Seattle celebrated the new year by allowing the sun to come out and play for a few hours. After a bit of a lie-in with the kitteh, lounging in the first sunbeams of 2013, I went chasing scenery. I’ve been longing for snow. Not precisely sure why – I hate the stuff, and especially hate driving in it, but it does make things rather pretty. Happily, I live in a state where I can view snow live from a safe distance at any time the clouds part. And then I can bring back beauty for you, while the kitteh continues to lounge in the sun. A win for all.
A thin layer of clouds was starting to creep in by the time I bestirred myself, but even though it threatened to swallow the Olympics, they were still out in force, a gorgeous first set of mountains for 2013.
Sooo I’d love to tell you which peaks we’re looking at, but I don’t know them well enough. Someday, maybe. Until someday, I’ll just have to keep chucking pretty mountains at you, and if you’re really bored or really good at recognizing things, you can try to figure out which they are.
Nice things going on in this picture, of course – you’ll note the Olympics themselves, a structural high pushed up by the subducting Juan de Fuca Plate. It’s been carved up by glaciers, so you can see two things at once: a very nice subduction complex, and active glaciers gnawing away at the accretionary edifice. We’re viewing them from another glacial structure, a nice set of ridges left by the Cordilleran ice sheet, which mucked about with the forearc basin occupied by both the Puget Lowland and Puget Sound. You can see the nice, rounded ridge in the foreground, which I’m relatively sure but am not positive is a drumlin. They’re part of what makes east-west driving so exciting round here.
In fact, the ridges rather complicated my next plan, which was to drive east until I got a nice view of the Cascades. I didn’t take the main roads, and didn’t bother with a map, which meant quite a lot of getting turned aside at the last possible moment and shunted back down the ridge just when it seemed I’d reach my goal of mountains. But I eventually found my way to Broadway Avenue, which does have some spectacular views across the Snohomish River valley toward the Cascades.
You will want to click to embiggen that one. It’s quite lovely.
So that’s our arc, the delightful Cascades – farther south, they’re quite volcanic, but north of Interstate 90, they’re more metamorphic. We’re gazing across another bit of forearc basin towards them. Lord Hill is somewhere out in the valley there – a big old knob of basalt that I’ll properly introduce you to someday. The views from the top of that – outstanding. But not so much when it’s barely 40 degrees F and you happen to be a humongous wimp when it comes to the cold. Which I am. And the clouds were starting to come in, so by the time I’d climbed it, what I would have been showing you was a sequence of photos of clouds, with captions like, “We’d have a magnificent view of the Cascades on a clear day. Imagine them here.”
You can see the valley mist rising. It made everything wintry and wonderful, although I’m sure it wasn’t quite so charming to those on the valley floor. I think that round knob with a patch of snow on might actually be Lord Hill, because I know it’s out that direction, but don’t hold me to that.
I love the structure on these, which you can see, dusted with snow. Layered, carved, and glorious.
You can see clouds starting to form, here, along with the valley mist, because it’s winter in Seattle and therefore contractually obligated not to be sunny for more than a few hours at a time.
Down there in the valley, the Skykomish and Snoqualmie Rivers come together to create the Snohomish. I should get me arse down there this summer – birds and hydrogeology, oh my. You lot would love it.
So somewhere in all these views, buried among the not-so-volcanic peaks, is Glacier Peak. It’s nearly as close as Mount Rainier, but buried among the other peaks, it’s practically invisible.
It’s also been so gnawed on by glaciers that it’s pretty pointy, unlike Mount Rainier’s ice cream cone shape, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s defunct – it’s merely napping. And when it wakes up, it likes to blow up like Mount St. Helens. It should be quite the show if it decides to go in our lifetimes. Before you panic, though, go read this hazards report (pdf). Aviation would become unbearably exciting, communities downwind will suffer from ash, and lahars will seriously inconvenience river valleys, but we’re not talking about the utter annihilation of Seattle. It’ll be a mess, but it’s nothing we haven’t survived before.
So relax and admire the outstanding beauty of our snow-capped, glacier-sculpted mountain peaks.
One day, if I am very fortunate, and manage to earn a small fortune, I may settle on the side of a ridge (if I can find a nice stable one), where when the clouds part, magnificent vistas are revealed, across a misty valley.
Granted, it would be cold, on this side – I was up there in late afternoon, and the whole east side of the ridge was covered in frost still. But the views, my darlings – the views would be worth the heating bills. Imagine having this geology framed in your windows, every clear day.
So those were the first mountains. Here’s my first kiss of 2013:
At one of my stops, there were three llamas, all very interested in a sweet stray dog running about the place and fascinated by all the people walking past.
So I moseyed over to say howdy, and this sweetie rushed right over and gave me a darling little kiss. Well, technically, it thrust its muzzle within kissing distance of my lips and held it there until I’d planted one upon it, after which it posed prettily.
Beautiful mountains, artistic mist, lovely llamas – not a bad afternoon in the sun. Nice start to the new year. I hope yours was at least as pleasant, if not more.