Would You Like Some Geology With Your Coffee? One Mountain or a Range?

I have to admit, when my coworker Mitch told me he’d bought a drive-through coffee stand, I thought he was nuts. He’s rather the last person I’d expect to buy a business of any sort. But then he was smart enough to filch a known excellent barista, and the whole enterprise began to look more sane.

He also had the great good sense to buy the one that’s close to the Martha Lake Airport Park glacial erratic. It’s also close to Highway 96, which leads to some gorgeous views of the Cascades over the Snohomish River valley. So I figured, hell with it. I’ll kidnap Cujo and do a wee field trip with coffee. We’ll start at 511 164th Street Southwest, Lynnwood, WA, head to Martha Lake Airport Park in Martha Lake to ogle a very large rock, gape at the Cascades from Glacier Peak High School, and end in Woodinville at Teddy’s Bigger Burgers.

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So, to begin with, coffee.

Sip This

Sip This uses Dillanos Coffee Roasters, which is quite a bit better than average. Add to this Mitch’s sense of humor:

Sign for Sip This, image credit Cujo359

Stir in some excellent prices, served up by a talented barista, and you have yourself a fabulous start to your outing.

Suitably caffeinated, we headed off toward Martha Lake Airport Park. I have to say we didn’t intend to. We’d already seen the erratic. But we were messing about trying to figure out how to get into the parking lot for Martha Lake Park, and then giving it up as a bad job because the lake looked boring anyway, and then we thought we recognized the turnoff for the erratic and decided we’d give it a go. And yes, the erratic’s still there.

Erratic with Two Coffees

Rather more graffiti on it than the last time, alas. But it’s still an impressive sight and well worth taking the time for if you’re in the neighborhood.

Now, scale is important in geological photos. For reference, I’m roughly 5’6″. That rock is immense. It took one hell of an ice sheet to raft it down here.

Coffee for Scale

The sun, although being bashful behind some wispy clouds, was in a horrible spot for photographing the other side of the erratic. But this close-up shot isn’t bad. 20 ounce Breve and 12 ounce frap mocha for scale.

Frost weathering had chipped off a few bits of the erratic. The fresh surface is dark black, fine-grained, and harder than hell, but I’m still not sure what this thing is. Hopefully, I’ll run across a geologist who knows someday.

After the airport park, we got on I5 and headed for Highway 96. You get glimpses of the Cascades all over the place, but the real payoff is on Cathcart, where the high school commands the top of a hill. No one seemed to mind a couple of fools with cameras wandering about on a Sunday afternoon, and the views are ever so worth it.

Cascade Panorama

Do click that one for a larger image. You’ll be happy.

I am, I’m afraid, crap at identifying peaks without some sort of reference, and there’s nothing at Glacier Peak High School that says, “Hey, there’s this mountain and that one and ooo this one!” So I’m just going to show you the lovely images, and if more knowledgeable folk know which Cascade mountains we’re seeing, they should feel free to chip in.

Jagged Peaks

I think that peak on the right that looks a bit like a wave might be Rooster Mountain, but don’t quote me on that.

Mt. Baker

Of course, there are some mountains so distinct even a numnuts like me can recognize them. Mt. Baker is one, and it was out in force. I guarantee you there’ll be a crowd of onlookers at this location when it decides to erupt, because this is an ideal spot for a little volcano watching.

Airplane and Mountains

There’s got to be an airstrip in the valley down below. We saw quite a few small planes come in for landings, and the mountains make a fantastic backdrop for them.

Lovely Jagged Peaks

This set of peaks, I have to say, is my favorite. So snow-capped and jagged. Glaciation has given them teeth.

Ballfields and Mountains

I hope the science teachers at this school focus on geology. I mean, imagine being in a spot where you can march out on the ballfields and see amazing examples of subduction zone geology, Pleistocene ice sheets, and recent glaciation, and not taking advantage of it. It would be criminal negligence.


Here, you can get some glimpses of the Cascade foothills. Note how smooth and rounded they are. They measure the thickness of the ice sheet. Anything below about 3,000- 4,000 feet, depending on how close to Seattle you are, got ground smooth. The peaks that jutted above didn’t get planed by the ice sheet, and have instead been carefully carved by mountain glaciers. The contrast is outstanding.

Lord Hill and Cascades

The ridge in the foreground is Lord Hill, a ridge created from a basalt flow. We’ll be doing it this summer, and hopefully I’ll be able to run down more information on its geological history by then. If not, I’ll stun you with the views from the top and run. It’s spectacular. And it’s a nice proof that things aren’t all glacial deposits in the Puget lowlands.

Foothills and Cascades

Here’s another lovely example of the contrast between those bits of the landscape that were under the ice sheet and those bits that were above it. Stark, rather, isn’t it?


And, finally, we’ll end with a nice tableau of Cascade Mountains and Lord Hill. I probably need to print this and stick it in my wallet. Then I can whip it out when people ask me if I’ll ever move from Washington state, and I shouldn’t then have to say, “Not no, but hell to the fucking no you imbecile” out loud.

It’s a wrench to leave that vista and drive on down Highway 9 to Woodinville, but there’s some nice wooded Pacific Northwest lowland scenery, and then there’s Teddy’s, which is a bloody brilliant burger joint and well worth patronizing. You’ve now had excellent coffee, gorgeous geology, and bonza burgers. Perfect day, amirite?

Would You Like Some Geology With Your Coffee? One Mountain or a Range?
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7 thoughts on “Would You Like Some Geology With Your Coffee? One Mountain or a Range?

  1. 3

    Is there still an airport at Martha Lake, or just a park these days? I must get down there and see the boulder.

    The airport in the valley is no doubt Harvey Field, in Snohomish. It’s privately owned and is pretty busy since most of the other small airports in the region have been turned into shopping malls. There’s lots of hot-air ballooning and skydiving there in the warmer months.

  2. F

    A runway and a stainless steel paper airplane right next to it. Is that not awesome?

    That’s a runway? Frightening is the word I’d use.

  3. 6

    In case anyone’s still following this, I’ve now seen the rock. And the “runway”. And the paper airplane.

    It was pouring, however, so I didn’t even get out of the car!

    For F, the picture of the runway is misleading as to its size. It’s smaller than that.

  4. 7

    I didn’t mean to mislead anyone. It’s actually just a wide sidewalk with a stripe painted down the middle that leads from the street to the rest rooms. It certainly suggests a runway to me, and it goes north-south, like most runways in the area do.

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