Wednesday, July 23, 2014
PLACERVILLE, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

roc doc 71410

By
July 12, 2010 |

Summer vacations that teach a lot

By Dr. E. Kirsten Peters

Glaciers are superb agents of erosion and they made deep, majestic valleys in the ancient rocks now in the park. It’s the steep sides of the valleys that allow us to see the stromatolites and all the other features of the ancient rocks. And it’s the deep, majestic valleys that take the breath away and keep people coming back to Glacier National year after year.

By the way, besides sailing that kayak, another fine event in Glacier National stands out in my mind. Near streams and in the lowlands there were plenty of huckleberries to pick. What can be better than foraging for your own food on summer vacation when you are a town kid used to hot lunches at schools? I owe my parents a lot, I think, in giving me those early memories.

My finest memory from childhood is sailing a kayak my clever brother had made out of plywood and canvas. The sailing adventure was on a lake in Glacier National Park in Montana. The wind was good, my beloved dog was tucked between my knees for ballast, and I scooted over the water like a rocket – or so it seemed to an 11-year-old. I have a black-and-white photo of that event (the world was black-and-white in those days), and I cherish it greatly even though it’s faded.

If you and your little ones still hope to get in a family camping trip this summer and make some memories, there’s no time to lose. And with that in mind, let me tell you a bit about the geology of Glacier National. Even if you only visit it in prose, it can do your spirits good while you camp or explore nature in parks in local spots wherever you live across the nation. And what geologists have learned in Glacier National is helping them interpret current tectonic events in the Himalayas and the Andes.

But let’s start at the beginning. The rocks of Glacier National are ancient, going back to over a billion years ago. And they are well-preserved. They are sedimentary and show us simple fossils from that ancient time. The fossils are colonial clumps, if you will, of single-celled creatures that lived in the ancient seas. We call them “stromatolites,” and they and the chemistry of the rocks in which we find them help scientists understand the climate and atmosphere of that ancient time.

Long after the stromatolites, the rocks were deformed by the great crunch of ancient tectonic plates. This formed an enormous fault called the Lewis Overthrust that moved rocks up to 50 miles laterally. It was all part of the events that helped make the ancestral Rocky Mountains, similar to events happening in major mountain chains in South America and Asia today.

Now fast-forward with me from the ancient part of Earth history to the much more recent Ice Age. This was the period that enormous glaciers covered much of North America. It’s my favorite part of history, when woolly mammoths and saber tooth tigers roamed our land.

Glaciers are superb agents of erosion and they made deep, majestic valleys in the ancient rocks now in the park. It’s the steep sides of the valleys that allow us to see the stromatolites and all the other features of the ancient rocks. And it’s the deep, majestic valleys that take the breath away and keep people coming back to Glacier National year after year.

Even a casual visitor to America’s parks and gardens can learn a lot about Earth history and the Ice Age. In Manhattan’s Central Park, for example, some of the rocks show the effects of Ice Age glaciation. Giant blocks of rock moved many miles by glaciers, called “erratics” because they don’t belong in the area, are littered around the park. And the bedrock shows deep striations or grooves carved by the rocks trapped in the glacier as it moved. So even in urban areas, the natural world can speak to us if we are in the frame of mind to listen.

By the way, besides sailing that kayak, another fine event in Glacier National stands out in my mind. Near streams and in the lowlands there were plenty of huckleberries to pick. What can be better than foraging for your own food on summer vacation when you are a town kid used to hot lunches at schools? I owe my parents a lot, I think, in giving me those early memories.

Now that I’m older I realize one reason we made road and camping trips when I was a kid was that spending time away from home in that mode doesn’t cost as much as some other means of having a get-away. But the fact that local park visits or camping trips are low budget doesn’t mean they are low value.

Seize the day this summer, in our National Parks or someplace closer to home. Picking up rocks or hunting fossils doesn’t cost much, and the soul you enrich may be your own.

Dr. E. Kirsten Peters, a native of the rural Northwest, was trained as a geologist at Princeton and Harvard. This column is a service of the College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences at Washington State University. Peters can be reached at epeters@wsu.edu.

Comments

comments

E. Kirsten Peters

.

News

Six file for Dist. 2

By Dawn Hodson | From Page: A1

 
District 2 candidates forum Aug. 14

By News Release | From Page: B1

EID ditch customers get relief

By Michael Raffety | From Page: A1

 
Veterans receive wildland fire training

By News Release | From Page: B1

Market data open for local biz

By Ross Branch | From Page: B1

 
Heard over the back fence: Attorney to warn about scams

By Bob Billingsley | From Page: B1

 
Road zone of benefit protester reaches dead end

By Dawn Hodson | From Page: A1 | Gallery

Volunteers clean up national forest

By News Release | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
.

Opinion

My turn: Special interests at EID

By Special to the Democrat | From Page: A4

 
Russian metastasis

By Mountain Democrat | From Page: A4

The Democratic-Chronicles: Not invented here

By Gene Altshuler | From Page: A4

 
.

Letters

DA hogging Main St. parking

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

 
CAO and staff hiring friends

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

Altshuler’s hypocrisy

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5Comments are off for this post

 
Small Farm compromise

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5Comments are off for this post

EID and Dale Coco

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5Comments are off for this post

 
.

Sports

Roundup: July 22, 2014

By Democrat Staff | From Page: A6

 
Dolphins ring up another title

By Democrat Staff | From Page: A6 | Gallery

Sharks defeat Loomis Basin in season finale

By Democrat Staff | From Page: A6 | Gallery

 
Celebrity golf at Tahoe

By Democrat Staff | From Page: A6 | Gallery

Dodgeball: Not the national pastime but …

By Shane Theodore | From Page: A7 | Gallery

 
.

Prospecting

At a glance: Comets to meteors

By Mimi Escabar | From Page: B2

 
Taste the best at the State Fair

By Democrat Staff | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Tractor Supply Store recognized

By Uc Cooperative | From Page: B3

 
Amador Fair honors cowboys

By Amador County Fair | From Page: B3

 
Arbor Day book helps to identify trees

By Arbor Day | From Page: B4

Learn about lavender and its many benefits

By Christian Women's Connection | From Page: B4

 
Lee’s Feed appreciates customers

By Democrat Staff | From Page: B5

 
My Time meeting in August

By Senior Day | From Page: B5

Builders’ Exchange honors scholars

By El Dorado Builders' Exchange | From Page: B5

 
En garde at Silver Screen Classic

By Auburn Silver Screen | From Page: B5

.

Essentials

Weather stats 7-22-14

By Michael Raffety | From Page: A2

 
Crime Log: July 8-10

By Cole Mayer | From Page: A2

.

Obituaries

Walter Vali

By Contributor | From Page: A2

 
Jean Lachelle Taylor

By Contributor | From Page: A2

Arthur J. Funston

By Contributor | From Page: A2

 
.

Real Estate

.

Comics

Shoe

By Contributor | From Page: A8

 
Sudoku

By Contributor | From Page: A8

Rubes

By Contributor | From Page: A8

 
New York Times Crossword

By Contributor | From Page: A8

Flying McCoys

By Contributor | From Page: A8

 
Speed Bump

By Contributor | From Page: A8

Tundra

By Contributor | From Page: A8

 
Horoscope, Thursday, July 24, 2014

By Contributor | From Page: A8

Horoscope, Wednesday, July 23, 2014

By Contributor | From Page: A8

 
Working It Out

By Contributor | From Page: A8

TV Listings

By Contributor | From Page: A8