was to rockhound, of course, but also to check the conditions there since the last time our club visited the locale (in 2008) before it was shut down by the Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.) (and recently reopened but with conditions).

In recent decades the E.P.A. made an unnecessary and artificially big "to-do" about an imaginary asbestos health risk from chrysotile within a serpentine belt within the C.C.M.A. This scheme was perpetrated to generate continued employment and more man hours for themselves and justify their continued existence as a federal agency. This was accomplished due in no small measure to the general public's ignorance that the C.C.M.A. even exists at all let alone that it was even being shut down. Add to that the widespread ignorance on the part of the general public that chrysotile is a short fiber asbestos mineral which is not the correct type of asbestos material for being a significant cause of human health problems but rather long fiber asbestos minerals such as tremolite.

However, I digress, and you are probably thinking to yourself as you read that bird walk: "Kim, please tell us how you really feel". Okay, enough of my rant. Below are images I captured of my adventure and they are featured in the order in which they were taken.

Note: the flash flood after-effects seen in many of the images below resulted from a monsoonal thunderstorm which buffeted the area last month.

View looking back down the road from whence we came at the first stop we made here today, in this case at a Clear Creek road-crossing which had relatively recently been scoured and painted over by an especially muddy flash flood.
View up Clear Creek bed from the same road-crossing.
View down Clear Creek bed from the same road-crossing.
These leaves appear greasy but are actually rather vinyl-feeling to the touch.
Note the mud-spatterings upon this boulder.
Note the high-water mark on the boulder at left.
Typical assemblage of stones in this part of Clear Creek.
Clear Creek post-flash flood
There were still small areas of wet mud as evidenced by darker-shaded zones in the new mud deposits here.
I found myself heavily distracted by all the various ways in which the recent flash flood had effected the creek bed.
Note the high water mark, er, high mud mark and the thriving flowers resulting from the waters of the flash flood.
Druzy quartz crystal-lined fracture.
Note the animal tracks on the erosional exposure... and the flowers in the foreground.
The recent flash flood has triggered a bit of an unexpected growth spurt for some flora like these flowers.
C.C.M.A. has some of the greatest biodiversity in California.
Dead flower stalk at left and live flower stalk at right.
Some zones can't grow anything due to the chemistry of the soil but chaparral still thrives in adjacent zones.
This looks more like chrysotile to me than serpentine.
Notice all three signs of monsoonal erosion: newly muddy creek, rivulets on hillside at left and landslip on hillside at right.
The varying shades of the soil and rocks within the C.C.M.A. are a tell-tale sign of the interesting geological setting in which these rocks and later soils formed.
Serpentine... and other things.
The interplay between the soils and the chaparral and even riparian flora species here is fascinating.
One could not long escape evidence of the recent flash flood here.
The green color on these stones appeared to only be on their glossy surface: chromium or uvarovite garnet?
Given that some zones won't grow vegetation, that generates heavy erosion in some places and erosion is the rockhounds' friends.
Note rivulets descending towards mud-painted flash flood zone.
Unfortunately, the recent mud painting from a monsoonal flash flood covered over many of the stones we wanted to view.
This landscape lends itself to interesting photographs.
Some of my finds at this first stop.
The recent flash flood left behind all sorts of interesting calling cards.
Mud cracks
View of Denise with our ride parked at the first spot we visited.
View from our second stop today. These hillsides used to be awash with dirt bikes and jeeps.
The first outcropping I explored this day.
View from atop the rock outcropping visible in the previous image.
Our second parking spot visible at left with the plasma agate-bearing rock outcropping our club visited in 2008 at top.
Our club explored this rock outcropping in 2008 but we were too hot and tired to fight the brush this time.
Low grade plasma agate-bearing rocks.
Wayne Mills proudly exults over his large plasma agate cobble.
I found these two druzy quartz specimens on the aforementioned first rock outcropping of the day.
This zone of land won't grow much more than this although the past presence of dirt bikes and jeeps did not help matters.
Notice the line of digger pines (gray pines)? Could this indicate a fault zone?
A veritable rockhounds' feast of the eyes.
The backside (south side) of the aforementioned first rock outcropping of the day.
Note the abrupt discontinuance of the flash flood in the creek bed on the right side.
One of two pieces of uvarovite on magnetite I found on this day.
Nifty bladed piece of serpentine.
The most eye-catching flora within the C.C.M.A. are the digger pines (gray pines).
Clear Creek road around the corner from our third stop of the day.
This flash flood swale reminds me of a luge track.
I found the previously-viewed uvarovite on magnetite here.
Flash flood mud cracking patterns.
More mud cracks as well as a cool tree twin.
Much of the rest of the gang exploring at our third stop of the day.
This fourth stop locality featured some weird rocks.
Venerable manzanita now more dull-skinned than red glossy-skinned.
There is much more here that I would love to explore.
Note the rivulets.
I can only think of one explanation for this odd-ball rock formation.
Another view of the aforementioned unusual rock formation.
The fourth and final spot we stopped at today to rockhound: this wonderful plasma agate-infested rock outcropping.
The gang (from left: Wayne, Denise, and Mike) sans Lisa who stayed in the truck much of the day due to her health issues.
Botryoidal seem agate
A slickenslided rock surface.
Plasma agate motherlode.
More botryoidal seem agate
This area of the outcropping has been heavily plied for plasma agate.
Clearly this is a fault contact zone with lots of past active mineralization.
Neat-o rock formation atop the outcropping
Our club did not hit this outcropping the last time we were here but that must not happen next time.
All photos by Kim Patrick Noyes (all rights reserved).


  1. Wow! Thanks for the look inside. CCMA is so interesting and a wonder to me. It is my dream to rockhound there. Great pictures! Please if you have more bring um on! Thank you Kim.

  2. Awesome pics as usual Kim! Thanks for the great narration as well!

  3. Looks like a fun trip, when is the club going!!

  4. Many thanks for the nice photo tour. You have a good eye for what's really interesting in a place.