One of my favorite parts of Colorado is its great diversity in the ranges of the Rocky Mountains. One of those hotspots of “oddity” is the vast Sahara-like desert of sand dunes in the San Luis Valley. Of course California, New Mexico, and Arizona has tons of sand dunes – but Colorado’s is very unique, especially at the foot of snow-covered mountain peaks and being the tallest dunes in the United States. This geologic feature extends 5 x 7 miles with a grand height of 700 feet above the valley floor (over 7,600 feet above sea level). As early as 440,000 years ago, the dunes were formed from the Rio Grande River’s and associated tributaries flowing through the San Luis Valley. Over a period of several thousand years, and continually growing today, the westerly winds blow the sand over the Rockies and down along the river flood plain, collecting sand, and depositing them on the east edge of the San Luis Valley before the winds rise up and over the Sangre de Cristo mountain range shaping these huge stable dunes. There are also some parts of the dunes where patches of black sand can be found made up of magnetite deposits as crystalline iron black oxide. Medano Creek winds through the dunes as it is fed by melting snow from the mountains. It extends roughly 10 miles, flowing from spring and early summer from the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and disappears into the floor of the valley. An unusual feature of the creek is that it never finds a permanent and stable streambed causing small underwater sand dunes that act like dams are continuously formed and destroyed, causing what seems like “surges” with “waves of water” flowing downstream with intervals of a few seconds to a few minutes, and can appear as large as a foot in height with an appearance of an “ocean wave”. The geological area is known as a “High Desert” with summer temperatures not typical of normal high desert lands, varying from high and low temperatures of exceedly cold nights (even below zero). There are also alpine lakes and tundra in the park, with six peaks over 13,000 feet in elevation, ancient spruces, pine forests, aspens, cottonwoods, grasslands, and wetlands. The park is also notated as being the quietest park in the United States. The park, is managed by the National Park Service, and has been a place of enjoyment under their reigns since November 2000 with over 85,000 acres. In 2004 it became known as the “Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve”. It can be reached west from Mosca along country road 6 North, or from the south along CO road 150. The park hosts a great visitor center, a campground, four wheel drive trails, restrooms, and picnic areas. The park is great for hiking, wading, sand castles, sandbox play, sunbathing, sand sledding, rough play, skimboarding, photoshoots, and ATV sports. Rating: 5 stars out of 5. Visited 7/12/2008. 2/16/2017. Review by Thomas Baurley, Leaf McGowan, Leafworks and Technogypsie Research/Review Services.
USC 3-D @ Three Rivers * Rachel Palmer – “Welcome Home” * South Riverfront Park Address : 312 Laurel Street, Columbia, SC * North Riverfront Park Address : 4210 River Drive, Columbia, SC *
A great little statue/monument that sits near the Christopher Columbus statue at the Columbia Canal in the Riverfront Park. Shows sedimentary layers of the rivers with deposits and artifacts. Beautifully sculpted and presented. A great piece for any geologist, archaeologist, or history buff. Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
By far, my most favorite place in Australia, Narooma is a panoramic sensation for the beach enthusiast. Think the historic Highway 101 Coastal Oregon route meets the Bahamas and you have “Narooma”. The Aborigine suitably called this area “Clear blue waters” and nothing more could be true. Crystal clear waters. A town of about 3,000 and a strip of geological wonders along the beach, this captures the contrast of earth and water perfectly. The rocks found near Narooma include the Narooma Chert that dates to Cambrian times. There are also underwater remains of a submarine volcano with pillow lava offshore. The Island known as “Montague Island”, now a National Park and Wildlife Refuge, is 8 kilometers offshore from Narooma and was one of the islands sighted by Captain Cook in 1770. The island has 8 known rainforests on it. The area brought white settlers for timber, gold, and fishing. It was declared a port in 1884, opened its first school in 1886, and its first post office in 1889, and originally was only accessed via the sea. By the 20th century, it became a major tourist destination and boomed in oyster farming. Then saw construction of the first major bridge to be constructed on the Princes Highway, improving access by road. In 1937, industry boomed again with a local cannery opening its doors to process tuna and salmon which eventually saw a drought of salmon causing the cannery to close its doors. Narooma was also home to the annual Great Southern Blues and Rockabilly Festival held in October until it moved to Batesman Bay in 2010. Rating 5 stars out of 5.
near Bushmills, Northern Ireland Tied into the legendary faerie lore with being created by Finn Mac Cool as a causeway to walk between Ireland and Scotland, the area is rich in myths and legends. A World Heritage site (UNESCO 1986), operated by the National Trust, the Giant’s Causeway consists of over 40,000 interlocking basalt columns that were caused by the result of a ancient volcanic eruption 50-60 million years ago. Intense volcanic activity caused highly fluid molten basalt to intrude through the chalk beds forming an extensive lava plateau. As the lava cooled quickly, contraction began with some in vertical directions that reduced the flow thickness, and horizontal contraction that was accommodated by cracking through the flow varying by lava speed forming the columns. In the heart of County Antrim on the northeast coast of Northern Ireland, the site is not very far from the infamous village of Bushmills. The site was discovered in 1693. It is considered to be the fourth natural wonder in the United Kingdom. Each of the hexagonal columns form stepping stones that lead from the cliff foot onward into the sea where they surface again into Scotland. Some of the columns reach heights upwards of 36 feet high. Most of the columns are hexagonal, though some have four, five, seven, and eight sides. Areas of solidified lava in the cliffs are up to 28 meters thick in some places. The area is infamous for the columns, stepping stones, myths, legends, the Giant’s Boot, and the Organ, the Giant’s Eyes, the Shepherd’s Steps, the Honeycomb, the Giant’s Harp, the Chimney Stacks, the Giant’s Gate, the Camel’s Hump, as well as a panoramic seaside view and beaches. Rating 5 stars out of 5.
Mauna Kea means “Mountain of the Deity Wakea” or “White Mountain”. It is one of the major 5 shield volcanoes that creates the Hawaiian Islands. The others in this chain are Kohala, Hualalai, Mauna Loa, and Kilauea. It is inactive. It is often called “White Mountain” because of it being consistently covered with snow during winter. Its peak reaches 13,803 feet above sea level but looms 33,476 feet above the ocean floor making it the world’s tallest mountain by that measurement if you disclude the ocean. Doing so, makes it taller than Mount Everest.
Mauna Kea is home to the infamous and highest of cinder cones known as Pu’u Wekiu or Pu’u o Kukahau’ula, which is the highest point in the state. This volcano is in the post-shield stage of volcanic evolution transitioning from the shield stage roughly 250,000 years ago. During its shield stage it is theoreticized to have appeared similar to Mauna Loa as a smooth shield volcano with a large summit caldera. The summit was entirely covered by a massive ice cap during the Pleistocene ice ages and displays evidence of four periods of glaciation over the last 200,000 years that ended around 11,000 years ago with the last glaciation. Its dense rock at its summit, called the “Mauna Kea Adz Quarry” is believed to have formed when lava erupted under a glacier. Towards its top is the seventh highest lake in the U.S. called “Lake Waiau”. Also at the summit is a celestial observatory that has been considered the best astronomical site in the world since it resides above 40% of the Earth’s atmosphere and 90% of the water vapor allowing for an exceptional clear view of the night sky. Local legends place Mauna Kea as the home of the snow Goddess “Poliahu” and many other deities making it an important mecca site for prayer, burials, consecration of children, and traditional celestial observations.
Akaka Falls * Akaka Falls Rd * Off Hwy 19, Honomu, HI 96728 * (808) 974-6200 * (near Hilo, Big Island, Hawaii) *
My first day on the Big Island, my friend Kawika took me to these amazing sheer pits of ‘awe’ known as ‘Akaka Falls. A 442 foot tall waterfall descending down into a deep gorge as part of the Kolekole Stream. Located within ‘Akaka Falls State Park just 11 miles north of Hilo at the end of Highway 220. Because the waterfall plunges down into a very rocky and scenic gorge, the local Hawaiians named it ‘Akaka which means “A rent, split, chink, separation; to crack, split, scale”. The folklore surrounding these falls involve P?haku a Pele that, when struck by a branch of lehua ??pane, will call the sky to darken and rain to fall (Pukui, Elbert, & Mookini, 1974). You can also see Kah?n? Falls along this trail. The trail is a self-guided .4 mile hike through dense tropical vegatation leading to these two natural wonders of Hawaii. Lots of Hawaii’s botanica dot and dress up the trail as tropical flowers, vines, and trees. Kahuna Falls is the lesser of the two, plummeting 400 feet. The Park itself has a nice parking lot, rest rooms, and often will find locals selling arts and crafts. On my visit on August 6, 2009; there was an amazing artist painting local scenery. Rating: 5 stars out of 5. Must visit location on the Big Island.
Thurston Lava Tube Volcano National Park, Volcano, Big Island, Hawaii While visiting a friend who lives in Volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii we took a late night cruise through the Thurston Lava Tube … which was absolutely fascinating. Not the first tube for me to go down as I’ve been in some in Washington and New Mexico, but have to say I’m always impressed by them. I could picture placing a underground home in one someday. So what are lava tubes? They are natural conduits formed when an active low-viscosity lava flow develops a continuous hard crust which thickens and forms a roof above the still-flowing lava stream. It is a geological tube through which lava travels or once has travelled through beneath the surface of a lava flow that is expelled out by a volcano during an eruption. They are either actively draining lava from a source or are extinct meaning lava has cooled off and left a long cave-like tunnel. This is an extinct tube. As lava leaves the point of eruption in continuous extremely hot channels with cool surroundings that develop walls around them as the surrounding laval cools and the channel melts its way deeper – they often get deep enough to crust over forming an insulating tube that keeps the lava molten and acts as a conduit for the flowing lava. Pahoehoe flows are where lava is flowing in an unchanneled fanlike manner as it leaves the volcanic source taking a lava tube to lead back to the eruption point. These are areas of surface-moving lava that has cooled forming a smooth or rough ropy surface. Once the flow hardens, it starts to block its source, and only the subsurface lava is still hot enough to break out at a point creating a new source or underground channel known as a pahoehoe tube. Each tube often exhibits step marks called ‘flow ledges’ or ‘flow lines’ on the interior walls that show the various depths that the lava flowed. Most tubes have pahoehoe floors commonly covered with breakdown from the ceiling. Lavacicles (stalactites) or lava tube speleothems form in either splash, shark tooth, or tubular varieties as well as tubular lava helictites (drip stalagmites) are often formed in the tubes. Beads of lava that extrude from small holes that ran down the wall are known as ‘runners’. Sometimes crystalization occurs in the tubes forming crusts of small crystals from mineral deposits in the flows. Lava tubes have been measured to be up to 14-15 meters wide and as deep as 1-15 meters below the surface – they can extend for miles in many instances. For example, the Mauna Loa tube runs over 30 miles from its eruption point. The Thurston Lava Tube is part of Hawaii’s Volcano National Park and is easy to access within the park for a nice excursion it’s definitely worth seeing. The Park was established in 1916 and remains an active Volcanic area. Active eruptive sites include the main caldera of K?lauea and a more active but remote vent called Pu?u ????. K?lauea and its Halema?uma?u caldera are traditionally considered the sacred home of the volcano goddess Pele, and Hawaiians visited the crater to offer gifts to this Goddess. This tube is named after the Thurston family, the first western visitors to the site. They were English missionaries, William Ellis and American Asa Thurston in 1823. Their grandson, Lorrin A. Thurston, was the driving force to establish this park in 1916. There is an undeveloped stretch of this Lava tube that extends an additional 330 meters beyond the developed one show in these pictures and it dead-ends into the hillside. While blocked by a chain link fence to keep unwary visitors from entering, the easily traversed stretch is open to the public and accessible through a gate in the fence. Rating: 5 stars out of 5.
Cimarron Canyon State Park Cimarron, New Mexico * http://www.emnrd.state.nm.us/prd/CimarronCanyon.htm * A beautiful canyon that is bisected by historic Highway 64 extending from Cimarron to Taos. The State Park is located three miles east of Eagle Nest, New Mexico. The park resides in the Colin Neblett Wildlife Area. The Canyon is a very popular location for trout fishing, especially in the Cimarron River and its tributaries – Clear Creek and Tolby Creek. It is also a very popular camping, cross country skiing, and hiking location. The park extends for eight miles. The Palisades Sill are amongst the most popular photo spots in the Canyon. Elk, Deer, Bear, Turkey, Grouse, songbirds, and mountain lions are common inhabitants. Definitely a nice road stop along Highway 64. Rating: 3 stars out of 5.
Rio Grande Gorge and Bridge Taos, New Mexico * http://www.technogypsie.com/reviews/?p=610 * One of New Mexico’s most famous and picturesque gorges and bridges. The Rio Grande Gorge is 800 feet deep and ten miles long, running from northwest to southeast of Taos, New Mexico, through the basalt flows of the Taos Plateau volcanic field. One of the world’s most popular white water rafting locations, steep pocketed rock climbing hot spots, and home to numerous petroglyphs. Along its bottom runs the historic Rio Grande river with hidden hot springs and ancient ruins. The bridge and gorge has been home to numerous movies and film shoots including Terminator Salvation, Natural Born Killers, Twins, She’s Having a Baby, and Wild Hogs. In fact, during our visit here, traffic got stopped while we watched an RV race up and down the bridge being filmed for some upcoming movie. The bridge that expands this gorge has won awards from the American Institute of Steel Construction as the “Most Beautiful Steel Bridge” in 1966.
It is a cantilever truss steel bridge crossing the Rio Grande Gorge. It sits 650 feet above the Rio Grande which makes it the fifth highest bridge in the United States. It spans roughly 1,280 feet across with highway 64 running over it. The bridge has been the site for many suicides, some of which are notoriously famous. It is also the hotspot for Bonnie and Clyde type road warriors for proposals as stemmed from the classic scene in Natural Born Killers. Definitely a nice road stop along Highway 64. Rating: 5 stars out of 5.
The wedding of Mickey and Mal: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=icDP1EsCs8c
Malad Springs and Gorge * Idaho, United States
One of my favorite little canyons off the Interstate while cruising through Idaho on my many adventures to Seattle from Colorado. The Malad River is the shortest river in the World. It is a tributary of the Snake River and is formed by the confluence of the Big Wood River and the Little Wood River near Gooding, Idaho. It flows south and west for about 11.5 miles where it joins the Snake river near Hagerman. The river creates a very deep gorge called the “Malad Gorge” where it flows through the Malad Gorge State Park, where it tumbles down an amazing waterfall. The Gorge is 250 feet deep and 2.5 miles long. Its a definite not-to-miss sight in Hagerman. Definitely a must see. Rating: 5 stars out of 5.
Garden of the Gods 1805 N 30th Street (at Gateway Rd) * Manitou / Colorado Springs, Colorado * 719.634.6666 * http://www.gardenofgods.com/
Garden of the Gods, is a unique natural geological park that is located in Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs … and is a Registered National Natural Landmark. It’s open from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. in the summer and 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the winter. The original family that donated the land to the public required that it would always remain free, and that is what it remains today. A great park for hiking, walking, bicycling, rock climbing, picnicking, special events, and weddings … Garden of the Gods has it all … and a unique tourist / information center, with a theater and gift shop. With 15 miles of trails ranging in various levels of difficulty from beginner to advanced, its a great place for hiking and exercise. A historical video greets you at the welcome center and tells the tale that began in the 1870’s when the railroads carved westward, when General William Jackson Palmer founded the city of Colorado Springs and upon discovering this natural beauty, urged his friend Charles Elliott Perkins, the head of Burlington Railroad, to make his home in the Garden of the Gods and finish his railway from Chicago to Colorado Springs. Even though he didn’t succeed with his rails to the Springs, he did make a summer home in 1879 by purchasing 480 acres, though he never built on it, leaving the land in its natural state and for the public. When he died in 1907, he made arrangements for the land to be a public park, and this was enacted by his children in 1909 forever as the Garden of the Gods “where it shall remain free to the public, where no intoxicating liquors shall be manufactured, sold, or dispensed, where no building or structure shall be erected except those necessary to properly care for, protect, and maintain the area as a public park.” That is exactly what they’ve done …. and its a beautiful place to be. Rating 5 stars out of 5.
“The forces of erosion are sculpting more than just arches. Balanced Rock clearly shows the various layers responsible for this amazing defiance of gravity. The caprock of the hard slick rock Member of the entrada sandstone is perched upon a pedastal of mudstone. This softer Dewey Bridge member of the Carmel formation weathers more quickly than the resistant hard rock above. Eventually the faster eroding Dewey Bridge will cause the collapse of Balanced Rock. ” NPS Marker.