A funny thing’s happened now I’ve joined an atheist blog network: I rarely blog about atheism. There are reasons for that. My fellow FtBers usually have said all I need to say, better than I could have said it. That’s one of the main reasons.
But I think the main one is this: religion bores me. Atheism doesn’t, but as I said, my fellow atheists have that beat covered. I’d rather spend time with my rocks and my homicidal felid, who is currently leaning against my arm giving me looks of utter devotion. She’s either cold, or her food bowl is empty. From the charm she’s unleashing, possibly both.
See? I wandered away again. There’s so much more interesting stuff in the world than religion. There’s le chaton, warm and snuggly and impossibly adorable, a combination rare enough it must be savored while its brief moments last (oh, look, it’s over. Sigh). There’s Doctor Who. There are friends, with adventures in the making. There’s a Kindle full of books, so many and so varied I often have trouble deciding what to read next. There are cherry blossoms, which I’ll photograph against the sky when it stops raining.
So no shit, there I was, flicking through the rest of my Mount Rainier photos for reasons unrelated to mystery flora, and I found more of the Lewis’ Monkeyflower identified by Hotshoe yesterday. So what if they’re no longer a mystery? They’re still nifty.
The outcrop there is no slouch, either. I’ll have more to say about it at some future date when I’ve, y’know, actually read the book on the roadside geology of Mt. Rainier, and can speak intelligently on the subject, and additionally have remembered where, precisely, we were. It was a long time ago on a geotrip far, far away. Luckily, the photos have GPS data, so once I load the program that maps them, I’ll be able to jog ye olde rusty memory.
Mt. Rainier, I can tell you, is a fascinating volcano, and not just because it’s a volcano, which makes it inherently fascinating. It’s got a little bit of nearly everything. There’s granite, 15 million years old if I remember rightly, which is exposed in spots. There’s andesite, of course. All sorts of pyroclastics. Lahar deposits. Hot springs. Glaciers and all sorts of landforms created and carved up by glaciers. The neatest little box canyon ever. Every five inches or so, it seems, there’s a new vista, a new point of interest, a new fascination. I plan to go back there this summer and really poke around. Then I’ll write it up for you, and you’ll book a flight to Seattle nearly instantaneously and come pounding on my door demanding to be taken up the mountain. It’s that kind of mountain.
Mt. Rainier’s kind of like the grand aged relative who fascinated you as a kid. The one who was really old but come sometimes seemed very young, and knew all sorts of stuff you’d never even suspected existed, and whom you knew a lot about without ever really knowing at all. That’s rather the feeling I get every time I’m up there. And it’s restful. It’s the most dangerous bloody volcano in America, and yet the peace and beauty up there can send you into paroxysms of poetry without warning. Maybe its danger is what makes its beauty so acute. Your senses are sharpened. You know how temporary this is. A moment in geological time that will never come again.
Only that’s not quite true. When this mountain tears itself down, it will build itself back up again. It will wear wildflowers and conifers once more. And when it’s gone, somewhere in the world there will be another young volcano that grows into a majestic old one. Those moments may be fleeting, but they come round again and again, and will do so until the Earth grows too cool to sustain plate tectonics.
Even then, somewhere in the vast Universe, there’s probably another world just enough like this one to have volcanoes clothed in locally-evolved flora. It may look wildly different, but the beauty of it will be much the same. Somewhere, when the clock’s stopped here, the geological moments will tick on there.
It’s been awhile since I’ve thrown you a mystery flower, hasn’t it? Today’s contestant likes to live dangerously. It’s growing in old lahar deposits on Mount Rainier.
You see something like this, without knowing what all the boulders encased in mud mean, and why there’s a bloody great glacier-covered lump rising out of the earth, and you’d think, “Wonderful! So serene and peaceful. Maybe I should build a house up here.” People, like this flower, once had no idea that majestic mountains like this sometimes explode. I seem to remember the people of Pompeii were mightily surprised when their cantankerous peak encased them in ash and pumice, but it’s not like it hadn’t given them some warning. They just didn’t speak Volcano yet.
Mt. Rainier, of course, is more likely to fall down than go boom. I think of that every time I go up there. Yes, it’s beautiful. Yes, I enjoy exploring its nooks and crannies immensely. But always, in the back of my mind, there’s this thought: today may be the day when its slowly rotting slopes give way. I won’t hold a grudge if they do. For one thing, I’ll be dead, so I won’t have any opinions whatsoever. For another, it’s not the worst way to go. I mean, up until getting buried under several thousand cubic feet of rotten volcano, I’ll have just been sniffing flowers and admiring volcanic vistas. It’s not like slipping and breaking my neck in the bathroom. I’d rather a lahar than a toilet as my last sight.
I hope I can be like that dude in the old Zen Buddhist story, the one who fell off a cliff and was clinging to a tiny root or some such, with a fatal fall below and a ravening tiger above, who still took a moment to appreciate a nice juicy strawberry growing within reach. As I’m standing on a ridge that turns out to not be high enough to escape disaster, I’d like to watch that thundering wall of water, rock and mud come barreling down on me with flowers much like these probably floating in it, and instead of thinking “OshitoshitI’mgonnadie!!!”, I’d like to think, “That’s some damn fine geology, that is.”
And no matter how destructive things are at the time, the lahar will settle. Trees will grow up on it, drop a carpet of needles, and more flowers will nestle amongst the rocks. I like that about volcanoes. They remind me that no matter how awful things look at the time, some pretty dramatic and lovely scenery is just around the corner. Also, flowers seem to like them. Who am I to question the flora?
For three days, the sun shone down, and while it wasn’t precisely warm (“butt-ass freezing cold” is a better descriptor, except for wonderful intervals where the wind died down and/or the geology offered some respite), the weather qualified as unseasonably awesome by Pacific Northwest standards. We got lucky. Usually, when you make travel plans this time o’ year, the weather rubs its metaphorical hands together in glee and contemplates ways to make you miserable.
But, for three days, it behaved itself beautifully. Then a winter storm front descended. For a while, it looked to be pissing down rain and snow. But we refused to yield. “You want to play that game,” we said, “we’ll find some nice geology indoors. Fuck you, weather!” So it grumbled and muttered and settled for butt-ass freezing cold combined with a fretful bit of rain. This kind of behavior doesn’t impresss PNWers. We went on with our plan for an easy day at Silver Falls State Park.
Word o’ the day is blueschist. I can’t even begin to describe how unutterably awesome it is to see blueschist in the wild. I like all rocks, even the endless basalt, but blueschist is the schist and it’s something truly special.
Bandon, Oregon has whole jetties made of this stuff. The ocean fades into insignificance as you scramble over those wildly-contorted, garnet-studded, swirly, dark-and-light gorgeous glittery rocks. The winter waves have plucked bits from the jetty and set them out where geologists don’t feel bad grabbing a sample or two – they’re no longer part of the jetty’s structural integrity. If we hadn’t had so many other things to do, I could’ve stayed there the entire day.
The view’s nice, when you need to stand up and stretch your back. Even on a cloudy morning, it’s quite lovely there. I’m sure people look at those stacks and think of nature’s splendor and seabirds roosting and suchlike things. I look at them and wonder if they’re made of blueschist, and if so, whether Oregon wouldn’t be kind enough to steal one back from the birds to give to geologists.
We at last ripped ourselves off the greatest rocks in southern Oregon and headed inland, through the Coast Range. Now, there’s this thing about having a small bladder and heading inland through the Coast Range: there aren’t restrooms. And we’d stopped for some time at various outcrops (which I’ll tell you about in detail later, and make you drool, though probably not as much as the blueschist does). And so by the time we were headed up to another outcrop Lockwood knew, I was doing The Dance. But there were no gas stations or rest areas, no places that looked likely to allow a weary traveler to spend two minutes being Europeein.
I saw we happened to be on a wine tour route.
And where there are tasting rooms, there are bottles of wine. And where there are bottles of wine, there are probably restrooms. Put this fact together with the fact that I like wine quite a lot and wouldn’t mind having a bottle of local vintage, and you have all the ingredients for the most fortuitous unplanned stop of the trip. Because, you see, Girardet is a winery busy turning old marine delta deposits into wine-growing ground. And so you get a beautiful juxtaposition of geology and wine, which photos will be awesome when I do my geology of wine post at long last, someday in the (hopefully) near future.
I’ll have lots to say about Girardet soon. It’s a wonderful place, with very awesome wine-growers who don’t mind letting a couple of geotourists tromp around looking at things and go gaga over the rocks.
Just up the road from them is a really nifty mountain that, astoundingly for the Pacific Northwest, is basically bare rock, with only a bit of biology clinging to it.
And that, I have to say, was utterly wonderful.
That was our last lovely day. Not that the next day wasn’t beautiful, but that gorgeous sunny weather got pushed out by a winter storm, and so drink in those blue skies while you can. I’m about to get you soaking wet.
As we’re going behind a waterfall, this isn’t necessarily a problem.
I’m sure if we give it a day or two, my mad writing skillz will return. However, after returning to work on top of the residual effects of “ZOMG exercise WTF??”, I’m still fuzzy. I’m reading a book on cadavers (Stiff by Mary Roach), which is appropriate because I rather feel like one. And I’m afraid that, as I looked at the first picture in today’s series, the most clever thing I could think of to say is,
“Watcha dune? Ha ha ha ha!”
I really need to ramp up for these trips by performing a little exercise.
Anyway. Sightseeing. Right.
I believe these are just north of Florence, but damned if I know for sure anymore. Hell, I got the southernmost coastal exposure of the CRB wrong yesterday – as Lockwood pointed out, it’s actually at Seal Rock. So, these are dunes. We actually saw these same dunes on a previous trip, but it was so overcast and hazy that they were kind of hard to see. This day was so nice you can even see the sand blowing off them.
The yellow flowering stuff is gorse. It looks pretty, but it is evil. Evil.
This stretch of Oregon coast is mostly dunes. Dunes dunes dunes dunes dunes. A huge long stretch of dunes, which you quite often can’t see from the road, because building major roads too close to active dunes is silly. But it’s lotsa dunes, and there are all sorts of little parks leading off to them, and at this one, we saw this lovely tree and a dune, and then when you get past the tree, on top of the dune, dere r moar dunes. It’s like what my grandparents thought Arizona would be: dunes. Only these aren’t barchan dunes, they are longitudinal dunes, also knows as seif dunes. I didn’t know they were also known as seif dunes until just now. You poor darlings, you’ll be bombarded with silly puns like “Seif al Dune,” because one of my favorite Epica songs is “Seif al Din” (YouTube). Anyway, we walked out on Seif al Dune, and it was a mind-warping experience that also included amazing examples of crossbedding, which I can’t wait to discuss with you but will have to because I need to read Michael Welland’sSand first.
And if you want to see the craziness sand gets up to after it’s been turned to stone and then weathered awhile, just head on down the coast to Cape Arego. Da-yam.
This is almost enough to make you forget how rugged basalt headlands look.
The sea’s claiming the headlands in the name of Poseidon. This is tough on the trees. This one was probably firmly and happily rooted once. Now it’s got its toes dangling over a void.
I think it’s safe to call this “rude weathering.” Depending on your mentality, it can look like an upraised finger, or something else upraised, or a rocket, or a broomstick.
And speaking of rude, what the seabirds have done to this forest is incredibly rude:
Lockwood tells me the forest up there was thriving before the birds moved in and shat all over it. Yes, those trees died of bird-poop poisoning. What a way to go.
Still, it looks artistic. And I like the seagull catching the sun as it flees the scene of a crime it didn’t commit – twas some other species whose name I can’t recall did the deed.
And this is how we ended the day, with sunset at Sunset Bay – well, nearly sunset: they chuck you out on your ear before the sun’s quite down. Wait until I show you the geology from that spot. Prepare for your mind to be boggled.
And dere are still two moar days. When Lockwood and I go out to see the geology of Oregon, we see as much of it as we can manage.
You’re always on my mind on these trips. I see wonderful and spectacular things and whip out my camera to capture them for you.
Then I come home, pick out a selection of photos showing off some of the highlights, intend to post them after maybe just a few minutes’ doze, and wake up nearly ten hours later. Something tells me that all that physical exertion after months of virtually no exercise may not have been conducive to consciousness. And I still have to clean out my inbox. And fix phones today. Argh.
At least I can provide you a nice set of photos to peruse.
Cherry trees are already blooming in Oregon. These were at a rest stop on I5. They put me in the proper frame of mind for traveling on: serene beauty.