Monday, May 5, 2008
PorOgle- weekly News about the Earth
Sullivan's Knoll is a young (at least 10k at the top and 100k years at the base) somewhat-spewing type Volcanic Crater and Dome (similar to Kilauea- which means spewing) in Hawaii, in that it flowed basalt and then clouds of ash. The basaltic composition is different from oceanic basaltic eruptions, in that more olivine as opposed to Pyroxene is present (as is generally true for continental eruptions vs. Oceanic).
EARTH LORE Magazine- True Stories of the Earth
Weekly Renditions are made by the following Contributors:
Penny Scholten, geologist and outdoorswoman;
Dr. Chris Oravec, English at heart;
Harold L. Overton- earth critic and scientist; and
Col. Glenn Wasson, a Robert Service devotee.
Webmasters: Bob Pielage www.geocities.com/bccazrockclub/ and Joe Brame; Digital Photographer: Karen Hughes.
Entries are chronologically made (latest submission is at top of Blog). Offerings are protected by Copyright rules, but may be duplicated, provided the authorship is clearly shown, as originally displayed in writings in this magazine (usually at the bottom of the entry).
GEOLOGY OF THE WEST, which pertains to the basis for the stimulation which prompted the writings, for Arizona, Utah and Washington states, may be found at: www.geocities.com/overtonharold/ (See link on right side of Blog)
Geology Student’s Lament (Glenn Wasson- ca. 1990)
To master Geology and endless chronology,
A student must persevere and be stoic;
For the epochs and periods are all counted in myriads,
And that’s just for the era- Cenozoic.
My knowledge of Tertiary is really quite cursory,
Although it formed auriferous local gravels-
Which are known to abound, in the hills all around-
And the object of much of our travels.
I’ve found Rhyolitic Tuff, which is cream-colored stuff
Produced by eruptions gigantic
During Miocene time, when the average day’s clime
Was tumultuous, earth-shaking, and frantic.
One mustn’t be less heroic, to contemplate Mesozoic-
Going back to the period Triassic,
And the fossils vexatious, in the early Cretaceous
(Not to mention the intervening Jurassic).
To be really antique, one must quick take a peak
At the quite ancient Paleozoic-
When oceans of oil, formed in Permian soil,
And were folded in domes prehistoric.
The late Carboniferous, still not known as vociferous,
Enfolded the flora dendritic
In deposits voluminous- chuck full of bituminous-
Along with the hard Anthracitic.
Devonian I curse, but Silurian’s worse,
Ordovician I could never discern.
But Cambrian’s fine, it’s the end of the line
(going backwards)- no older ages to learn.
Now I’d be quite endorph-ic, if I could tell Metamorphic
From the Igneous and late Sedimentary;
So I make no apology, for avoiding Geology-
To me it is not elementary.
For every rock that is found, strewn about on the ground,
There’s a name just for it, listed way out there on the planet;
But just because it contains, both the light and dark grains
Doesn’t mean that it can be taken for granite.
I can scarcely resist the glitter of pale schist,
And in porphyries I’ve been known to exalt
But I’d rather dig warts, than sample more quartz,
Or carry home one more piece of basalt.
When prospectors find rich lodes to be mined,
Geologists are quick to explain
That mineral formations favor exotic locations
(If you understand the under-lying terrain).
But explanations are hollow, that usually follow,
Miner and donkey’s stumbling on a rich tract;
Why can’t Geologists tell where the big Nuggets dwell
Before and not AFTER the fact!
Above is a Photo of Whidbey Island, a True island in Puget Sound, WA
(to the cadence of Sullivan’s “A Modern Major General”)
A Fight Song, for Whidbey Island, WA Hikers
We trod the beaches of the land, with footprints so magnificent,
We take good care and prudence, since we’re seemingly significant;
We are geological, with thoughts so ecological-
We solve the island’s many myths, with motives almost nearly always logical.
We step o’er rock and fragile stone, with boundless love resilient,
Our thoughts, forever prime, are always bordering on the brilliant-
We zig and zag, it’s in the bag, the secrets of a stratigraphic crag,
Our yards are always full of Nature’s bounteous anticlinal swag.
We look at cave and cliff, for clues that often are mysterious,
We form our explanations, which then sometimes are delirious;
We’re ever right, with thoughts so bright, the clays we test with subtle bite,
The Mastodons we lately seek, are almost always out of sight.
We sniff the waters of the seeps, which are mostly full of Carbonate,
We draw straight lines on maps, over which we then can fulminate-
We look not for the animal, not vegetable but mineral,
We seek to find the local sense of Earthy Science-in-General.
We find the island’s many faults are certainly near left-lateral
The moraines make Points, but Heads (Tombolos) are quaintly mostly platter-al,
We are Geological, with thoughts so ecological-
We solve the islands many myths, with motives almost nearly always logical.
Our rare scientific group is most certainly gregarious;
With the exception of a stately few, they are hardly e’er nefarious-
They most certainly show attentiveness, to the total group’s inventiveness
They never forget a single clue, keeping constant retentiveness.
We’re constantly amused almost, by the manly interaction,
Of the way they stand their post, while their stomachs are in traction-
While some will look at cuttle fish, rarely they’re rebuttal-ish,
They follow simply to a man, the leader’s every whim and wish.
They never waste a word or deed, showing ultimate economy;
They incorporate all useful fields, even invertebrate Taxonomy-
They map all Points, align all Joints,
Whenever it is possible, they listen to whomever USGS anoints.
We march out in the sand-filled fields, with ultimate sobriety;
Then we announce our final facts, with tremendous notoriety;
We use all of our abilities, with promising agilities
Before there is a final loss of all of our facilities.
We incorporate all our pulchritude, remaining ever all aghast;
With completely serious rectitude, we follow an iconoclast!
We are Geological, with thoughts so ecological-
We solve the islands many myths, with motives nearly always almost logical.
Harold L. Overton
Understanding Mother Earth
“Have you studied anything about Earth Science or Geology?” I enquired of the new hiker. “Are you interested in the movements and changes taking place in the land which is your home?” Mostly, the average retired person enquiring about hiking with our group has a devotion to maintaining his physical ability, but there are a few who realize that with all the talk about Global Warming, Abnormal Weather, and Catastrophes in the daily conversation, there must be a part of their lives which is influenced by Earth Dynamics.
The answer usually follows, that: “Yes, I took a college or High School course in Geology, and it was very interesting. Physical Geology opened my eyes to the outdoors, which I could now understand as I drove in the western USA, where road cuts, mountains in the distance, and eroding streams formed a more entertaining conversation than ‘When are we going to get There?’”
“But when I took the second subject, which was usually about the history of the earth from fossils, or of the categorization of minerals or rocks, I drifted off.”
The prospective student was turned off by the Geologists’ use of an enormous categorization of the earth and its relics, when he realized that this all required a prodigious memory, and that he was to resort to becoming a Bookkeeper for facts about the earth. Furthermore he didn’t see the value of noticing the small changes which occur yearly in the outcrop of rocks or with the geography of his surroundings (which does not require abnormal classification).
My reply to all this is that everyone will eventually purchase some real estate or station himself in a part of the earth which is moving. He then may be able to evaluate his potential holdings by determining what is moving now, or what is about to move in his future site. Vulcanism, erosion, fractures in the earth, soil movement, gases arising from the ground, and chemical changes in the landscape or garden will slowly make themselves known. After his property develops widening cracks or his concrete slab or footer breaks, he will then inquire whether the developer sold him a profitless “Bill of Goods”. Caveat Emptor is the usual answer- Let the buyer beware! Once you have made the purchase, dealing with the Earth is your responsibility. You should have checked out the Reaction of the Earth in advance!
The student who regularly scans the earth for subtle changes can make his own appraisal of the movements which are happening. This will make him aware of his environment, and will also improve his curiosity and his stimulation to learn about Nature. Then the regular hike in his neighborhood will become less of a routine and more of a vital part of his intellect. He becomes his own Scientist! After he discovers something which arouses his curiosity, he will easily find some answers in available literature or on the Internet Search. His own personality will demand answers, and he may find that conventional geology does not have them. Then he will really be involved, since the impetus of original discovery is a powerful part of his Ego. This will drive him to the outdoors regularly! The physical hiking, exercise, and emotional connection to the earth then will be a work benefit- subservient to his quest for Knowledge of the Earth.
The 4 Corners states of AZ, CO, NM, & UT exhibit the Colorado Plateau, CP, which is our area of Investigation.
Usage of PorOgle Blog (web log)
PorOgle is a weekly magazine for those interested in the things happening recently at the Earth’s Surface. The staff hopes that you will be able to enjoy it, without having to resort to a Dictionary of Terms, and we will try to define each new term as it is used. Should something be re-used, you will have to refer to the original Blog which contained the term. Geology is filled with its own nomenclature, which is mainly designed to communicate with professionals who use a contrived language. This is not helpful to the general public, and an attempt will be made to use ordinary language. It appears that the working Geologist uses classification as a means of avoiding the understanding of movements of the Earth, and we will try to illustrate Dynamics via Photos and ideas.
Mainly, this Blog documents events which are happening now, and will not resort to classification being used in place of understanding or analysis. However, there is a limit to this generality, and easy-to-use terms from ordinary English will occur.
The mundane use of definitions is necessary, whenever a rarely used name is incorporated. These will be placed in the Glossary below, should you need to find them from older Blogs.
What is the Importance of PorOgle?
Our Goal is to make available a text of the events occurring about the Earth’s Crust, which are not readily available to the public from geological publications. This concerns not only movements of rock, fluids (such as gas, oil, and water), heat, earthquakes or seismic events, soil, and artificial constructions affected by these events, but also the geophysical entities which may not be obvious with daily observation. Examples are Chemical, Electrical, Magnetic, Mechanical, Radioactive, and Thermal changes in the Earth’s Crust. Some of these may be noticeable, when regular hikes are made locally, when otherwise the public would not sense them.
There must be a reference to location, when we hike in a new part of the landscape, and we will use the grid developed by surveyors and mapmakers. It would be better to use the new GPS system, which relies on a world-wide system of Latitude and Longitude, but this will cause our inner navigational system to atrophy; also the maps most readily available use Sections, Townships and Ranges.
Google Map of the Virgin River near Hurricane shows Features which may be delineated by Color, by Reference to known locations or objects, and by Surface Disruption.
Glossary (which will be augmented as terms are used in Blogs)
Anticline-Syncline: The geometric synclinal arrangement of rocks is in the shape of a trough- either at the surface of the ground or in the subsurface. For Layered rocks, the syncline resembles a basin or shallow U for the individual layers. The opposite shape is shown in an anticline, which has the layers arranges similarly to a hill- which may be at the ground surface or in a canyon wall (which is only uncovered in the stream-eroded portion). By mapping, either shape may be inferred in the subsurface- never seen. The mapped contours will be somewhat parallel, but if they are closed it infers a dome or sink (Not the same shape or term)
Basalt: Extrusive rock, which was previously lava which flowed onto the surface (either ground or ocean bottom). It has a similar composition to Gabbro (the intrusive), which contains Iron-Magnesium and plagioclase feldspar primarily. It appears dark- black to Green- due to the varying amounts of hornblende, pyroxene, and olivine minerals. Remember that a rock contains minerals with varying amounts, and can be colored by trace components. Oceanic basalts are primarily theoliite (ferro-magnesian silicates), whereas those on continents are primarily alkali olivine basalts (containing more Ca and Mg).
Basalt is primarily composed of Plagioclase Feldspar, Pyroxene, and Iron, but is different comparing Oceanic emissions to continental extrusions (there is more olivine, continentally, compared to more pyroxene in the island-building portion of Hawaiian eruptions). This may be a clue to events happening with linear chains of islands (quiet flows) when comparing them with Island Arc eruptions (explosive). When there is more feldspar in continental lavas (which is a source of the silicates), at the expense of pyroxene, the lava will be more sticky, as in the effluent from glass-blowing, hence more explosive. Should the Hawaiian rocks, such as Theoliitic basalts, have accompanying Argon, A, or Leucite containing Potassium, K, this would hint that the magma originated from a region with high radioactivity (from K40). If so, this could explain the long-lasting emission of magma under the Hawaiian Islands. The K40 has a half-life in the billions of years, so could contribute melting longer than the expected 200k year cycle of subduction-seafloor spreading noticed in The Atlantic Ocean basin. This probably is NOT the reason for the continuing placement of the individual islands, since the Pacific Basin is expanding in all directions away the new islands. There likely is an upwelling of diffused magma caused by convergence of heat toward the point of emission.
Kilauea on the Big Island of Hawaii has Basalt in the form of Molten Lava over-running the SE coast now!
Think of these terms, used in Geological Nomenclature, similarly to your toothpaste tube. When you squeeze the tube (stress it, mechanically), there is an extrusion- it extrudes toothpaste. Likewise when the earth squeezes the crust, molten lava is extruded through pre-existing fractures or cracks. The plural is the most common use of this term- extrusives, since many flows may have contributed to the rock you see. Either term may be used as an adverb or adjective, as intrusive flowing rock
An Intrusion (or Intrusive) is the adverse of extrusion- it infers that the same extrusive magma, which flowed out on the surface of the ground, never reached the surface in this category, but remained in the crust until it was uncovered by erosion for all to see. The mineral composition of both ex- and intrusions may be similar. For example, intrusive granite is a large grained rhyolite, a gabbro is crystallized basalt, and a diorite is a large-grained andesite. You can reason that the difference in grain size is due to the faster rate of cooling (too fast to grow visible crystals) for the extrusive. The most common igneous rock found at the ground surface is granite, while the most common rock from vulcanism is basalt- either of which may have been eroded considerably by the time you find them.
Kilauea Caldera on the big island of Hawaii is the "present" Example of an active Basalt (Tholeiitic) extrusion.
Formation: A Stratigraphic term, which names a particular collection of rocks or minerals- a recognizable and distinct layer or stratum in the Crust. It is formed under a given set of conditions- geographical, geochemical, geothermal, and historical- where it is defined by them. It is not defined for a particular Time, but relates to a given environment producing a type of Life, as shown in its associated Fossils. An example is Jk or Jurassic Kayenta formation, which was first described for a Navajo Reservation village location, and which may be found in Triassic or Jurassic time. It may be moved from one time measurement to another by agreement with Geologists, when fossils are found in it which more precisely fix its chronological position in the Time Record (recently it has been firmly fixed as being Jurassic, until the next unyielding-invariable measurement is made).
These Formations have been contorted from their original flat and level deposition, due to "sliding" off the slope created by the Pine Valley Uplift after it was eroded (since its 21 mybp age of intrusion).
Fractures, as I define them, are a set of parallel cracks in the Surface Rocks, which are within yards of each other, and which yield a consistent orientation.Fractures: Jointing is the overall term, used by geologists, for cracks and linear fractures in rocks. As used in this Blog, fractures refers to a specific type of joint: a set of linear cracks- at least 2- which are parallel to each other, and within a few meters apart, which are distinct enough to be measured in relation to true North by a compass. Other types of joints, which are used by the field geologist include:
1. Temperature-induced cracks, such as those heard and seen in granite, due to daily expansion and contraction. This is similar to those man-induced by campfires, and are called exfoliation cracks;
2. Small displacement faulting, such that the measured movement is uncertain;
3. Cracks induced by Man, caused by blasting or mechanical shock;
4. Random cracks caused by sliding or slumping or other natural event (e.g. earthquakes)- these will have some analyzable orientation, but it will be due to a local movement; and
5. Cracking caused by lightning or other events from the atmosphere, such as meteors, volcanic boulders, or forest fires.
Fractures used in this Blog refer to those caused by large-scale or regional mechanical stress in the Crust. They will have a discernible pattern over a region, and are authenticated by finding several which are parallel to each other, and by elimination of all of the categories listed above. They may accompany recognizable faulting, which orients in the same direction. A region may be the whole western USA, or the Colorado Plateau, or a smaller subdivision on the order of kilometers. Once the orientation is established, an anomalous area may be determined by noticing a set of fractures which deviate by more than 20 degrees from the larger regional pattern. It should be noted that geologists may not recognize this specific type of jointing, and that these fractures are part of a continuum and should be treated analytically and not by classification.
Parallel Fractures, which fit my Definition, help locate the Hurricane Fault, even though they are not at the Primary Scarp. Notice how the Main Fault creates a Saddle in the Distance (Horizon) which aligns with the Parallel
A Fracture which is displaced by another is the older (the younger will maintain its orientation).
Range: A range is measured east or west of some centrally-located starting point in a state (such as Utah), and it is a square subdivision of land- in size similar to a Township. It contains 36 sections, and has 6 x 6 square miles, but since it has a north to south dimension, it may get progressively smaller at the top of the block due to the curvature of the earth. For this case, the divisions to the north may be smaller than a square mile (or section). The conventional use is as follows: S1 T42S R13W, which means that the location is 42 x 6 miles south of Salt Lake City (SLC) and 13 x 6 miles west of SLC in section one.
Google Photo from Space shows the Virgin River near Hurricane, which may be referenced to known objects, to Color Changes, and to Contrasting Geological Features on the surface.
Resisitivity: The electrical resistance of a cubic block of rock or earth, with dimensions one meter in each direction: R = E/I, volts impressed/flowing amperes for a cubic meter block, electrically measured through an area of a square meter: ohm-meters, (Ωm³/m²).
ShalElog is a patented logging process, using cuttings or samples of the earth, to produce a slurry (or mud) made with equal weights of distilled water and fine clay or silt particles. The slurry may be measured for resistivity and other parameters (such as color and texture), and its liquid fraction may be filtered at standard conditions to produce a filtrate for property measurement. The liquid contains ions and colloids, which represent information which is measurable. Examples include ionic concentrations, rate of filtration (minutes per 10 cubic centimeters), resistivity or conductivity, color of liquid, and pH (acidity or alkalinity. The paper Log is made showing the variation of these properties (or parameters) with depth, extending left or right of a baseline, and vertically down the baseline or Log. It is similar to the Electric Log used in the oil industry, in that it represents the measurement of earth properties presented versus depth, and can be interpreted similarly- to obtain zones of rocks (or Formations) and the properties they exhibit, so that conclusions regarding the rock and its fluid contents may be evaluated for Geological Purposes.
Calderas and Craters: The difference between these types is that of size- the division being at the kilometer diameter (large versus small). A Caldera may have an explosive character, or be more benign as is Kilauea in Hawaii- the difference being that of composition of its lava (see the photo below, for the Big Island). An example I have investigated for the explosive caldera is that of Hackberry, near Camp Verde and the Verde River, AZ. Tuffs or airborne ash deposits will accompany this explosion, and form sediment-like layers for many miles distant, whereas Calderas on Pacific Islands have almost no ash, and flow molten basalt over large distances (the island, made of basalt may be 50 km in diameter). The size of a volcanic depression is dependant upon the available molten rock in the magma chamber. Magma is the term for lava which has not reached the surface of the ground and for it to produce a caldera requires large-scale fracturing of the crust. An explosive caldera indicates that the magma originated from silicate-dominated composition (sticky lavas), which would originate in the Crust, whereas Kilauea-like depressions indicate a source in the Mantle, where there is a higher iron content which crates a slag-like flow. The Crater or Caldera walls around the depression are a result of the sinking of the molten rock occurring after the preliminary explosions or flows.
Slickensides: A preserved fault surface, on which is shown the planar path of a block of earth which has been sheared by faulting. The slick surface may show tracks of moving hard particles, such as grooves, which have been carved by the falling block’s grains. Generally, the heat and pressure generated by the grinding of one block by another has dissolved the original material and replaced it with silicates- which are harder or have greater shear strength. An example is that of limestone with hardness of 3 being replaced by silicate (such as agate) in the interface with a hardness of 6 or 7. The silica separated from a carbonate rock is probably from the inclusions of sand in the limestone- which have dissolved and re-precipitated in the fracture between the two oppositely-moving blocks.
Stress in the Earth: Pressure and Stress have similar units, stress referring to the Rock Frame, with pressure an omni-directional force per unit area, in fluid. This is force F over an area a, usually in psi, pounds per square inch, in English units. Whereas pressure refers only to that in the fluid phase- gases, organic fluids, or water- stress connotes the force exerted only on the rock frame. Since fluid may occupy as much as 30% of the total space (80% in the case of pumice), the solids may carry the total force on only 70% of the areal portion presented; but the convention is to refer to the entire rock space (voids included) affected. Note that a fluid is either gas or liquid, or both- called two-phase (3 phase refers to the inclusion of solids in the liquid). Pressure is easily measured by gages or with shrinkage indications.
Stress orientation is directional, whereas pressure in fluid acts in all directions. Stress in the Crust is indicated by fractures or faulting, which exhibits the tendency for shear, but the magnitude is known only by measurement, such as with strain gages or calibrated jacks. Note that stress and strain are not the same, the convention being that a stress applied results in a movement or strain (stress is in pressure units, while strain is in length of extension, shear, or compression).
Township (also see Range): A square subdivision of land, which is 6 statute miles in N-S and E-W directions. Each square mile is called a section, of which there are 36 in the township (6 x 6). These were carved out of the land, sometimes with horse and wagon, so that a cloth could be placed on the wagon wheel for determining a mile distance. For a suitable number of rotations of the wheel, as noted by the cloth, a mile would be marked- hence the township would have been short of long by the amount of the imprecision of the measured wheel diameter. This gave rise to the real estate acreage term still in use: More or Less.
The Mile used is the English mile, 5280 feet, even though the English now use the Kilometer (which is 3280.8 feet). There are other miles used internationally- such as the Nautical mile, which is 6080 feet.Shear- Cutting or Sliding Parallel to Direction of Stress:
Stress or Pressure which is exerted in a given direction results in strain or shear in that same direction, whenever there is a resisting stress, side-by-side, in the opposite direction. This is the case of two Crustal blocks which tend to move in opposite directions, under the impetus of two separate stresses, e.g. the American continent moving west, with the Juan de Fuca block moving eastward. The resultant of this may be diagonal faulting or simple sliding. I have observed both of these types of faulting on Whidbey Island- NW-SE sliding and E-W shear in scarps. This type of fault is labeled a transform, whenever it occurs laterally on the ground surface or on the ocean bottom (from acoustic soundings) - see below:
Transform (lateral shear) Fault: These fault traces are lengthy in distance, thousands of kilometers shown for the Pacific Basin. The movement is lateral, or sideways, with both vertical upward and downward components. On land, they are observed as traces along the ground surface, which accompany relative movement of objects (such as fences shifted into two straight separate segments). Standing on one side of the trace, the ground and its artifacts are observed to move to the left on the opposite side (and vice versa) with a left lateral fault or transform. Many of these fault traces align on a NW-SE or NE-SW orientation on land, while in the Pacific Basin they orient along latitude lines. It is believed that those on land are due to sliding of Crustal Blocks alongside each other. In the Pacific, where there are no opposing blocks, the movement may be due to shear of separate segments of a crustal block into masses with two separate velocities. This will occur as distance from the equator (with attending reduction of surface velocity as distance from the zero Latitude) increases. This is due partly to the shear accompanying reduction of the global spin rate with time (about 1000 seconds for a million years).
The Pine Valley Mountains, PVM, are a SW-NE trending Feature, which are of 21 mybp age, and are an Igneous Intrusion called a Laccolith (a Granite-like Rock called Monzonite). They are a Reference for timing our other Active Features.
Below is a True Missive, concocted after Col. Wasson and I undertook to hike into the Little Colorado River. This is laughable enough to re-print!
The Blue Springs Files (Halloween, 03)
It was an ominous and threatening day, when the notorious Black Bart and his sidekick Fang set out on their mission into the bowels of the Little Colorado Canyon, in quest of the fabulous Blue Springs. I use the word bowels lightly, since they had been forewarned of the hex that the Geology God had placed upon them- when a spread-eagled pack rat had been discovered just inches below the limp extremities of Fang, as he lowered himself over the usually commodious seat for his early morning toilet.
“No normal-sized white-throated rat could penetrate this air-tight hovel, especially to inspect the water of your flushing tank” ejaculated Bart, as he poked the rib cage of the giant rodent. “He must have been blown off course by the almost gale-force winds which threatened to cancel our carefully crafted plans,” he whined. Indeed, they had had an abundance of “signs” warning them that they were trying to violate not only the Navajo Hozho, but the sacred emissions of the very base of the Colorado Plateau. It looked grim at the very outset of the descent into the almost one kilometer depths of the initial Waterhole canyon, but the two wily navigators had decided to ignore all premonitions.
Just a day before this fateful decision, the two explorers had had an encounter with One-Eyed Eloise- whose very presence had signaled that the demons of discord were nipping at their ankles. They had made a wrong turn to the medieval castle, called Arcosanti, and had been diverted into an inner sanctum of the most dire circumstances; they had been eerily inducted into the cult of the stilted students of the sterilized studios of stone steps and stained stables- which had slyly drawn them into ancient cultic rites. It just coincidentally had been the very night of the expression of Hallow-of-the-evening ceremonies, when all sort of evil ghouls and spirits were exuding their influences, and the two naïve natives were caught off guard. The stupefacient students had subtly regaled them with ribald tales, and had appointed one of their own- One-Eyed-Eloise- to carefully and slyly involve Black Bart (the credulous) into her bosom of ancient arts.
But I digress!
The two stalwart hikers gazed awkwardly into the inner recesses of the 1500 foot deep slot canyon, which would take them over a tortuous trail of miniscule proportions into the depths of the Kaibab, Coconino, and Supai red beds, when Black Bart the credulous made his prophetic remark: “It looks like something happened here!” Fang grunted at this emission of philosophic revelation, and grimaced as he realized that this would be a day of unrivalled pain and foreboding forbearance.
The niggardly navigators had just wandered some 50 kilometers from the Indian headquarters, where they were supposed to arrange the final details of the trek with a certain Ms. Yazzie, only to find that she was closed on Fridays. Peering through the locked door glass, they could see a terse message hung on the cork bulletin board to the effect that the hikers into the Blue Springs area had to obtain recent warnings (which were on the reverse side of the message). But there was no sign that Ms. Yazzie or anyone else had been at the hut for several days. It was out-to-lunch, dinner, and breakfast as well!
Not to be outdone by such maneuverings, Fang muttered “No Indian bureaucracy is going to frustrate me- I can do that any day of the week all by myself! And so off they went, into the interstices of the reservation, where no road is marked, and only the insouciant native possesses a sense of location. Various trails and two track striations departed the main road, and not a Hogan or other dwelling could be seen for some 20 km- it was unlike any other Arizona location! A place had been picked to relegate the ancient Athapascan, where only he had the time and inclination to determine where in space he would pursue his fortunes. Others, such as the diffident duo, would have to be content with pursuing Fortune’s daughter (misfortune), to locate the incipient canyons of the famed Little Colorado.
The hallucinating hikers launched out on their trek, after carefully strapping on their 40 pound loads- not realizing that it would be an excruciatingly long time before they would see any sign of the comforts of Man again. But manfully, they strode off into the bowels, not fully appreciating that they would soon appear like the flagging packrat –haggard and wan, just before final expiration. Down into the depths they strode, each level becoming more precipitous. It had seemed innocuous at first, with only 20-30 degree slopes- along which there were the inevitable horse apple piles, but now they were face-to-face with a sheer cliff of almost 100 meters drop. A slight indentation in the vertical walls showed that there was a transition from the vertical Kaibab limestone, just above the underlying Toroweep sandstone. “This was a horse trail?” I whimpered with incredulity. The thing was only two foot wide, and tortuously followed a ledge down into the box canyon. There was no other way into the chasm! Facing the almost gale force wind blowing up canyon, the hikers were pinned against the cliff face- if they had tripped and fallen into the gorge, the wind would have levitated them upward. However, the 40 pound loads they bore acted to stanchion them onto the narrow trail, and they persevered.
Once into the box canyon, they were to encounter house-sized boulders, around which they would have to wend their way, or surmount. This was exasperating- they would require 5 hours just to negotiate the chasm, just to reach the Little Colorado, which was only three miles distant! But with dogged determination, they placed one foot in front of the other, and amazingly they confronted only three of the accursed sheer cliffs over which they had to de-levitate. Almost ten pounds of water had been carried for drinking, and it was maddening to see pools of crystal-clear water along the creek bed from an evident recent rain.
Finally, they were almost to the Little Colorado, but no- there was another 30 meter drop into the main creek, without any visual path which could be followed to the sluggishly flowing river below. The only sign that anyone could negotiate the final cliff was the occurrence of an ancient ruin, with smoked walls- indicating that ancient man had found a way. Feverishly the duo combed every inch of the ruin, only to discover that a house-sized slab of Supai rock had slid over the ancient path to the river. But wait- there was a crack under the rubble pile below the 100 ton boulder. Crawling like a reptile, Fang was able to emerge, as from a Sipapu, into a breathless path down to the river. He had made the first hurdle, on the way to the Blue Springs- but without his pack, which carried his camping gear for a subsequent night. Deterred by all of this additional mole-like activity, Bart hung back, exclaiming “You may think that you are a donkey, but for me this is a pain in the ass!” And with that he capitulated, withdrawing to the sanctuary of the ancient petroglyphs, where the faint flute-like sounds of the wind conjured visions of the ones who came before- the Anasazi.
Upon reaching the Little Colorado, which flowed in two channels around numerous islands, Fang found that the conductivity of the water indicated highly mineralized water- that of 4 ohm-meters, or greater than 1000 ppm of dissolved material. This was barely drinkable water, and had flowed somehow from the Supai and Coconino formations along the 15 miles, since it was seen at the town of Cameron, where there was a dry creek bed. The canyon had morphed from a small wide arroyo of about 20 meters depth to a greater than 500 meters deep major canyon in that short distance of 15 miles, and all of the water had to be augmented by springs. There must have been saturated CaSO4 (gypsum) in the water in the springs to get this large mineralization. These would not have been the coveted Blue Springs, but brown, iron-bearing, unpalatable, and muddy water!
Retracing his tracks to the Anasazi ruin, the intrepid hydrologist found that Bart was intractable- he would not proceed on his belly like a reptile to attain the long-sought elixir from the notorious springs. He would ever remain unenlightened, just as he was, unwashed and de-spiritualized. He would not go on! Fang would have to act alone, to acquire whatever of value could be gleaned from this remote corner of the Colorado Plateau.
With a note of sadness, and since Fang could not carry his pack and other gear past the unyielding red stone, the mission was abandoned. The de-commissioned mission was left to the mysterious winds which forever haunt the lonely canyons, and the disillusioned duo returned to the comforts of the white man.
Harold L. Overton