Thursday, December 6, 2018

Wait a Minute...What Happened to the Rocks I Picked Out?

Something kind of extraordinary happened on campus this week. I was pausing between classes and saw a large truck and a crane downstairs in the staging area for the Great Valley Outdoor Nature Lab. The crane was dumping gigantic rocks onto the ground. "My" rock collection had arrived!! You might remember that early last month I went 'rock collecting' in the Sierra Nevada foothills for the rocks that will be part of the displays and landscaping of the outdoor. All 60 tons or so...
My response about their arrival on campus was predictable...

But if you remember the scene in "Elf" when Buddy thought Santa was in the store only to discover he was a fake, well, I had that moment too. I saw that something was off about the rocks I had selected. Something was different about them. Below was the rock that I selected a month ago, when it was 85 degrees out, and rain had not fallen in months...
And here (below) is the rock they claim I picked out. This after nearly two weeks of rain and cooler temperatures. This rock is clearly on a PALLET of LIES!

Well, okay, maybe it isn't on a pallet like the others, and maybe it is the same rock I picked out. But you can now see one of the main reasons I picked it, and why it will be sitting in a position of honor by the entrance sign to the outdoor nature lab. Not only is it a unique rock that is found in our region (the latite of Table Mountain), it is also a miniature ecosystem of mosses, lichens, grass, and other organisms. To see it, just add water!
In any case, we now have an astounding variety of the rocks that are found in our region. There is marble from the Calaveras Complex, the host rock of the many caverns that are found in the Sierra Nevada foothills.
There is a gigantic chunk of the quartz from the Mother Lode veins, the source of the gold that played such a huge (and devastating) part in the history of California. Sorry, no visible gold (although I'll keep looking).
One of the most striking rocks are the "tombstone rocks" of the Foothills Terrane, large fins of slate and phyllite that were once mud and silt on the ocean floor. The rocks were crushed against the western edge of North America, metamorphosed, and tilted vertically. We'll be putting them in the ground in the same vertical orientation. It will be a dramatic sight at the southern entrance to the lab.

The next step comes at the end of the week. I'll get to help direct the placement of the rocks! I'll try not to be insufferably picky..."Could you rotate that one about four inches? Great! Wait...I liked it better the way it was...". An update will follow.

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