. . . I've been told that I write novels for email messages. Perhaps this is the way to go. I'll try to make each entry, or Gemstone, a "precious" one. On mediocre days, all I might be able to produce is a "semi-precious" entry. In any case, an entry might be a "neat" Gemstone--something that is uniquely mine.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Pueblo Canyon Tent Rocks

Today I went for a run with some friends down Pueblo Canyon here in Los Alamos. We started at the Aquatic Center at about 7200 feet and descended along the Ranch School trail until we reached the bottom of the canyon at about 6600 feet where the Pueblo Canyon trail began. The trail was lush with ponderosa pines, oaks, and wildflowers as well as that sage-like bush that grows everywhere here and that left yellow pollen stains on my socks.

This was my first time down the trail but friends had told me that there were some great rock formations that I just had to see. Of course I had to go along. As you might know, I live in an area that is covered in volcanic rocks that were laid down after the Valles Caldera volcano behind our town exploded about 1.2 million years ago. Alternating layers of pumice, tuff, and welded tuff were layered over the basalt from the Rio Grande Rift spreading center. After the layering, rainstorms carried huge chunks of lava over the surface that just sat there. Over time, water from the mountains carved out the canyons around the Pajarito Plateau. One of the really cool geologic features in the Pueblo Canyon are the tent rocks (see photo, below).

Tent rocks are formed due to the water erosion washing away the softer tuff over time. They are shaped like cones or teepees, hence the name "tent." I've heard that tent rocks are very rare and are only found in certain areas of the world such as the southwestern US and people come from all over to see ours.

Now, if there was a big chunk of that lava sitting on top of the softer tuff, it acted as a protector to the rock below it. The water washing away the sediment went around the rock and over time, a feature called a hoodoo was formed. The caprocks of lava were left balanced on the columns of tuff. Hoodoos are really neat geologic formations that always deserve a chuckle, not only for their name, but also for their various shapes. Here are a few in the canyon. Enjoy!


Life, the Universe, and Everything

In the 1979 book, "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" by Douglas Adams, a race of super intelligent people decided that they were tired of bickering over the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything. So they built a super computer and named it "Deep Thought" to determine that answer. The computer spent many millions of years thinking about the answer. When it was finally ready to reveal the answer to the descendants of the race of super intelligent people, there was a great audience. They announced,
"Never again will we wake up in the morning and think Who am I? What is my purpose in life? Does it really, cosmically speaking, matter if I don't get up and go to work? For today we will finally learn once and for all the plain and simple answer to all these nagging little problems of Life, the Universe, and Everything!"
But when it was time for the big reveal and the people asked if Deep Thought was ready to give the answer, the computer said, "I don't think that you are going to like it." The people didn't care! They wanted the answer!
"All right," said Deep Thought. "The Answer to the Great Question..."
"Of Life, the Universe, and Everything..." said Deep Thought.
"Forty-two," said Deep Thought, with infinite majesty and calm."
I turned 42 today; happy birthday to me! I'm still trying to answer my own Great Question and know I've got a long way to go still, especially since I'm still formulating the question. Perhaps, as Deep Thought tells the people, "...once you do know what the question actually is, you'll know what the answer means." Deep Thought then tells the people that he can design a computer that can calculate the Question to the Ultimate Answer and will call it "the Earth."

If only it were that easy. For now, I'll spend this 42nd year relishing in the fact that I am the same age as the Answer to the Great Question of LIfe, the Universe, and Everything.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Mitchell Trail, Los Alamos

Yesterday I hiked up the Mitchell Trail here in my town and today my thighs are still sore from that 1,000 foot climb up from the bottom. Every time I got up out of a chair, my thighs would burn and it would remind me of the great hike (great because the run down the mountain was a blast and I had two friends with me) and made me wonder where the trail got its name. So today, I did what I always do when I have a question and want an answer: I Googled it!

According to the USDA Forest Service website, the Mitchell Trail #69 was established in 1973 by David Mitchell for his Eagle Scout project. He thought the town needed a trail to go up to the Guaje Reservoir, which at one time was part of the town's water source. When Mitchell died a few years after the trail was established, it was named after him.

Most of the trail winds along the burned area from the Cerro Grande fire of 2000. When I first walked the trail (walked since this was before my running days) a year after the fire, it was depressing that all the natural growth was gone and the whole area had a charcoal look about it. The trail had been repaired from the fire's effects, so it was walkable, but not pretty. Yesterday's hike through the relatively flat portion of the trail before the climb up revealed a lot of plant growth with flowers everywhere. Of course, the burnt sticks of trees made the area kind of eery, but it does look prettier now.

The view from the top of the saddle was remarkable; the whole townsite was visible as well as the Sangre de Cristos across the Rio Grande Rift Valley (see pic below). After talking and resting for a bit, we three jogged down the mountain to our starting point. Total miles: 3.6.

I doubt if I'll do this trail anytime soon (it's one of those "once in a while" trails) but I do look forward to our next trail next week. I just hope we pick a flat one!