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Jay Lake
Date: 2009-10-05 05:34
Subject: [travel] My mom, on rocks
Security: Public
Tags:family, guest, personal, travel
tillyjane, a/k/a my mom, recently spent three weeks traveling around the West, much of at the Grand Canyon doing trail maintenance and habitat restoration as a volunteer. When she returned to Portland, she began writing up her days as a sort of irregular journal. The emails were so delightful that with her permission, I'm going to post them here as guest blogs — mediations on people, travel, nature and the American West.

This is her second installment, from an email dated September 22nd, shortly after her return.

Rocks of Ages

One reason for my love of the southwest is that the rocks are right out there for me to look at, touch, smell, listen to. Arizona and Utah are particularly spectacular...though Nevada aint bad.

Early afternoon one day I found a little red rock canyon in a state park in Utah. It was small, jewel like, perfect. There was a trail up to the rim, but it was about 95 degrees out, and I passed. Sigh.

Grand Canyon's kaibab formation...the limestone capstone. It has fossils...we found one looking for seeds. It protects lots of softer sandstone below it and keeps the canyon from eroding even faster. And the redwall formation...couple layers down, and mostly sheer vertical walls. Lovely indeed. And the basement rock in the inner canyon. The Vishnu schist. I have not seen it up close, but hope to some day. Long to some day. Intend to some day. We got no basement rock in Oregon, we are much too new.

Then there's Bryce canyon. Where I went down among the hoodoos. Hoodoos? Yep. First day there I walked for a few miles along the rim and looked down at the strange standing pillars and spires and chess pieces all made of beautiful pink rock. Some with white caps on. The second day I marched right down into that canyon...in one amphitheater to a depth of about 600 ft...in another to 900 ft. I strolled between rock walls where I could barely see the sky. Out in the open at the bottom where the trees and shrubs eke out a living from the small runoff. In creek beds where the rocks have rocked and rolled. My heart sang of the ages. Bryce is quite young, but it still speaks of the ages.

Coming off the basin and range province and up Wheeler Peak in Great Basin National Park. I topped out at about 10K ft, and could look back to the east over the ranges and into the next basins. It felt like looking all the way across Utah to Colorado. Rocky ranges, flat valley floors.

And Crack in the Ground. In the center of Oregon the ground has cracked open for a couple miles. Fifty or sixty feet down in the Crack I knew I was close to home because I was entirely surrounded by black basalt. Oregon is pretty much made of black basalt as far as I can tell.

But the next morning, at the overlook above the dam on the Deschutes that impounds Lake Simtustus, I got close up and personal with a layer of what seemed to be white mudstone and cross bedded sandstone. Far below the caprock, and between layers of basalt. Ash? Mud? Seabottom sediment, blowing sand? Once more I wished I knew enough geology to tell myself a convincing story.

I always wish I knew enough geology. Reading the books is just not enough once I'm out standing next to a rock.

What I do know about rocks is that they whisper to me of time. Of change. Of renewal. Gotta love a rock.

tillyjane's first installment, "Tumbleweeds", is here: [ jlake.com | LiveJournal ]

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