Watching Zion Grow

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The latest installment of Accretionary Wedge is a call to write about the “most memorable/significant geologic event that you’ve directly experienced”. This will be my first contribution to Accretionary Wedge, so if I’m doing it wrong, someone please let me know!

When I first heard the topic, I thought “well, I grew up in Southern California, so I’ve experienced lots of geologic events.” I’ve experienced more earthquakes than I can remember.

The 1994 Northridge quake knocked me out of bed.

I felt the 1987 Whittier Narrows quake while walking to school.

Then there was the one (unnamed, as far as I know) that occurred while I was in the shower, and my 14 year old self panicked at the thought of having to run outside naked.

I was in San Francisco a few weeks after the 1989 Loma Prieta quake, so while I didn’t feel it personally, I saw the aftermath up close.

I was at Mt St Helens a few months after the 1980 eruption. Again, not a direct experience of the event itself, but that experience is certainly something I’ll never forget.

(The real question here is why I didn’t become seriously interested in geology until a couple years ago!)

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A Toe in Salt Lake, Part One

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I just realized that it has been a month since I posted a blog entry. I am so very negligent. I could give you a million reasons, like the fact that I’ve driven through 21 states (and into another country!) since the events of my last entry. Or that I’ve been sick and drunk on Nyquil (except when driving) for the last week. I could tell you that this particular post has been sitting on my computer in partially-finished draft form for several weeks. But I know that none of those sorry excuses can assuage your anguish over going a whole month without me waxing prosaic on topics I know next to nothing about. So I’ll give you part one of this post now, and I’ll finish it up soon and post the rest.

This time the title is accurate, because ewwwwww. But we’ll come back to that.

Just like there was ancient Lake Lahontan in Nevada, there was ancient Lake Bonneville in Utah. And driving through western Utah, you see evidence of it everywhere. At its maximum, it was a huge lake.

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Nevada, You Were Surprisingly Interesting

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After leaving Lake Tahoe, I headed east down the Sierras on US-50, intending to drive across Nevada in one afternoon. I ended up spending three days there.

The stretch of US-50 through Nevada is called “The Loneliest Road in America” because there are only 5 towns along the route and almost nothing in between. Actually, it wasn’t very lonely at all, because there were plenty of other cars traveling in both directions. However, there were a few times where I could no see no cars either ahead of me or behind me. And you can usually see quite far on this road.

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The state tourism board (or whatever it’s called) has even come up with this little “passport” book that you can get stamped at all five towns and send in to get an “I Survived the Loneliest Road” certificate. I got my book stamped, so we’ll see when I get the certificate.

I saw more different kinds of “___ Crossing” signs during my transit across Nevada than I have ever seen: Bear (in Lake Tahoe), Deer, Horse, Cow, Antelope(?), Fire Truck, and Tractor.

One thing about this road is that if you’re at all unclear about what the term “Basin and Range” means, US-50 will straighten you right out.

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A Toe in Lake Tahoe

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So I spent a few days in Lake Tahoe. Well, I wasn’t in Lake Tahoe for a few days, more like a couple minutes. And I was in all the way to my ankles. But I was in the area for a few days. Was it ever gorgeous.

I dare you to click on that and not fall instantly in love.

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I left my <3 in San Francisco, Part Three: Field Trips

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I took another field trip during my stay in the Bay Area: to Napa Valley. Unfortunately, I picked Labor Day weekend to do this, and everyone else in the Western Hemisphere was doing the same thing. Between the crowds and the fact that I was driving, I abstained from imbibing the local spirits.

But, like me, my day was not totally wasted, because I found a few geologically interesting places. The thing that most defines Napa Valley, besides the wine, is the volcanism. Back when there was subduction happening on the coast of California, there was a string of volcanoes along the continental margin, usually 50 to 200 miles from the subduction trench. This is always the case when you have subduction because that oceanic plate dives into the mantle, melts, and goes the only way it can go: up! This is still going on in the Cascades, as well as in Alaska, and Japan, and Chile…hey that’s pretty much the whole Ring of Fire thing, isn’t it?

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I left my <3 in San Francisco, Part Two

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While I was in the Bay Area, I did some touristy things, like riding the cable cars.

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I left my <3 in San Francisco, Part One

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I love San Francisco. I really do. I’m not really much of a big city kind of girl, but San Francisco is one of the few big cities where I would willingly live. Except that it’s really, really expensive. And hilly. Ask my calves.

Of course, what other picture could I use to lead off my memoir of San Francisco:

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