Ski Bums and Cowboys

Authored by Not Wanderlust’s head geologist: Evan Dismukes

Quick Vocabulary 

Quartzite: metamorphosed sandstone.

Slate: metamorphosed shale.

Marble: metamorphosed limestone.

Igneous: volcanic in origin.

Metamorphic: altered in some way. Either by heat, pressure or deformation.

Burgess Shale: a rock layer famous for having some of the best preserved fossils in the world.

Travertine: type of limestone deposited by mineral springs.

Amphibolites: metamorphosed hornblende.
Now that we have reached the highest latitude for our trip, and witnessed Cat failing at using her SheWee for a second time, we begin our move east. We found out that Canada has it’s own Glacier National Park, traveled through the Canadian Rockies and returned to the U.S. despite our Border Patrol’s best efforts to deny natural born citizens access to their homeland.
We finally made it to Glacier, except we had no idea we arrived. Driving along the TransCanada Highway, you pass right through Glacier National Park and, since we didn’t see the sign, we didn’t notice any difference. The mountains along this highway are pretty much the same, but they’re all beautiful regardless. The mountains in western British Columbia are called the Selkirks, and are all heavily metamorphosed. The way I described metamorphosed rock to Cat was “see those sqwiggley lines in the rock? Yea that means mad stuff was going on, and it is super cool!” The “mad stuff” produces really cool structure and colors in the rock. The rocks that you see here are mostly quartzite, slate and marble, but there are also large limestone layers. These limestone layers get dissolved by flowing water and begin to form large cave systems in the area. Seeing as we didn’t go caving, we were unable to learn anything about the local cave snake population in the area.

As you continue east from Glacier, you leave the Selkirks and head into the Canadian Rockies. These are a continuation of the Rockies in the U.S. but with some differences. In Canada they are mostly made up of sedimentary rocks and have a history of being much more glaciated. The Rockies in the U.S. are mostly igneous, metamorphic and shaped more by rivers than glaciers. The Canadian Rockies also have a highway called the Powder Highway because of the unbelievable amounts of snow that area gets. So, if the French had their way you could be getting “tits deep” in the “Big Canadian Breasts.”

The part of the Canadian Rockies that we went there were Yoho and Banff National Parks. I list these together because in addition to their geology, they also share their border which is the Continental Divide (which doubles as the British Columbia/Alberta border). This is the heart of the Canadian Rockies, and, as I said earlier, this is mostly made up of sedimentary rocks and is heavily glaciated. In Yoho, there is an area with the Burgess Shale. This layer is one of the best places in the world to collect fossils. When this layer was forming, it was doing so in a way that preserved fossils more effectively than anywhere else. 

After realizing that all U.S. Border Patrol people are unpleasant, we arrived at Glacier/Waterton Lakes National Park. This Glacier is the one you’re thinking of, and Waterton Lakes is the Canadian extension. This park is still a lot more like the Canadian Rockies than the U.S. Rockies in that it is mostly sedimentary rocks and has been carved out by glaciers more than rivers. What’s really cool is that the top layers of rock are much older than the bottom layers. After the newer rock was deposited, about 140 million years ago, older rock, about 1.5 billion years old, was thrusted up and over the newer rock from almost 50 miles away. However, this wasn’t interesting enough so we went in search of larger breasts.

Despite the lack of interesting female anatomy, we decided to make a stop in Yellowstone. If you remember from earlier, I mentioned that Yellowstone is a 7/7 on the volcano scale. The last time it erupted was around 640,000 years ago so we’re pretty okay for now, but when this place erupts, it explodes bigtime. The caldera of the volcano makes up about half of the park and formed the depression that is now called Yellowstone Lake. All the hot spring activity in the park is a result of water interacting with the magma chambers that still exist under the ground. The super-heated water reacts with the rock around it and picks up different minerals. As the water arrives at the surface it does many different things: it can be a steam vent, a geyser, a mud volcano or just a hot spring. When the water becomes one of these, the minerals it picked up along the way also effect what it looks like. For example, you can get wild colors at Prismatic Hot Springs, sulfur deposits around the park or massive travertine deposits like at Mammoth Hot Springs. You can also witness the Jerrys acting unsafely around thousand pound animals and boiling hot pools of water, all of which could easily end them.

With our arrival at the Grand Tetons, we reach the culmination of all my boob jokes courtesy of the French. The French originally named the mountains “The Three Teats” in French, making The Grand the biggest tit. The central Tetons are granite, but these formed as a massive intrusion into the older mountains. The original ones were made up of metamorphic gneiss, schist and amphibolites. These mountains got their shape by being carved out by glaciers, mainly the Yellowstone glacier. And if you visit these, you can confidently say they’re the biggest tits you’ve ever set foot on.

Now that I’m done talking about boobies, we begin to start heading east. We await seeing what the northern central states of the nation are like although we don’t expect anything more than just a colder Kansas. But who knows? Maybe I-90 will surprise us

Big Trip (Days 30-35)

This leg of the trip has truly shown us that we’re not cowboy enough for Montana and Wyoming. Chacos with socks and hiking pants obviously don’t jive with local fashion, so here’s to sticking out like a sore thumb. 
Day 30:

We woke up and headed to Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort. However, being the unemployed vagabonds that we are, we were not willing to pay $60 for the Peak2Peak Gondola. So, we rolled out and started on our long trek to Banff National Park. I was getting very excited about seeing the picturesque Lake Louise (although Evan had something else in mind). 

It sounds like a lazy day since we did nothing but drive. We did stop for ice cream at a farm in the middle of the Canadian boonies which was delicious. We pitched our tent in Revelstoke for the night at a nicer campground which meant showers for the first time in about five days. 

Day 31:

We drove some more…blah blah blah. Exciting part: I probably broke Evan’s eardrum screaming with stoke about seeing big horned sheep and mountain goats on the side of the Canadian highway. 

After Evan nearly slapped me, we showed up to a ski resort. Fancy, I thought, it’s called Lake Louise Ski Resort. So, I turn to Evan and I ask if we’re now going to Lake Louise. “We’re here,” he said. 

We start going back and forth with him saying this is it and me yelling at him for not understanding that there’s a Lake Louise. Finally I yell, “the collection of water, Lake Louise! It’s a lake!” 

Longer story short, I made him realize their was actually a pool of water abutting some mountains. We saw it and it was pretty. You’re welcome, Evan. 

On our drive after viewing the collection of water, we ended up at a restaurant in Fort McLeod. The only other people in the restaurant were two separate couples. Who, as we found out, just happened to be raised in the same town in England as one another. One couple was telling us about their recent road trip to Illinois and Indiana. Evan and I were confused as to why someone would fly all the way over to the states to explore flat corn land. I purposefully didn’t go to the University of Illinois partially because I was bored out of my mind on the drive over. They claimed they wanted to see “normal America” which I don’t believe is a thing to be honest. It was cool they wanted to see the more dull parts of the states to really get a feel for every kind of area we have here. So, yay for exploration. 

Bellies full of garlic bread, we couldn’t seem to find any non-sketchy campground. So, we decided to just continue over the border and snag a campsite in Glacier National Park. The U.S. border patrol guy wasn’t believing us that we didn’t have firewood, and made sure to quadrupole check my face against my passport. After all his questions, though, he was stoked to talk to us since it was late, no one was behind us and he used to live around Pittsburgh. 

We made it to Glacier around midnight, and had a lovely time sleeping in our car again since we got to the campsite so late. 

Day 32:

Apparently not planning well, we decided to hop back over the border into Canada’s park that feeds into Glacier, Waterton National Park. We saw another bear and some red rocks before heading back over the border where we saw another salty U.S. border patroller. She asked us if we had written permission from our parents to use the car they had given us (among other weird/unnecessary questions). I can’t imagine how hard they must be on people when they decide to turn up the scrutiny. However, the Canadian border patrollers were stereotypically Canadian (super nice). 

Excited for a decent hike, we started in on our hike to Grinnell Glacier. It was a beautiful jaunt that was interrupted by a girlish shriek from Evan in front of me. He hopped in the air, and I couldn’t see what had startled him. I thought he’d seen a bear, but in reality he almost had his nuts nipped by some snake that jumped out of the bushes. We made it up alive, though. The view was breathtaking with the glacier and lake, chirping marmots and mountain goats on the distance rock faces. 

We threw together some lunch and headed on our way to Missoula for a night with Evan’s geology friends (they geeked out about geology for a while, naturally). On our way there, though, Evan I stopped in a small town for dinner and the waitress’ first question was “so, where are you guys headed on your trip?” Obviously we’re not cowboy enough. 
Day 33:

Another “lazy” day with an eight hour drive to Jackson, Wyoming. I drove up until we had a half an hour left in the drive because apparently my wall decided to smack me in the face. So, Evan made the last half hour drive with me laughing and crying in the passenger seat. 

Meeting up with friends, we all headed to a chill dinner party. Bonus: I got to sleep in a real bed since they’re adults and have a guest bedroom. Living that cushy life. 

Day 34:

The friend was wonderful and drove Evan and me around Yellowstone for the entire day. We saw Old Faithful explode while surrounded with about 1,000 of our closest friends. We did get to beat the crowds when some rain came through. It didn’t deter us because bison. I absolutely love bison, and I wasn’t about to miss those dudes for rain. (See Evan’s Snapchat about my bison face. Find someone who looks at you like I look at bison).  

Day 35:

We had the chance to borrow a canoe and head toward String and Leigh Lakes at the base of the Teton Mountains in Grand Teton National Park. It was cabrewing at its finest for sure. The mountains were gorgeous and, since there were only two oars, I was sitting in the middle charged with protecting the cooler. 

Some people camping along the lake looked at me and shouted to ask what I was doing. “Drinking a beer,” I told them. The response was simply met with a round of applause. 

However, it wasn’t all just easy hanging out. We did have to portage from String to Leigh Lake. Pics or it didn’t happen you say? Sibling teamwork right before your eyes:

We didn’t stop the excitement there because the rodeo was calling our name. Mostly, Evan wasn’t about to miss the show because he gets stoked on the rodeo. It was a normal, fun rodeo until they called everyone 12 and under to go into the sand pit. They released sheep with towels on them and told the children to get them. Hoards of kids immediately stampeded. It was a madhouse. Pretty wild end of the day. 

Next up: Mount Rushmore National Memorial, the Badlands and Theodore Roosevelt National Parks.

From Gorillas to Grizzlies

Authored by Not Wanderlust’s head geologist: Evan Dismukes 

Quick Vocabulary

Basalt: a type of lava. 

Pyroclastic flow: a superheated ash cloud that moves along the ground at high rates of speed. 

Stratovolcano: a cone shaped volcano made up of ash, lava and pumice. 

Lahar: a mud flow. 

Accretionary wedge: the rock and sediment that gets scraped off the plate that is being subducted. 
I know I’m currently behind in these posts, but we’ve been insanely busy since the last one. I’m finally being able to write this since I didn’t have any opportunities to do research in the past week (hopping from wifi hotspot to wifi hotspot in Canada doesn’t help). I’ll chose to blame all of this on the U.S. Border Patrol officers that we’ve dealt with over the past week. Everytime we enter Canada it’s a “Hello” and “Enjoy your stay,” but every time we return to the U.S. it’s “do you have written permission from your parents to operate this vehicle?” without even a “welcome home.”

We started out by going to Mount St. Helens, and before we found out that most of the volcano was closed due to snow, we hiked through Ape Cave. Ape Cave is about a mile long cave that used to be a basaltic lava tube. The basalt means that everything down there is black, and being underground for a mile means the only thing you can hear are the cave snakes hissing “yaaaaaassssss.” 

Once you escape the cave snakes, you emerge atop the Mount St. Helens National Volcano. Mount St. Helens, as anyone older than a millennial or people in the Pacific Northwest will know, is an active volcano which has erupted as recently as 2008. When I say “erupted” you’re probably thinking of its 1980 explosion, but that is merely one way a volcano can erupt. To compare these two, the 1980 eruption was rated a 5/7 on the volcano rating scale, similar to earthquake or tornado scales, and the only larger type of explosions are from volcanoes like Mount Pinatubo (6/7) or Yellowstone (7/7). When it comes to the 2008 eruption, it was a slow eruption that produced gas, ash clouds and formed some new rock in the caldera. This actually occurred over a 2 year period from 2006 to 2008. Mount St. Helens is a stratovolcano which is classified by how it erupts; for example, Mount St. Helens’ 1980 eruption had pyroclastic flows, lahars and ash explosions. Despite being an active volcano, none of its eruptions have made a dent in the area’s cave snake population. So, if you plan on hiking in the area, I definitely recommend bringing your favorite Yas Cat to protect yourself from the snakes.

Our last stop before Seattle was Mount Rainier, the largest zombie volcano in the region. This is another stratovolcano like Mount St. Helens, but unlike Mount St. Helens, it’s not visible from Mount Hood or Portland and isn’t “active” (it’s “dormant but alive”). That weird designation means that it’s not erupting, but it’s not extinct because earthquakes are recorded as originating from the volcano. These quakes are thought to be a result of magma activity in the core of the volcano. So, it’s kind of like someone who has just died in The Walking Dead, they’re dead but eventually could start moving again. 

Being a stratovolcano like Mount St. Helens, it has all the same attributes. However, being a bigger volcano, everything is magnified. Mount Rainier’s larger size allows for larger and more glaciers to exist which fuel the lahars. In past eruptions, this volcano has produced lahars that reach Puget Sound, and the seismic activity has even caused tsunamis in the sound. Other than keeping an eye on the mountain, really the best thing the hipsters in Seattle can do to save themselves is to burn as much coal as possible to melt the glaciers and prevent the lahars burying the city until they get drowned by the tsunamis. Either way, the world wins because we got rid of a large population of hipsters (there is always a silver lining).

After surveying the potential devastation that is modern day Seattle from the top of the Space Needle, we headed over to the coastal rainforests of Olympic National Park. In the center of the park is Mount Olympus which is the largest and most glaciated mountain in the park, and the state, without being a volcano. Originally, this whole area was not part of the continent. If you go to the beaches, you can get a glimpse of how this place came to be. There are plenty of seamounts visible from the beaches of the park. These are what formed the geology of this park by being slammed into the continent, as the Pacific plate subducted under the North American plate, and formed an accretionary wedge. Seeing as this is where La Push and Forks exist, I feel forced to make a Twilight joke, but no one really wants that. Just know that high tide is higher than you think it is. We almost drifted away in the middle of the night because I underestimated where high tide was in relation to my tent.

The last location we reach in this post is the Hoover Damn of the Pacific Northwest, also known officially as North Cascades National Park. Most of the park that you could access by a car were lakes formed by power-generating dams which have high tension power lines running through the park–giving it a weird feel. This area is made up of granite and gneiss that were uplifted and then eroded by glaciers to form the valley. This whole area is still being uplifted and has more glaciers than anywhere in the U.S. outside of Alaska. While the rocks were cool, I was kind of bored by the man-made aspect of the lakes, and I then found that my favorite part about this visit was seeing and hearing a green Lamborghini Murcielago rip around on the canyon roads.

Now, we began our jaunt across the border into the Great White North, only to be confused as to why everything was so expensive. We got to witness some arctic birds prospecting for silver in Tennessee from a bar in Vancouver, but that is the closest thing to geology that is going to exist in this concluding paragraph since there’s no natural concrete in Canada apparently.