Saturday, August 06, 2005

Vacation


Mt. Shasta

Back - in San Francisco, in civilization - from geology class followed by six days of camping in the Mendocino area. I feel like I've seen every kind of terrain and climate in the last two weeks: sticky New York City, chilly San Francisco, the misty northern California coast, the cool, fragrant redwoods, miles and miles of drought-adapted grasslands and oak forests.

This was a true vacation, lying on our backs on warm rocks beside a stream, reading and watching hawks fly overhead... swimming in an amazingly warm, still, clear lake in the Mendocino State Forest. We should have stayed in the campsites there, but we drove on, hoping to find a waterfall hidden deeper in the forest down miles of gravelly, winding roads. Then we got directions from someone who made the whole place feel creepy, and we left the forest for a rather domestic - though perfectly pleasant - campsite on the shore of Clear Lake. A final afternoon swimming and floating on a raft in the Russian River, and then we drove home this morning. We ate well - practically a whole avocado every day, which was one of my goals for the trip - strong coffee cooked over a campfire - blueberry pancakes - marshmallows burnt on the outside and near-liquid inside. I think I got fat camping! I definitely got sunshine - I am tanner than I have been in years, I really don't remember the last time I was this tan.

I read the new Harry Potter book (fabulous, though it broke my heart to have it end and to know that I'd have to wait at least a year or two for the next, and last, and to have to step back out of the world of magic and simple good and evil). I am now reading Possession, by A. S. Byatt, borrowed from my friend, a bookish novel about two modern-day English literature post-docs on the trail of a previously-unknown illicit affair between two Victorian poets... a little slow to get into but now I am caught up in it. It makes me want to write poetry and have an illicit affair, preferably in Yorkshire. *sigh*

Here are pictures from the class at Mt. Shasta. I forgot to take any on the rest of the trip. I can't get the pictures and text to line up too well, so if the caption says "here" and describes something completely different from the picture beside it, bear with me.
Our first stop in the field was this lava tube - just what it sounds like, the lava flows along, the outside cools and hardens, the molten lava inside continues flowing and leaves behind a cave-like structure. One member of our group fell entering the tube and shattered his wrist. He was taken to the hospital by two members of the group and the rest of us continued on. He was so calm throughout the whole thing that it was hard to believe the severity of his injury - I would have been screaming, or at least crying.

The foot is for scale; here you can clearly see the flow of the rock when it was still molten.
Sometimes a second flow will pass through an original tube, leaving behind a tube-inside-a-tube, creating false ceilings and balconies like this one. We climbed up onto the balcony and looked down from it.
Below is another place we stopped, the cut-away interior of a volcanic vent. What's cool about it are the clear layers, more visible in the second picture than the first.

One of the coolest places we visited was a series of "spatter cones" on the flank of the Medicine Lake Volcano, a big, old, shield volcano. The first picture is a bit of a close-up; the second is from farther away and, if you look closely, you can see the moon. Spatter cones are kind of like drip towers that kids make on the beach, except that instead of wet sand dripping onto a cone, these little vents burp globs of lava up and over their edges, forming the cones. We scrambled up two or three out of a much longer series. Near the top of one we found a fulgurite, a nickel-size patch of rock melted glassy and greenish by lightning. Apparently there are many of these near the summit of Mt. Shasta.
Next is my "life persists" picture. The trip was kind of hot and rocky; I came to appreciate green things.
We visited a series of fissures like this one, deep enough to have snow in patches at the bottom. These were so much fun to climb around in.
Big Glass Mountain - the picture doesn't do it justice. This is a huge pile of basalt, which glints and glimmers. You've seen little science class or natural history museum pieces of black, shiny basalt, volcanic glass; this mountain is made of boulders of basalt! I collected a few samples which I will photograph and post when I get home, as they are really quite amazing. If all rocks were this beautiful, we'd all be geologists.
Next is a view of a large lava flow - it's amazing to be able to SEE the way rock moved, the lobes it formed as it spread across the valley. And you get a sense of the size... I took this picture from the top of Little Mount Hoffman, which used to have a fire lookout but now has a bungalow which can be rented. Our professor had looked into the rights and determined that even when it is rented, we can still go up there and look around. We were very polite and respectful, but at least one of the women who had rented it that day wanted us GONE. I understand her feeling that we were intruders, but we just wanted to have a fifteen-minute geology lesson and then leave. In the end, that's what we did, but the dispute left a bad taste.

I'm off to find a coffee shop where I can finish my novel... I will try to post a little more about what I learned about the Cascades and everything else, probably not until I get back to NYC on Tuesday.

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