Unexpected Erratics

The thing about Seattle is, it’s possible to live in a place for four years and never notice the maclargehuge glacial erratic practically in your backyard. This whole time my intrepid companion and I have trekked hither and yon in search of enormous boulders, there was one sitting right on the drumlin behind my house. And I never knew.

I didn’t expect to find anything new when I set out on Thursday. I’ve done that walk up the drumlin many times. And I didn’t really mean to go out anyway – it’s been overcast and rainy and a bit cold. So I figured my extra day off would be spent doing actual blogging work. But the rain had been that delicate misty sort that doesn’t soak. It comes down in light curtains, and leaves everything fresh and glittering with droplets, and the way this place smells after a rain like that is delicious. I can’t really describe it. It smells like rain, of course, and has got earth notes, and floral tones, and a lot of fresh green leafy overtones, and a very faint undertone of anise, which I normally don’t like but adds just the right little kick to this scent. If you could bottle the scent of a Seattle forest, you could sell it as a high-class perfume and make millions. I’d wear it every day.

So I headed off up the drumlin, intending to do the usual path along the transmission towers. I figured something interesting may have washed out along that road with the winter rains – this, after all, is where I found my garnet mica schist. I’ve never taken the side paths. They look like they would peter out quickly and people have used some parts of the drumlin as a dumping ground. But I decided to take one this time, just cuz, and within moments I’d found a respectable-sized erratic.

Unexpected Erratic the Firste

It’s very smooth and polished, a lovely shape, with those interesting dark streaks where the water seems to cling better than in other spots. I shall have to go visit it when it’s dry to see what it looks like, and perhaps figure out what it is. It’s got a fracture running down it, but appreciable bits haven’t fallen off, so I didn’t have anything to drag home. Still. Nice erratic! Shame about the trash, but at least there were angles I could shoot from where the trash didn’t show.

I continued on, happy I’d found some new geology. I took another side trail, and found a kind of grove on the hillside where the scents of the forest were blissfully concentrated, and I almost got a picture of a rufous-sided towhee (or spotted towhee, if you insist), but it hopped away into the undergrowth before I could bring the camera to bear. Still. I know they hang out there, now, and I shall someday lie in wait.

Onward, ho. The winter rains hadn’t done much in the way of washing out fascinating rocks. But the light spring rain had done gorgeous things to the plants, clinging in silver drops to leaves and petals and seed heads.

Buds and raindrops

By the time I hit the top of the hill, my jeans were soaked and I was immensely happy.

I’d meant to turn round and come right back. But I figured I’d walk on and discover what that little glade looked like now that everything had leafed out. So I headed down the road, looking this way and that, amused by how much different things looked now that it was all covered with green.

And I caught sight of some gray amongst the green.

You have to understand, I’ve looked at that part of the hill every single time I’ve gone by. It’s got “No Dumping” signs standing there behind a concrete barrier, and I’ve always looked at the heavy foliage and wondered how anyone managed to dump anything off the hill with that in the way. And all I’ve ever seen is trees, bushes, and trees. Also, trees. And bushes. But this time, a little gray amongst the green, and my breath caught, because it looked like a mini-mountain pushing its way up, and I thought I knew.

A slightly different angle, and there, there.

Unexpected Erratic the Seconde

Doctor Who fans will no doubt recall Martha’s first experience inside the TARDIS: “But it’s huge!” That was my exact reaction here. I dodged round the concrete barrier and crashed past the blackberry brambles, and the thing just got bigger with every step. It’s bloody enormous is what it is. It’s a kind of bluish-greeny gray, and it’s got some portions where it’s been smoothed and striated by contact with moving ice, and crags and fractures, and chunks of it have fallen to the ground after some particularly vigorous frost weathering, and it’s huge.

This erratic is really, really huge. Did I mention, huge?

I was at a loss. I could take a picture, and the trees in it give some sense of just how bloody enormous it is, but they’re not good scale. I hadn’t got anything for scale except myself. And I hadn’t brought my intrepid companion along, so there was no one to take a photo. There seemed nowhere to prop the camera for a little self-portrait-with-erratic wizardry. But I eventually located a rock, seemingly a piece of the same stuff the erratic’s made of. Granted, it was way down low and the angle was funky, but it did in a pinch.

Maclargehuge erratic, moi for scale

Keeping in mind I am 5’6″, you can get a sense of just how big this boulder is.

So there it is: rafted from who-knows-where on an ice sheet 3,000 feet thick, left on a drumlin in Bothell, and very nearly hidden by lush vegetation. I’m not yet sure what it is, aside from an erratic. I picked up some bits that had fallen off, and took the hammer to them when I got home. It’s meta-something-or-other, I’m fairly certain. It’s finely crystalline, with sparkly bits of what seem to be mica, and there’s something even more sparkly that looks suspiciously like tiny bits of pyrite. I’ll take photos through the hand lens when we get some sun round here, and you can have a go at identifying it.

Amazing, isn’t it, how you can walk past something that big so many times and never know it’s there? That’s Seattle, though. You can never quite know all the delights she’s got hidden. That’s why she repays repeat visits, no matter how well you think you know the path.

As for the glade, well, you’d never even know it’s there now:

The glade, rather hidden now

Makes me wonder what else ye olde drumlin’s got hidden away behind her veil of trees….


(If you want to go visit it yourself, let me know, and I’ll give you directions. I’m not going to post them online – some idiot’s already been at it with the paint, and the last thing I want is to have vandals stumble across its location here and decide to go have a bit more fun with it.)

Unexpected Erratics
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7 thoughts on “Unexpected Erratics

  1. vel

    and here i thought you would be talking about perhaps some idiot street preacher, fitting the unexpected erratic term :)

    there’s a few erratics in western PA and some interesting periglacial features where sandstone has been exposed. as always love the geology posts!

  2. 3

    Lovely! I hope someone with some botanical knowledge will tell us what that is in the second picture.

    It’s interesting how different the two boulders appear. The first one is smooth and almost green, the second much rougher and grayer. (Except for the moss, of course.) Granite?

    We used to get a lot of towhees at our bird feeders, before the accursed raccoons made it impossible to have them. They were never on the actual feeders, always on the ground getting stuff the other birds had dropped.

  3. wrp

    Seattle’s great that way. There’s a good-sized (~6m high) greenstone erratic sitting in somebody’s yard about a mile from my house. I believe it was scraped off a hillside somewhere up around Deception Pass. It makes a nice waypoint on a morning walk.

  4. 6

    So, I’ve been replaced with a rock and a shutter timer, have I? It didn’t quite frame the eratic right, but at least that rock doesn’t demand a coffee break now and then, does it? ;)

    Love that first eratic, BTW. It almost looks like someone painted it in camoflage, then buffed it.

  5. 7

    What a joy, to take a walk and find geology you never knew you had! Can’t tell so much from the pick of the second erratic, but the first one looks to have boudinage in it. Very, very cool!

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