. . . 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.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Palo Duro Canyon Pictures

Palo Duro Canyon was absolutely beautiful. Only one night was cold (down to 9°) with the others in the teens to low 20's. I think we lucked out during the day since they were sunny and lovely. I think the highest temperature was on Saturday with it up around 60°. All in all, the whole trip was great. It was so wonderful to get together with our old friends and to spend time with them. The kids and dogs also got along. The food was delicious and plentiful. It was truly a Thanksgiving to remember and I'm so thankful for good friends and beautiful landscapes and the health to enjoy them both.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!




























Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Grand Canyon of Texas

When long-time college friends suggested that we go camping together, I thought it would be a wonderful idea.....for next summer. What a surprise to hear them ask us to go camping with them during Thanksgiving break! The plan is for them to drive from Dallas toward the west and we'll drive from here toward the east and we'll meet up in the middle. The middle is roughly 6 hours for each of us in the town of Amarillo, Texas. Our friends found a place to camp that has full hookups for our pop-up campers, a Texas State Park called "Palo Duro Canyon," also known as "The Grand Canyon of Texas."

Humans have lived in Palo Duro Canyon for approximately 12,000 years. The Clovis and Folsom people first lived in the canyon and hunted large herds of mammoth and giant bison. Later on, the Apaches, Comanches, and Kiowas lived there..

Early Spanish Explorers are believed to have discovered the area and named the canyon "Palo Duro" which is Spanish for "hard wood." There are a lot of mesquite (which I have no idea what it looks like) and juniper (abundant in my town and an allergy nemesis).

In 1874, Palo Duro Canyon was a battle site during the Red River Wars. The US Government captured the Native Americans living and hiding in the canyon by first capturing 1,400 horses and then later destroying the majority of the herd. Unable to escape, the Native Americans surrendered and were transported to reservations in Oklahoma.

Of course, I can't wait to explore the canyon and discover the geological features there. I did a little bit of research to prepare me for what I might see and found out that the canyon is approximately 120 miles long, 20 miles wide, and 800 feet deep. Palo Duro Canyon was formed primarily by water erosion from the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River, which began to carve the canyon less than one million years ago. This is exactly how the Grand Canyon in Arizona was formed. The slopes of the canyon reveal the colorful natural history of the area.

From this website here I found out the oldest layers of rock, the Cloud Chief Gypsum, is 250 million years old and can only be seen in a few areas in the canyon. The next oldest and most prominent layer of rock is the Quartermaster Formation which can be seen with its distinctive red claystone/sandstone and white layers of gypsum.

"The Tecovas Formation is located directly above the Quartermaster and is composed of yellow, gray, and lavender mudstone and sandstone. Together with the Quartermaster, they form the colorful triangular slopes called Spanish Skirts. Above the Tecovas, the Truijillo and Ogallala formations can be viewed. The Ogallala is composed of sand, silt, clay, and limestone, which compose the hard caprock."

I hope to be able to find some trails to walk on so that we can see the beautiful rock formations around us and maybe see some wildlife as well. My only worry is the weather! On Thanksgiving Day it should only be 39 degrees, but then again, that is how cold it supposed to be in my town as well. Nights will definitely be below freezing. As I said, we'll have full hookups and so we're bringing electric heaters.

Our friends and we have coordinated meals so that we're going to have a real Thanksgiving meal. It'll be really wonderful, I'm sure. I really can't wait for this exciting adventure, something we've never done for Thanksgiving before!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Letter to a Whiny Young Democrat

By Mark Morford, San Francisco Gate Columnist

Letter Link

Oh, now you've done it.

See? You see what happens when you young liberal voters get so disgruntled and disillusioned that you drop all your party's newborn, hard-won ideas about Hope™ and Change™, without any patience, without really giving them sufficient time to mature, without understanding that hugely foreign, anti-American concept known as "the long view"?

See what happens when you wallow in hollow disappointment, trudging all over your liberal arts campus and refusing to vote in a rather important mid-term election, all because your pet issues and nubile ego weren't immediately serviced by a mesmerizing guy named Barack Obama just after he sucked you into his web of fuzzyhappy promises a mere two years ago, back when you were knee-high to a shiny liberal ideology?

Well, now you know. This is what happens: The U.S. House of Representatives, the most insufferable gaggle of political mongrels this side of, well, the rest of Congress, reverts to GOP control like a brain tumor reverts to a more aggressive form of cancer, and everything gets bleaker and sadder and, frankly, a whole lot nastier.

What happens is: Many kinds of fragmented, muddled, but still constructive Democratic progress might get stopped quite nearly dead, and even a few pieces of legislation we actually did gain get slapped around, threatened, stomped on the head like a scientist at a Rand Paul rally. Happy now?

Check it out, kiddo: This is not just any Republican party you allowed back into power; these mealy folks are not anything like the war-hungry, Bush-tainted army of flying monkeys and Dick Cheney moose knuckles you so wonderfully helped bury in the history books last election.

No, the GOP of 2010-2011 is even weirder, dumber, less interested in anything you even remotely care about; this GOP is infused like a sour cocktail with a bitter splash of the most cartoonish, climate change-denying Tea Party dingbats imaginable -- most of whom think you're an elitist, terrorist-loving, gay-supporting threat to "real" American values, btw -- all led by a guy named Boehner who wears a bizarre, shellacked tan so fake and creepy it makes Nancy Pelosi looks like a supermodel.

And you made it all happen. Or rather, you failed to prevent it from happening, by not voting, by turning your collective back on Obama's tough love, by getting all whiny and dejected like some sort of sullen teen vampire who can't get laid.

Do you deny it? Did you see the polls and studies that said that most fresh-faced, Obama-swooning Dems like you are now refusing to support our beloved Nazi Muslim president because he didn't wish-fulfill your every whim in a week? That he was, in fact, not quite the instant-gratification SuperJesus of your (or rather, our) dreams?

Of course you didn't see any of that. Hell, I bet you're not even reading this column right now. You're probably back on Twitter, raging into the Void about, hell, who knows what? The Wolf Parade concert. Angry Birds. The People of Wal-Mart. Anything but politics, really.

But hey, whatevs, right? Screw it. Screw him. After all, the prez let you down. Conveniently "forgot" to include you in the dialogue, after a major election that you helped him win. Where were the outreach programs? The campus speaking tours? Weekly appearances on "The Daily Show"? Legal pot and gay marriage and discounts tickets to SXSW and Burning Man and Coachella? I want my goddamn political perks, and I want them now.

Hey, I understand. We're an instant gratification culture, and you're an ADHD generation. Who wants to hear that serious enviro legislation might take a decade or two to fully come to fruition? Who wants to hear about Obama passing rather amazing student loan reform? Or even financial reform? Or health care, the Iraq drawdown, saving a million jobs at GM, or all the rest of his rather astonishing achievements to date? Dude, so boring.

Of course, you've now learned the hard way that the hot flush of a major election is far more electrifying than the gray n' meaty grind of actual governing. Obama flew into office on gossamer liberal wings, but the real halls of D.C. are a goddamn pigsblood slaughterhouse, brutal and depressing, full of gnarled legislative compromise. Screw that noise, you know?

And you know what? You're right. Well, sort of. The Obama administration sure as hell could've done more to keep young activists inspired and involved. It's an opportunity squandered, no question. Then again, dude was sorta busy unburying the entire nation, you know? And the twitchy Democratic party has never been known for its savvy cohesion. Maybe you can give him/them a break? Whoops, too late.

Look, I'm sorry. I know I'm being far too hard on you. Of course it's not just you. It's not completely your fault these dimwit Repubs were allowed to ooze back into a bit of power so soon. As many analysts have pointed out, this wasn't a vote for the Republicans, but against the limp-wristed Dems who didn't step up and lead with more authority and clarity of purpose. Truly, libs and independents of every age are frustrated Obama isn't governing with the same kind of magical, balls-out visionary zeal that fueled his campaign.

And let's not forget a shockingly unintelligent Tea Party movement that stands for exactly nothing and fears exactly everything, all ghost-funded by a couple of creepy libertarian oil billionaires -- the leathery old Koch brothers -- who eat their young for a snack. Who could've predicted that gnarled political contraption would hold water? But hey, when Americans are angry and nervous, they do stupid things. Like vote Republican. It happens. Just did.

But here's your big takeaway, young Dem: It ain't over yet. The 2012 election is just around the corner. If we've learned anything, it's that two years whip by insanely quickly. Anything can happen, and usually does. You'll have another chance. And probably another after that. Maybe more.

So here's what you need to know, right now: Barack Obama is, and will continue to be, a bit of goddamn miracle. He's simply as good as we're going get for an articulate, thoughtful, integrity-rich Democratic prez in your lifetime. Period. To hamstring his administration out of spite and laziness is childish and sad. Check the accomplishments. Understand the process. Deal with the messiness.

It will never be perfect. It will never be giddy liberal nirvana, because it doesn't work that way. Politics is corrosive and infuriating, de facto and by definition, even with someone as thoughtful as Obama in the Big Chair. Understand it. Deal with it. Get back in the game. If you don't, we all lose.

Your choice, kiddo.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Ghosts of Our Youth

October saw too many teen suicides due to bullying. Many people spoke out about the subject when gay teens Tyler Clementi and Raymond Chase committed suicide after being a victim of bullying. President Obama expressed his sorrow and concern in a video, "It Gets Better" posted on the White House website and on YouTube. He said,

"I don’t know what it’s like to be picked on for being gay. But I do know what it’s like to grow up feeling that sometimes you don’t belong. It’s tough. And for a lot of kids, the sense of being alone or apart – I know can just wear on you. And when you’re teased or bullied, it can seem like somehow you brought it on yourself – for being different, or for not fitting in with everybody else."

Last week the pastor at my local Unitarian Universalist church had a lot to say on the subject as well. His sermon, Ghosts of Our Youth (podcast link) spoke to my heart , especially when I learned that two of the recent suicides were only 13 years old. Please listen to his sermon.

Rev. Cullinan asks, "Why do I feel like nothing much has changed in the last 25 years?" Please do your part to stop the bullying that is so prevalent in our society. Save lives.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Going Back Home Again

Last weekend I flew back to my old hometown area of Sacramento, California to attend my Roseville High School class of 1985 reunion (25 years). I went from 7,500 feet to 50 feet above sea level! Flying into Sacramento International Airport was a breeze, thankfully, and I had no trouble getting my rental car and heading out onto the interstate toward Roseville. I took the back way since I wanted to stop by my old neighborhood where I grew up.

Along Hwy 99 north there were houses where rice paddies used to be and I was surprised at the growth. I drove through the little town of Elverta which hasn't changed a lot. Elverta was named for a woman, Elverta Dike, whose husband donated property to the church. My old neighborhood was on the outskirts of Elverta and actually had a stop light now! The old neighborhood looked very much the same, only not as run down as I remember it being when I lived there. I was amazed to see my old house completely renovated and added onto. It stood out among the other homes, not fitting in any longer. I did notice the mulberry tree that I used to climb was still in the side yard and a pine tree rose behind the back of the house that I remember my dad planting. I did not see evidence of "Willie" the weeping willow tree in the back yard any longer. It was my all-time favorite climbing tree.

As I made my way to Roseville where I was staying (and the town that I was bussed to for high school) I couldn't believe the new subdivisions and shopping centers. So much had changed and there was so much traffic that was overwhelming. Where alfalfa or hay fields were are now all covered in suburbia. Roseville is a town that was settled by old miners from the Gold Rush back in the 1850s. It became a railroad town on the outskirts of Sacramento. Now it couldn't be considered "ouskirts" anymore since all of the individual towns merged together into one metropolis in the Sacramento Valley.

Before going to the high school for a tour and a football game, I went to In N Out Burger to eat dinner. There are no In N Outs here in New Mexico (yet) and I had to make a stop for a cheeseburger, fries, and vanilla shake.

About 10 alumni went on the school tour and we were surprised at so many changes. New and converted buildings took the place of the soccer field, auto shop, art department, and administration buildings. I was glad to see the amphitheater was still there, a place where my friends and I always had lunch and spent each day people watching, talking, and sometimes crying as teenagers are prone to do. It was so fun to talk with other alumni and to share our stories and pictures with each other as we watched the football game (and yes, Roseville won, beating the crosstown rivals Woodcreek Oaks).

On Saturday I was able to visit with a dear friend of mine that I've known since I was 11 years old. The two of us raised hell growing up and have remained close all these years. She took me to a delicious restaurant in Granite Bay for lunch.

Saturday night was the Big Event, dinner and dancing at Aura Lounge in downtown Sacramento. The filet mignon was extraordinary! About 40 of us met for dinner and it was so wonderful to get reacquainted with so many of my classmates and friends. Some classmates I got to "meet" for the first time, not having talked to them while in high school at all. Some people I didn't remember at all and some people didn't remember me. But we all enjoyed talking and then dancing the night away upstairs on the dance floor. I think an additional 10-15 people came just for the dancing. We closed the club and a bunch of us went a couple of blocks down to Ink, a restaurant where we had munchies and said our goodbyes. I returned back to the hotel at 5 am and slept 'til noon.

On Sunday I drove to Davis with an old friend from the neighborhood I grew up in. I lived in Davis for about 7 years (leaving in 1997) and wanted to visit the area again. I took a picture of the duplex we lived in and the first house where my oldest son lived. We drove around the UC Davis campus where I graduated back in 1992. Again, there were so many new buildings that the school had a completely new feel to it. Davis has also grown larger with new subdivisions and shopping centers. The only thing still separating the town from Sacramento is the Yolo Causeway, that is an elevated bypass above the flood zone along the Sacramento River. Anyway, we ate lunch at Woodstock's Pizza, which was still very good after 13 years. We had pepperoni, sausage, and black olives on whole wheat crust.

Sunday evening was spent visiting more and packing up for my return trip home. I got to the Sacramento airport with no trouble and even had time to spare before my flight to explore the shops and to eat a Cinnabon. I remember when the airport was Sacramento Metropolitan Airport and didn't have shops and a food court! Flying out of Sacramento toward Albuquerque felt bittersweet...leaving an area where I grew up and people I love, but returning back home to beautiful northern New Mexico and my family. The fall colors are spectacular here right now (Santa Fe below).

One thing I'm glad of being back in New Mexico is that there are a lot less people here and traffic isn't so extreme. It might be another 5 years before I get to go back to Roseville again, but I took away some wonderful memories of this visit.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Teri's Lemon Cheesecake

A friend from work gave me this recipe for lemon cheesecake after she made it for a work party. It's been a few months since then but I finally made it myself for a party that we all went to last night and it turned out delicious. It wasn't as pretty as Teri's since the middle sank on my cheesecake whereas hers was flat on top. In any case, it isn't the looks that count. I hope Teri doesn't mind me sharing her recipe here but I've had a few requests for it and thought I'd let others enjoy this lemony cheesecake goodness. Of course, being me, I've changed it a little bit, using Vanilla Wafers instead of Barnum's Animal Crackers and not baking the cheesecake in a water bath because I don't have a roasting pan. I also didn't use a food processor to mix up the cookie crumb mixture since I don't have one of those either.

6 ounces Nabisco's Barnum's Animal Crackers or Social Tea Biscuits (I used Vanilla Wafers)
3 Tbsp sugar
4 Tbsp melted butter

Crush cookies into crumbs (you should have about 1 cup). Add sugar and mix together. Add the warm melted butter until the mixture is evenly moistened. Transfer the mixture to a 9-inch springform pan and press the crumbs firmly and evenly into the pan bottom. Keep the sides as clean as possible. Bake in a 325° oven for 15 to 18 minutes, until golden brown and fragrant. Cool on wire rack to room temperature.

1 1/4 cups sugar
1 Tbsp grated lemon zest
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 8-ounce packages cream cheese
4 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup heavy cream

In a small bowl, mix lemon zest with 1/4 cup sugar until the sugar is yellow and the zest is broken down. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and add the remaining 1 cup of sugar. Mix together with the cream cheese until creamy and smooth. Scrape down the bowl and add eggs, lemon juice, vanilla, and cream. Scrape the bowl again and mix one last time. Pour into cooled crust and bake at 325° for 1 hour. Turn off oven and let cheesecake sit inside for 30 minutes without opening the oven. Cool on a wire rack to room temperature.

Lemon Curd:
1 jar lemon curd (found in the jelly aisle)

When cheesecake is cool, spread the lemon curd onto the cheesecake while it is still in the springform pan. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to 24 hours. To serve, remove the side of the springform pan and cut the cake into wedges. Serves 12 to 16.

(Teri did have directions to make homemade lemon curd but said that the jar tastes just as good and isn't as much trouble.)

I would have included a photo but it is almost all gone.


Monday, September 13, 2010

Favorite Song Lyrics Today

Excerpts from a song called, "Forget and Not Slow Down" by Relient K.

How many times
Can I push it aside
Is it time I befriended all the ghosts of all the things that haunt me most
So they leave me alone
Move on with my life
Be certain the steps of left and right don't fight the direction of upright

I'd rather forget and not slow down
Than gather regret for the things I can't change now

It's time to decide
Which is out of my mind
Cause it'll be me unless I put some thoughts to rest and leave some faults behind

Cause I could spend my life just trying to sift through
What I could've done better but what good do what ifs do

Friday, September 10, 2010

Be Happy

A friend of mine posted this on her Facebook page. I thought I'd share it here. The illustrations and captions are from the book, "Be Happy--A Little Book to Help You Live a Happy Life" by Monica Sheehan. The music is "Cuore di Sabbia" (Sand Heart) by Pasquale Catalano.

Monday, August 30, 2010

One Year Older

Today I turned 43. It's too bad that the birthday fairy doesn't hand out "Do-overs" for the previous year because I sure would like one! Anyway, it was a wonderful birthday with a delicious steak dinner complete with mashed potatoes and gravy and rice pilaf. For dessert, my German chocolate birthday cake. It turned out wonderful! I was spoiled by my family yet again.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Just a Thought....


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

On a Shirt

This is written on a shirt:

Listen to Your Heart
Follow its Path
Live the Life Only
You were Meant
To Live

Sunday, August 22, 2010


We went to a memorial service today that was very special. It was the kind of service that I would like after I depart this earth. The theme was "Tea Time" and as people spoke in microphones or at the podium, food was served along with tea and lemonade. There were the traditional cucumber and egg salad sandwiches and various scones. The tea was served in teapots donated for the event by friends of the family and church members. Favorite music was played intermittently between speakers. It truly was beautiful and a celebration of a very special woman's life.

On the back of a photo card was printed this poem:

When Tomorrow Starts

When tomorrow starts without me,
and I'm not there to see;
If the sun should rise and find your eyes,
all filled with tears for me
I wish so much you wouldn't cry,
the way you did today;
While thinking of the many things,
we didn't get to say;
I know how much you love me,
as much as I love you.
And each time that you think of me,
I know you'll miss me too;
But when tomorrow starts without me,
please try to understand;
That an angel came and called my name
and took me by the hand;
Said I'd have to leave behind,
all those I dearly love;
So when tomorrow starts without me,
don't think we're far apart;
For every time you think of me,
I'm right here in your heart.

Of course I'd want pure Hawaiian Kona coffee served at my memorial service instead of the tea.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

A Dream Like I've Never Had Before

Last night's dream was truly odd. I was on some sort of cruise ship, not alone, and we were searching for a place to eat. We ended up at one of those dinner shows and before I knew it, I was up on the stage singing! For one, I don't sing very well, and two, I'd never do it on a stage in front of an audience. I definitely have a fear of giving speeches and singing would be 10 times as scary! But there I was. I don't know what the song was, either. That would have been good to know.

So I looked up what singing in a dream meant on dreammoods.com and read the following: "To sing in your dream, represents happiness, harmony and joy in some situation or relationship. You are uplifting others with your positive attitude and cheerful disposition. Singing is a way to celebrate, communicate, embrace, and express your feelings."

Doesn't that sound good? I like it. Maybe I'm happy because I just had a wonderful vacation. Or maybe I am happy in the relationship with the person that I was with in the dream. In any case, I like to think that I've got a positive attitude and cheerful disposition. But if there's a way to communicate that in any other way besides getting up in front of an audience and singing, I'm all for that instead!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Petrified Forest National Park

We took a detour off of I-40 as we headed east toward home yesterday and drove through Petrified Forest National Park and the Painted Desert. I've always driven straight through this stretch of Arizona but this time thought it'd be great to stop. Unfortunately, it was 100° outside so we didn't walk any long trails, preferring to drive to lookout points, getting out for pictures, and hurrying back into the air conditioned truck. Still, it was worth the extra time to go through.

Currently this portion of Arizona is a dry grasslands but about 200 million years ago during the late Triassic period it was a humid, tropical, vast floodplain that had many streams crossing it. Tall conifer trees grew along the banks would fall and the streams would wash them into the floodplains. A mix of silt, mud, and volcanic ash buried the logs. The sediment cut off oxygen and slowed the logs' decay. Over time silica-rich groundwater seeped through the logs, replacing the original wood tissues with silica deposits. Eventually the silica crystallized into quartz and the logs were preserved as petrified wood.

At the southern end of Petrified Forest National Park is a short Giant Logs Trail. Normally they say the 0.3 mile loop should take 20 minutes but I think we did it in 10 because of the heat. Still, we saw wonderful, colorful petrified wood deposits in the Chinle Formation. The colors of the logs are due to trace minerals that soaked into the wood along with the silica. Blue, purple, brown and black are caused by manganese minerals.

As you drive north along the park road you are driving toward younger deposits. At the farthest north, at Chinde Point on the Painted Desert portion of the park, the rocks are about 205 million years old. Over 10 million years of deposition occurred within the park. The views of the Painted Desert were remarkable. Next time I'd like to visit during the spring or fall when it isn't so hot!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument

The third national monument we visited on Wednesday was located about 20 miles north of Flagstaff: the Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument. It is located within the San Francisco Volcanic Field on the Colorado Plateau that was active beginning six million years ago. Sunset Crater is the most recent eruption, exploding between 1040 and 1100. The Sinagua lived and farmed the area and so were witnesses to this eruption.

Sunset Crater is a cinder cone, forming when molten rock sprayed high into the air from a crack in the ground. The lava solidified and fell to Earth as large bombs or small cinders. Eruption after eruption occurred in this manner, building a debris pile up to 1,000 feet high. Two lava flows erupted near the vent, the Kana-a and the Bonito, and destroyed everything in their path. The entire event may have lasted 6 months to a year with a final eruption spewing red and yellow cinders out from the vent and onto the rim. The colorful glow from these cinders reminded people of a sunset and led to the volcano's name. The elevation at the summit is 8,029 feet with it's diameter at its base 1 mile. Approximately one billion tons of material was extruded from the vent.

We walked along a trail over the Bonito lava flow to the base of Sunset Crater. The gravel beneath our feet was black and the rocks a chunky, clinky form of lava called "aa." It is the same kind of lava flow that I walked over when on the big island of Hawaii. The rock is also known as "basalt."

The ancestors of today's Hopi people, the Sinagua, witnessed the eruption. In some Hopi accounts, the Qa'na Katsina caused Sunset Crater to erupt after people engaged in a life out of balance. The eruption is a living reminder that if people stray from their religious ideals and life, there may be another eruption.

Walnut Canyon National Monument

After we visited Meteor Crater yesterday, we went to Walnut Canyon National Monument near Flagstaff. At first all I saw as I walked the 270 steps down to the Island Trail from the visitor center were the rock layers. I noticed right away the cross bedding within the CoconinoSandstone (left) and the blocky pattern of the Kaibab Limestone that was above it. After looking more, I noticed ancient dwellings of the Sinagua built into one layer of the overhanging limestone cliffs.

In the canyon you see the layering of the Kaibab Limestone on top of the Coconino Sandstone but what you don't see right away is a limey shale layer under the limestone. Because shale is less resistant to weathering and erosion, it was carved away by flowing water, leaving the limestone overhang above it. The Sinagua built walls and fronts using the overhangs as roofs. They used blocks of limestone cemented with clay. The dwellings go back at least 10 feet and are on average 5 feet high.

The Sinagua lived in the canyon from 1125 to 1250 when the canyon was fertile. It is not clear why the people left but they moved to new villages and were eventually assimilated into the Hopi culture.

Meteor Crater

Yesterday (Wednesday) we visited another big hole in the ground, this one not formed from earth’s natural processes, but from something extraterrestrial.

Meteor crater was formed 50,000 years ago when an iron-nickel meteorite (meteors stay in the sky, meteorites hit the ground) struck what is now the Arizona desert. The meteor is estimated to have been about 150 feet across and weighed several hundred thousand tons (a 2-foot wide, 1,400-pound fragment of it is pictured, above left). It struck the land with an explosive force greater than 20 million tons of TNT. During the crater’s formation, over 175 million tons of rock were thrown out a distance of over a mile. Large blocks of limestone, the size of small houses, were heaved onto the rim and flat-lying beds of rock were overturned or uplifted as much as 150 feet.

The crater made a hole in the rocks of the Kaibab Limestone and Coconino Sandstone from 260 million years ago. The crater is over 4,000 feet across and 550 feet deep. Originally, the crater is thought to have been 700 feet deep (as tall as a 70-story building) but erosion has transferred the topsoil over time. The circumference is 2.4 miles.

How do scientists know that the crater isn’t a volcanic caldera? After all, people argued over its origin when it was first discovered in 1871. Local settlers just thought it was part of the Hopi Buttes volcanic field northeast of the site. After many years of study, scientists have concluded that it is definitely not volcanic and that it is the result of an impact. There is the presence of many meteorite fragments on the northeast side of the crater. Plus, two minerals: coesite and stishovite were present in the rocks, both high-pressure forms of quartz that were altered by the extremely high pressure of the impact. These minerals are not found in volcanic craters or rocks.

During 1964 through 1972, the US Geological Survey and NASA provided science and sampling training for the Apollo astronauts because scientists were interested in what kind of materials might lay on the moon’s surface and below.

Collisions have occurred since the beginning of the solar system and will continue to occur. Collisions the size of the one that hit Meteor Crater average every 50,000 years. It’s time for another one so luckily scientists are “looking” to the skies with their high-powered digital telescopes.

Some information came from what I learned from the museum displays and from a pamphlet handed out at the fee station called, “Meteor Crater: Brief History.”

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Grand Canyon in One Day

The Grand Canyon: "the place every American should see." — President Theodore Roosevelt

Yesterday we spent the whole day at the south rim of Grand Canyon National Park. As I mentioned in a previous blog entry, the last time I was at the Grand Canyon was 15 years ago but that time we only explored the east side of the south rim. I don’t remember whether we explored the west side of the south rim or not when I came here when I was 9, but in any case, we went al the way west to Hermit’s Rest and all the way east to Desert View this visit. We walked the rim trail as often as we could and took the shuttle bus when we didn’t.

Information on the Grand Canyon is all over the Internet and in many publications already so I won’t give an in-depth geologic history lesson here—just some basic facts.

The Grand Canyon cuts down into the Colorado Plateau that stretches north to Utah, northeast to Colorado, and east to New Mexico. At the south rim, the elevation is 7,000 feet. The Canyon spans almost 2 billion years of time from the basement rocks of the Vishnu Schist to the 270 million year old Kaibab Limestone at the top. Below the Kaibab Limestone is the same Coconino Sandstone and Hermit Shale exposed in the Sedona rocks.

According to the National Park Service pamphlet that is handed out at the entrance, “The Grand Canyon reveals a beautiful sequence of rock layers that serve as windows into time.” The Canyon was carved by the Colorado River 5 or 6 million years ago and is now about a mile deep. Its width varies from 8 miles to 18 miles wide and extends about 280 river miles long. As the river cuts down, the canyon deepens. Tributaries erode into the canyon’s sides and increase its width. Erosion carves faster into the softer rock layers like the shales and undermine the harder layers like the sandstones, creating cliffs, slopes, buttes, and pinnacles.

The views along the rim are inspiring and beautiful. Looking across the Canyon gives you such a feeling of power and beauty at the same time. What nature can create, with the dazzing erosional forms, rock colors, and geologic time is just awesome. Truly a place that every American, every person, should see.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Cathedral Rock

This afternoon we drove out to Red Rock Crossing, accessible from a beautiful park called "Crescent Moon Ranch" along Oak Creek that has spectacular views of Cathedral Rock. I took some pictures with the sun shining on the rock formation before getting to the park but once we got to the park the sun went behind the clouds again. Nevertheless, I got some really beautiful pictures. I'd love to spend more time at the park wandering the trails.