Sunday, June 12, 2011

Geology Lesson

We’re making our way to the mountains with the second set of pairs. Being on the trail during the first warm weekend means lots of recreationers driving to and fro. Some folks enjoy seeing the cows and calves. I told one family they could ease through the herd, but they were reluctant to leave and even got out to walk behind the cows for awhile. “No one is in a hurry up here are they?” said the driver. Truth is, many sightseers are annoyed by us and hardly slow down.

Seth schooling Classic

We stopped at White Slides just after noon. Seth and I hiked down into the slides, he with his binoculars and me with my camera. We left Anna and her dog Clyde tending the herd. Some cows keep their calves at their side when trailing, others walk on ahead, so "mothering up" is an important daily activity. They have a strong instinct to go back to where the calf last sucked so they need to be watched until they find each other.

The slides are a geological wonder. The white layered precipices are in stark contrast to the grey lava bluffs just a short distance away. What long ago lake formed these layers? What combo of fire and water created this peaceful scene? I told Seth about my college course in geology, and how it got boring when all we did was I.D. rocks. He wants to take a course too, and I trust it will be better. 

We followed a muddy path which carries runoff and debris down the bottom of the canyon. I’m forever picking up aluminum cans along the road, so wasn’t surprised to see them here too. And no less than three automobile tires were lodged in the mud.

Seth is all about animals and found a few lizards to pursue. He turns twenty tomorrow, but acts like a kid when immersed in nature. For me, it's the plant life I notice. Seeps coming out of the north aspect, and dry conditions on the south, make a paradox of species - moss under fir on the cooler, wetter, north side, and rice grass under juniper on the drier, southern exposure.   

juniper, an old one

 arrowleaf balsamroot 
Cowboy boots aren't the best for hiking, but other than that it was great fun. When we got back to the herd, we found Anna sound asleep. A few cows were having a “graze away;” but no harm done.

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