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.

Big Trip (Days 25-29)

We finally had the honor of experiencing the forever drenched feeling of being in the Pacific Northwest. Our tent has had so many close calls with drying out, only to have it downpour in the middle of the night. As amusing as it is to watch Evan’s frustration rise (the crazy eyes get real), he’s got nothing on me when I hit my wall. So, I guess you could say this part of the trip is where we broke.
Day 25:

We finally got the remnants of Evan’s hulk mode fixed at an auto glass place in Portland before we hit up Mount Saint Helens. As soon as we got there, we saw three school buses crowding the parking lot. Kids were screaming, dogs were barking and simply utter chaos surrounded us. Luckily, by the time it took us to find our gear in the thrown-together backseat of our tiny car, the kids were back to school. Evan and I are officially cavers now that we’ve hiked the complete darkness of Ape Caves. It was wonderful how quiet and peaceful it was if you muted Evan talking about the “cave snakes.” 

After a few scrapes on my ungraceful self, we left for Mount Rainier National Park. But as we approached the time to find a campsite, Evan kept having me turn around and backtrack because we couldn’t find the campsite he had seen as we drove in. At that moment, I was deep into the state of hangriness. My stomach was screaming and my face was scowled. To add to my lovely mood of the night, we had wifi that reached to our tent which meant Evan decided to go through all of his Instagram captions. “Can I please just go to bed?” I asked over and over again only to be met with “No! See, this caption here is funny because…” Someone please tell me he’s not as funny as he thinks he is. 

Day 26:

I woke in a good mood, but Evan was brooding while standing out in the rain, staring at the drenched tent. We wadded up the dripping tent and left for Mount Rainier, which happened to be rainy as well. 

So, with Evan being slightly sick (probably of me), we only drove around since the combination of cold and rainy would not be optimal for him. From there, we decided to be civilized humans and head to Seattle to take a look out of the Space Needle, watch the Penguins play and catch up with some local friends. Yes, I have friends–they’re not all Evan’s friends. 

Day 27:

We drove up to Olympic National Park and stopped at a visitor’s center. A nice old couple running the place gave us a list of all their favorite spots. They also nonchalantly dropped in the fact that the husband had once flung a woman over his back potato sack style on the beach to show her around. Ok. 

We drove up to Hurricane Ridge and were socked in with fog, but we got snowed on. You could see Evan jumping around just like a husky does in snow. Moving on to more pop-culture relevant moments in our trip, we stayed in La Push that evening. Hello, Twilight fans. I know you’re still out there. As you enter the town, they had a sign mentioning the treaty line and that there was a vampire threat. Quaking in our boots for sure. 

Hearing no werewolf howls, we figured we were safe to camp on Second Beach in La Push. Evan scrambled up a rock to get a better view after we set up the tent. I didn’t see how he had gotten up, so I asked and trusted him when he pointed to the almost completely vertical, crumbly looking rock face. I’m carefully placing my hands and feet all the way up to the top. As soon as I let a breath out and take in the view, Evan goes, “I didn’t go that way.” He then showed me the side that was basically a ramp. He didn’t even have to use his hands. He said, “I figured where you went would be doable.”  Thanks, Evan. 

We watched the sun set behind the large rock formations on the beach and retreated to our now nearly dry tent. As we were being lulled to sleep by the sound of crashing waves, we heard the slow start to an eventually steady rain. I promise that with each drip, Evan’s eye twitched. 

Day 28:

When we arose from our tent in the morning, we found that high tide was much higher than expected. We were lucky to not have been dragged out to sea like a raft. 

This day was slightly uneventful with merely a short stroll through the Hoh Rainforest (which was cool), eating at a restaurant called Restaurant and attempting to refill medication at the CVS with a woman who definitely had too much coffee that morning. All good and easy until I hit my wall. Usually I do tend to get slaphappy and laugh a bit when I’m tired, but this was another level. 

It all started with finding our dinner place for the evening that tooted its horn for having “great vegarian” food. Intrigued yet confused, we waltzed into the restaurant. There was some tasty food, but all of a sudden I couldn’t stop thinking about how the sign said “great vegarian.” I was almost immediately crying from laughter, and I couldn’t contain myself for the entire span of dinner. I could barely see out of my eyes. Luckily, Evan was the designated driver for the evening. He tried telling me I should have a beer to calm myself down, but I figured I was under enough of my own influence that I shouldn’t stir the pot. 

Day 29:

Waking up in North Cascades National Park, we got the chance to check it out. We hit up Diablo lake which was a gorgeous view of “The American Alps.” 

From there, we drove up to Vancouver, British Columbia and found a bar to watch the Penguins win the Stanley Cup. After their win, the bartender said “I knew they’d do it, but two in a row is excessive.” I don’t know how being awesome can get old, but we’ll go with it. 

At the bar, Evan and I looked up campsites nearby. There were very few, so we hit up the first one we found. It ended up being on a hill in the suburbs of Vancouver. It also happened to just be a parking lot with two other people sleeping in their cars. As we rolled up, we spotted a bear right next to our car. Not feeling like being torn apart by baby bear in the dark of night, we slept in our car and tried not to venture outside. Since we were nervous about the bear and it was getting late, I used my GoGirl for only the second time (it meant I wouldn’t have to be cheeks out and vulnerable in the bear’s lair). Not a great idea if you’re nervous about bears apparently. I guess since I was looking around to check for predators (hello, cat-like instincts), I didn’t fully have the GoGirl in the “locked position.” In my rush, I dribbled all over my pants like a four year old in a diaper. Evan was dying laughing at me, but it’s not like I’ve had years of experience with the thing! I quickly threw off my pants, took a baby wipe shower and snuggled into my sweats. 

Mosquito update: that night, Evan swore he heard a mosquito buzzing in our car, and was trying to find and kill it like he was a head hunter on a mission. I think he’s definitely cracking. 

Clearly our mental stability is a bit nonexistent right now, but neither of us has yet to throw the other out of the car. I think that’s a win in my book right now–that silver lining is key. Check back in a bit for what’s next: weird coincidences, Glacier National Park, Yellowstone and the Tetons.