So no shit, there I was, flicking through the rest of my Mount Rainier photos for reasons unrelated to mystery flora, and I found more of the Lewis’ Monkeyflower identified by Hotshoe yesterday. So what if they’re no longer a mystery? They’re still nifty.
The outcrop there is no slouch, either. I’ll have more to say about it at some future date when I’ve, y’know, actually read the book on the roadside geology of Mt. Rainier, and can speak intelligently on the subject, and additionally have remembered where, precisely, we were. It was a long time ago on a geotrip far, far away. Luckily, the photos have GPS data, so once I load the program that maps them, I’ll be able to jog ye olde rusty memory.
Mt. Rainier, I can tell you, is a fascinating volcano, and not just because it’s a volcano, which makes it inherently fascinating. It’s got a little bit of nearly everything. There’s granite, 15 million years old if I remember rightly, which is exposed in spots. There’s andesite, of course. All sorts of pyroclastics. Lahar deposits. Hot springs. Glaciers and all sorts of landforms created and carved up by glaciers. The neatest little box canyon ever. Every five inches or so, it seems, there’s a new vista, a new point of interest, a new fascination. I plan to go back there this summer and really poke around. Then I’ll write it up for you, and you’ll book a flight to Seattle nearly instantaneously and come pounding on my door demanding to be taken up the mountain. It’s that kind of mountain.
Mt. Rainier’s kind of like the grand aged relative who fascinated you as a kid. The one who was really old but come sometimes seemed very young, and knew all sorts of stuff you’d never even suspected existed, and whom you knew a lot about without ever really knowing at all. That’s rather the feeling I get every time I’m up there. And it’s restful. It’s the most dangerous bloody volcano in America, and yet the peace and beauty up there can send you into paroxysms of poetry without warning. Maybe its danger is what makes its beauty so acute. Your senses are sharpened. You know how temporary this is. A moment in geological time that will never come again.
Only that’s not quite true. When this mountain tears itself down, it will build itself back up again. It will wear wildflowers and conifers once more. And when it’s gone, somewhere in the world there will be another young volcano that grows into a majestic old one. Those moments may be fleeting, but they come round again and again, and will do so until the Earth grows too cool to sustain plate tectonics.
Even then, somewhere in the vast Universe, there’s probably another world just enough like this one to have volcanoes clothed in locally-evolved flora. It may look wildly different, but the beauty of it will be much the same. Somewhere, when the clock’s stopped here, the geological moments will tick on there.
I like having been a second in that eternity.