Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Road Trip Photos: Painted Hills, John Day Fossil Beds, OR

The contents of my apartment, minus one Jeep-ful. Where did this all come from?

Replica of Stonehenge on the banks of the Columbia River, near Maryville. (Vaguely, in the distance, lie the Columbia River flood basalts.)

The Painted Hills section of the John Day Fossil Beds. This lame picture really doesn't do the colors justice. Now one of my favorite places, this was totally worth the long drive. (Old car + lots of stuff + mountain passes = 25mph.)

The Painted Hills are a layers of volcanic tuff that were protected by basalt flows. Eventually, they were tilted and uplifted to expose these red/tan/yellow/green/pink layers. (Seriously. It's awesome.)
Is the Jeep for scale, or just to show it off? You decide.

After visiting the Painted Hills, I was pressed for time, and discovered that said Jeep can go 70mph without disaster, or photographic evidence.
But, suffice it to say: I made it to my internship, and it is beautiful out here - lots of basalt flows and sagebrush. Today was a really laid-back first day, just checking out files on the nearby caves, which look awesome. I'm really looking forward to visiting them this summer.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Columbia River Flood Basalts: A Few Pictures

I've been on two trips to the Columbia River Flood Basalts recently, including a really awesome one looking at structure/stratigraphy of the basalts, and the recent landslide there.
These are a few pictures from the other trip - I haven't been able to upload the others.

Pillow basalts that formed when the flows encountered ground water. The surrounding material is palagonite, formed when the basalt fractured into dust as it entered the water.
The Grand Coulee Dam, which supplies a lot of power for Washington, in addition to having a dramatically negative effect on salmon spawning habits. Also home to the funniest laser show ever.
An oddly Grecian structure at the dam overlook.
Porphoritic rhyolite found in a river bed, washed down from Missoula Flood deposits.
A lava flow, complete with columnar-jointed bottom layer and hackly-jointed top layer. The top layer cools most quickly, which leads to the imperfect jointing. The bottom layer is insulated, and thus cools slowly, allowing columns to form.
Dry Falls, the largest waterfall ever. During the Missoula Floods, this was about ten times larger than Niagra Falls.

My week consists of: spanish, physics, calculus, and chemistry finals, moving my entire apartment into a storage unit in one day, annnnd moving to Craters of the Moon, via the John Day Fossil Beds.
It's a tough life, but somebody's got to do it, right?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Favorite Geology Picture: Kings Canyon National Park

This is a late entry (and my first ever) for the Accretionary Wedge, hosted at Highly Allochthonous. I was on a geology field trip, so hopefully not too late!
Too high up to get scale - see below.

This is my favorite geology picture because it represents an "A-ha" moment.
When I took 101, I basically ignored sedimentary and metamorphic rocks. I figured I had to merely pass those sections, in order to continue learning about volcanoes and earthquakes and cool stuff. My 101 class didn't have any field trips, so this preconception wasn't really challenged. Of course I'd seen rocks of that sort before, but somehow had never paid attention, even to the Grand Canyon.
This lame attitude tapered off, but did persist for several years.
Until I drove through King's Canyon National Park in California. The rocks there were so incredible, and you could really see them: not something that happens much in tree-covered western Washington. There were quartz veins and exfoliation and uplift and craaaazy deformation.
It really opened my eyes to aspects of geology I had brushed off, and helped me realize that the importance of being receptive to learning and curious about the world (instead of being a pretentious dilettante.) It illustrated how all the processes that create rocks and shape our landscape are dynamic and fascinating and exciting, even if they aren't sexy or dramatic or catastrophic.
I don't know what kind of rock this is or how it came to be here (I couldn't stop for more than a minute.) But I look forward to learning enough to be able to discuss it!

With some bushes for scale.