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Review of "The Geology of the John Muir Trail" by James Wise

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  • bradonjmt
    Review of Mount Whitney to Yosemite: The Geology of the John Muir Trail by James M. Wise (2008) Review by Brad Marston Near the end of the trail, climbing up
    Message 1 of 5 , Feb 7, 2014
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      Review of Mount Whitney to Yosemite:

      The Geology of the John Muir Trail by James M. Wise (2008)


      Review by Brad Marston


      Near the end of the trail, climbing up Mt. Whitney in the dark to catch the sunrise last August, I caught up to Roleigh Martin and we chatted for a bit while catching our breath.  Roleigh suggested that I read and write a review of Mount Whitney to Yosemite:  The Geology of the John Muir Trail by James M. Wise.  With some trepidation I ordered a copy from Amazon ($18) after returning home — wary because the book is self-published, and I was unsure what to expect.  I’m pleased to report that James Wise has collected and presented a detailed and interesting account of the amazing geology along the John Muir Trail.  


      This is a book for those seriously interested in rocks.  There are 44 geological maps with continuous coverage of the trail, and 135+ additional diagrams and photographs near and far spread over the 336 pages.   It begins with a mini-course in geology, starting with basic rock types.  This is where one can learn about the different varieties of granitic rock (rocks that we imprecisely all call “granite”).  Figure 10 is a diagram that distinguishes true granite from quartz monzonite, gabbro, granodiorite, and the other variants. Next comes the big picture (the rock cycle, plate tectonics, and geological time), followed by processes and mechanisms (faults, intrusions, uplift, erosion, batholiths) and finally a glacial history of the Sierra Nevada.  Pointers on the interpretation of geologic maps, and an overview of Sierra Nevada geology, conclude the first chapter.  


      At the heart of the book are the remaining 10 chapters that cover the trail starting in the south at Mt. Whitney and proceeding north to the floor of Yosemite Valley.  This was surely a labor of love for the author.  Readers can read about their own favorite parts; one of mine is the two Red Cones south of Devil’s Postpile.  I spent some time exploring the area last summer, camping on the shoulder of one, climbing both, and finding lava tubes and a vent on the north cone.  Figure 93B is a photograph of a tree mold found on the north cone.  Separate boxes summarize the basalt of the cones, and the history of late cenozoic volcanism.  


      Another spot that I enjoyed (as have others) for its intriguing rock exposures is located just north of the solid bridge across Piute Creek, at the boundary between the John Muir Wilderness and Kings Canyon National Park.  Here “are good exposures of the granodiorite (KJgd) intruded by mafic dikes.  The granodiorite body is a large elongate intrusion in to the meta-volcanic rocks of the Goddard pendant (Fig. 76).  The granodiorite in places has small anastomosing (braided pattern) brittle faults that deformed the rock.  At Piute Creek the granodiorite is foliated, and contains several small magic inclusions” (page 188).  Reading The Geology of the John Muir Trail made me realize that I missed much along the way, so I plan to carry a copy next time.  


      An extensive list of references to published scientific literature (approximately 220) will be an invaluable aid to those who want to go deeper and explore topics such as the complex geology of the Goddard pendant.  The author does not shy away from poorly understood aspects of Sierra Nevada geology, and surveys some competing ideas.  The author also offers some trip planning suggestions, advice, and a list of trail access points. 


      The book has some flaws.  There are a number of typographical errors such as references in the text that point to the wrong figures.   The author offers some harsh criticisms of past literature that are jarring to read and disrupt the flow of the book.  The writing would have benefited from the services of a professional editor.  As interest in the trail grows, one may hope that a revised version of the book will make its way to commercial publication.  The book weighs about 18 oz so a decision to bring it along on the trail cannot be taken lightly, and it would be ideal if an electronic version were made available.  


      James Wise earned his Ph.D. in geology at the University of Nevada in Reno.  As I’m a physicist and only a (very) amateur geologist, I did a little checking of the book with some professional geologists, and can report no glaring errors.  The parts of the book that I know something about appear to be accurate.  


      I’d like to thank Roleigh for bringing the book to my attention, and Lizzy Wenk for helpful correspondence.  


    • brucelem12
      Sounds like a great resource! Thanks for sharing your review Brad.
      Message 2 of 5 , Feb 7, 2014
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        Sounds like a great resource! Thanks for sharing your review Brad.
      • debrabrownbear
        Thanks for the review, and for alerting us to the book. I worked as a geologist for ten years, a couple of decades ago, when I was a young woman. I will
        Message 3 of 5 , Feb 7, 2014
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          Thanks for the review, and for alerting us to the book. I worked as a geologist for ten years, a couple of decades ago, when I was a young woman. I will definitely get this book! Debra
        • kent.mclemore
          A very fine review. Thanks!
          Message 4 of 5 , Feb 7, 2014
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            A very fine review. Thanks!




          • bradonjmt
            A few minor clarifications have been made to the review. -- Brad Review of Mount Whitney to Yosemite: The Geology of the John Muir Trail by James M. Wise
            Message 5 of 5 , Feb 12, 2014
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              A few minor clarifications have been made to the review.  -- Brad


              Review of Mount Whitney to Yosemite:

              The Geology of the John Muir Trail by James M. Wise (2008)


              Review by Brad Marston


              Near the end of the trail, climbing up Mt. Whitney in the dark to catch the sunrise last August, I caught up to Roleigh Martin and we chatted for a bit while catching our breath.  Roleigh suggested that I read and write a review of Mount Whitney to Yosemite:  The Geology of the John Muir Trail by James M. Wise.  With some trepidation I ordered a copy from Amazon ($18) after returning home — wary because the book is self-published, and I was unsure what to expect.  I’m pleased to report that James Wise has collected and presented a detailed and interesting account of the amazing geology along the John Muir Trail.  


              This is a book for those seriously interested in rocks.  There are 44 black & white geological maps with continuous coverage of the trail, and 135+ additional black & white diagrams and photographs near and far spread over the 336 pages.   It begins with a mini-course in geology, starting with basic rock types.  This is where one can learn about the different varieties of granitic rock (rocks that we imprecisely all call “granite”).  Figure 10 is a diagram that distinguishes true granite from quartz monzonite, gabbro, granodiorite, and the other variants. Next comes the big picture (the rock cycle, plate tectonics, and geological time), followed by processes and mechanisms (faults, intrusions, uplift, erosion, batholiths) and finally a glacial history of the Sierra Nevada.  Pointers on the interpretation of geologic maps, and an overview of Sierra Nevada geology, conclude the first chapter.  


              At the heart of the book are the remaining 10 chapters that cover the trail starting in the south at Mt. Whitney and proceeding north to the floor of Yosemite Valley.  This was surely a labor of love for the author.  Readers can learn about their own favorite parts; one of mine is the two Red Cones south of Devil’s Postpile.  I spent some time exploring the area last summer, camping on the shoulder of one, climbing both, and finding lava tubes and a vent on the north cone.  Figure 93B is a photograph of a tree mold found on the north cone.  Separate boxes summarize the basalt of the cones, and the history of late cenozoic volcanism.  


              Another spot that I enjoyed (as have others) for its intriguing rock exposures is located just north of the solid bridge across Piute Creek, at the boundary between the John Muir Wilderness and Kings Canyon National Park.  Here “are good exposures of the granodiorite (KJgd) intruded by mafic dikes.  The granodiorite body is a large elongate intrusion in to the meta-volcanic rocks of the Goddard pendant (Fig. 76).  The granodiorite in places has small anastomosing (braided pattern) brittle faults that deformed the rock.  At Piute Creek the granodiorite is foliated, and contains several small magic inclusions” (page 188).  Reading The Geology of the John Muir Trail made me realize that I missed much along the way, so I plan to carry a copy next time.  


              An extensive list of references to published scientific literature (approximately 220) will be an invaluable aid to those who want to go deeper and explore topics such as the complex geology of the Goddard pendant.  The author does not shy away from poorly understood aspects of Sierra Nevada geology, and surveys some competing ideas.  He also offers some trip planning suggestions, advice, and a list of trail access points. 


              The book has some flaws.  There are a number of typographical errors such as references in the text that point to the wrong figures.   The author offers some harsh criticisms of past literature that are jarring to read and disrupt the flow of the book.  The writing would have benefited from the services of a professional editor.  As interest in the trail grows, one may hope that a revised version of the book will make its way to commercial publication.  The book weighs nearly 20 oz so a decision to bring it along on the trail cannot be taken lightly, and it would be ideal if an electronic version were made available.  


              James Wise earned his Ph.D. in geology at the University of Nevada in Reno.  As I’m a physicist and only a (very) amateur geologist, I did a little checking of the book with some professional geologists, and can report no glaring errors.  The parts of the book that I know something about appear to be accurate.  


              I’d like to thank Roleigh for bringing the book to my attention, and Lizzy Wenk for helpful correspondence.  


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