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

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.

Bruh, Volcanoes

Authored by Not Wanderlust’s head geologist: Evan Dismukes
I should have prefaced my previous post with this, but I didn’t and now it’s even more relevant the further north we get. All volcanic activity on the west coast is a result of the Pacific Continental Plate being subducted underneath the North American Plate. This interaction is also what causes the earthquakes that occur from Argentina all the way to Alaska. I know I mentioned the possibility for tsunamis before when I was talking about Lake Tahoe, but when you see tsunami evacuation routes along the coast, that doesn’t mean “let the surfers have the best wave of their lives” it genuinely means “I hope you brought your floaties.”
Our first stop for this post was Lassen Volcanic National Park. The most interesting things we did there was compare the snowbanks to our height and pitch a tent on the snow. I’m not saying it was boring, that’s just all we did because there was so much snow you couldn’t drive past the visitor’s center. We did walk up to the first stop which had a couple steam vents, a mud pit and the distinct overpowering smell of sulfur. We could see a couple peaks from this spot which are the remnants of the caldera collapse that occurred in the area. That was cool and all, but it was getting dark and we decided we should probably pitch our tent on top of the snow to help keep us from being too cold that night.

Then, we made our way over to the coast starting by Trinidad on our way to Redwoods. Most of the geology here is getting back to sandstones, shale and cheer which helps build the fertile ground to support the redwood trees that cover the area. This also means that you really can’t see any of the geology because you have all these stupid trees in the way, but there were elk, so that was cool.

To continue our trend of being inhibited by an epic snowfall year, we arrived at Crater Lake. Only 1 mile of the perimeter road was open, but that was enough to get some photos for mom and attend a presentation by one of the rangers. The crater started out as a shield volcano (think Hawaii) called Mount Mazama. The last time it erupted, it collapsed in on itself forming the caldera that has since been filled with snowmelt. After we left the lake, then decided to continue our trend of camping in fun, new environments so we camped in a mosquito nest.

After me breaking our windshield, we headed to Mount Hood to get my postseason days on snow to eclipse my regular season days on snow. Mount Hood, a volcano, has 12 glaciers covering it which is why it is able to be open 12 months of the year for skiing. When it comes to glaciers, while ample snowfall is important, what’s really key to their existence is very mild weather during the summer. Luckily the Pacific Northwest climate does exactly that combined with indescribably heavy annual snowfalls; the perfect environment for 5-year-olds who wanna do triple corks and 25-year-olds who just wanna ski and live out of their vans. The downside to this volcano is that it is listed by the USGS as the “most likely volcano in Oregon to erupt.” When Hood erupts, it does not explode like the recent Mount Saint Helens or Mount Pinatubo eruptions. It mostly spits out a bunch of ash, which depending on the situation causes two things: if the heated ash interacts with enough snow, it melts the snow and forms Lahars (large mudflows) or if the ash stays hot and there are enough gasses in it to keep the cloud light, it will form Pyroclastic Flows (like an avalanche of dry superheated rock). Both would suck a lot more than being stuck in a snow avalanche because neither your AvaLung nor your AirBag will save you. 

Now we’re prepping for our move north into Washington and hanging out with some more friends in Seattle. From there, we can only hope that our passports will suffice to let us cross the US/Canada border since our PA licenses are now officially not federally recognized as valid IDs. I am a legal natural born citizen. Your move Trump.