Desert Karst Oasis

Throw me your favorite geologic picture,” she says.  Like it’s that easy!  I can’t play favorites – every time I choose one, another one gets tears in its pixels and starts wailing, “Wait, what about me?”  And some of them chose to bow out of the Mardi Gras parade, claiming they weren’t colorful enough for such an event.  Whatever.

So we’ll do this.  We’ll cut to the chase and play a favorite – a favorite place, one of my favorite places in the world.  We’ll take a trek through the desert and come upon an oasis.

Montezuma Well, ambush shot by Cujo

Down around Camp Verde in Arizona, you’ll come across a picture-perfect karst terrain.  The old beds of lake-deposited limestone lay flat, dry and hot under the sun, carved into gullies and hills by wetter times.  In some places, sinkholes pit the scenery.  They’re lovely examples of the power of water and gravity together to sculpt the scenery.

Camp Verde got its name because a river runs through it, causing a line of green to conga through the hot, scrubby hills.  It was enough of a shock that explorers named it the Verde River, because it was very nearly the only green thing they’d seen for absolute miles.

Water’s rare and precious here.  You don’t expect deep, placid pools of it just lying about.  But drive through the dirt and dust, past lizards and rattlesnakes and blocks of ancient lake floor, and eventually, you’ll find yourself gazing down into a blue-green pond.  Long ago, water dissolved a large pocket in the limestone, and gravity collapsed the roof, leaving a hole deep enough to reach a perched groundwater table lying atop old mudstones.  Even in these drier times, springs still feed it to the tune of over a million gallons per day.

It’s here that the Spanish name for the ancient Pueblo peoples who lived in this area, Sinagua, becomes something of a misnomer.  They most certainly weren’t “without water” in this place. They had an abundance.  And they took full advantage, tucking houses and a granary into the cliffs along the sinkhole’s rim, more houses down by the swallet where the waters flow out into Beaver Creek, and building a canal along the base of the cliffs outside the sinkhole.

The old Sinagua canal

Walk down the cliffside here, and you’ll find yourself in an unexpected paradise.  Water cascades down a desert waterfall, flows along the old canal, and feeds tall sycamores and other trees and plants.  It’s shady, cool, and possibly the most peaceful place in Arizona.  And just look at all of that gorgeously-exposed geology!

I’ll have far more to say about it, plus a plethora of pictures, when we get to our Arizona geology series.  How’s that for a teaser, eh?

Now that you’ve had a nice rest at the water’s edge, on with the parade!

Oh, Schist! And Other Stories

Yes, it’s taken me this long to settle on an appropriate deskcrop for this month’s Accretionary Wedge.  In point of fact, I haven’t got any deskcrops.  I haven’t got a desk.  If I did have a desk, I wouldn’t be able to use it, as it would be covered in rocks, books, and the occasional knickknack. 

I have, however, got bookshelves, the bits of which that aren’t filled with books and knickknacks are covered in rocks.  I have also got tables, which are mostly covered in rocks.  Breakfast bar?  I hope you like stone-cold stones for meals, because that’s what’s on the bar.  Little half-wall in the entry way?  Home to more rocks.  And every single rock in this house has some sort of meaning.  Each and every one tells stories.  And they were all hollering “Me! ME! MEEE!” when I attempted to choose just one.  Worse than puppies, they are.

Ultimately, it came down to rocks from home.  And I couldn’t choose only one. 

Some of you may not know this about me, but I have an abiding fondness for schist.  I’m not sure why.  There’s just something about its foliation that I adore.  It may have a lot to do with the fact that it’s a) not volcanic, b) is metamorphic, and c) something I can identify with greater than 89% confidence despite all that.

It wasn’t always like that.  In fact, the first piece of schist I collected, I figured was just an unusual bit of volcanic rock.  It’s the dark one here in this photo:



It’s been with me since the early 2000s, when I grabbed it from the formerly-vacant lot behind my old apartment.  Needed nice, dark, interesting rocks for a mini-Zen garden I was building, didn’t I?  And there it stayed for years, nestled in white sand, and after I moved to Washington it lived in a Ziplock bag, awaiting a day when I had more space for Zen rock gardens.  Then I visited Arizona, picked up that lovely golden piece of mica schist that’s sitting beside it, removed it from its bag to add to the Arizona collection, and went, “Wait a damned minute… Oh, schist!” 

I believe it may even be a bit of Brahma schist.  Not sure.  I mean, it was sitting about 3,000 feet above where it should’ve been, so I know it’s a souvenir rock someone picked up and later discarded.  An anthro-erratic, if you will.  Could’ve come from anywhere.  But I love it anyway.

The mica schist beside it comes from the Mingus Mountains (no, people from Arizona don’t usually refer to them as the Black Hills, at least, not where I came from).  And that other bit there is a very nice little grossular garnet I picked up at the same rock shop.

But I promised you more than schist, and here’s a nice little bit you may enjoy from the same display:



That, my darlings, is a fragment of the nickel-iron meteorite that slammed into Northern Arizona about 50,000 years ago and left us with the enormous hole in the ground known as Barringer Meteor Crater.  They sell bits of it in the gift shop.  I was rather skeptical, so I grabbed a magnet with a bottle opener and a resin-encased scorpion and did a little field test.  Tink!  Yep, it’s magnetic, all right.  So I bought the bits, and a tube of rock flour.  That white powder is pulverized Kaibab limestone.  The meteor hit so hard that it turned major bits of strata right over and turned some into dust so fine that the frontier ladies used it as talcum powder.

So many rocks in that case.  So many stories.  But I shall conclude with this one:



That, my darlings, is a lovely bit of bornite, which I first knew as peacock rock.  Fascinated me as a kid.  I couldn’t care less if it was a copper ore back then – all I knew was, it’s pretty.  And I’d lost my piece.  So one of my major objectives when I went home for a visit was finding a nice specimen.  Where else to go but Gold King Mine, where I’d got my first?  If you ever get a chance, go to Jerome and visit Gold King Mine.  It’s a hoot, and they have lovely rocks and fossils in their shop.

Aside from the fond childhood memories, aside from teaching me more about the copper industry to fueled so much northern Arizona commerce, and aside from the fact it’s pretty, this deskcrop also broke the barriers between me and my newest brother.  You see, my parents had acquired a lavender-point Siamese, whom I hadn’t seen since he was a tiny kitten.  He didn’t remember me.  He wanted nothing to do with me.  I was a Very Scary Intrusion into his settled universe.  He ran from me whenever I came in – until the day I returned from Gold King Mine with a nice set of rocks and fossils.  I’d laid them out on the carpet while I sorted, labeled, and stowed for the journey home.

He inspected the fossils, creeping ever closer, and found the bornite as tasty as I do:



We have been friends ever since.  So, my darlings, remember this: geology not only provides us with knowledge, awe, wonder, and amusement, it can also facilitate better relationships with the important felids in your life.  Trust me, bonding happens.  Especially when you’re doing something fascinating, like trying to build a home for all those lovely samples:



Cats love deskcrops.  Spread the word!

AW #27 Now Available!

For the three or four of you who haven’t yet discovered this, the latest Accretionary Wedge is up at Lockwood’s, and it is brilliant.

This ends weeks of torture, as I’d see tweets of various geology posts with some note like, “This is my AW submission!” and, sweating and nearly sobbing, I would therefore refrain from reading since I wanted to enjoy them as officially part of the Wedge.  Argh.  Well, I read each and every one tonight, and they were all wonderful, my darlings, simply wonderful.

Thank you, dearest Lockwood, for putting this together, and thank you, dear AW contributors, for your incredible submissions!  I fell in love with geology all over again almost two dozen times.

You rock.

Accretionary Wedges

The geologically inclined among ye have got a couple of very important deadlines coming up!  First is September’s Accretionary Wedge, to be hosted at Outside the Interzone:

…the topic I settled on is “What is the most important geological experience you’ve had?” The key word there is “important,” and the real task is going to be figuring out what that means for you. It may (or may not) be something that led you to the discipline (Note that August 2009’s AW was “Inspiration,” what inspired us to get into geology, and this isn’t really intended to be a repeat of that, though for some, it might be.), or a class, or a work experience, or a field experience. It might have been a puzzle or problem solved, or job landed, a degree completed. Perhaps it was something else entirely. It could have been an awful, disastrous experience from which you learned an important lesson. Maybe it’s still in your future- something you’re looking forward to. Additionally, explain why it was important. Was it something you’d recommend to others?

Lockwood reports there’s still room for more, so getcher entries in by September 27th.

Already done?  Great!  Get a jump on October’s AW:

October’s theme is going to be “Desk-crops.” This can be any rock or other geological* specimen that you have lying around your office/desk/lab that has a story to tell. The spookier the better. Photos and/or illustrations are very important (although not absolutely required). This is taken directly from Ron Schott’sdeskrcop series” of his rocks and such – great examples of what I had in mind with the theme (but not the only way to skin this horse).

If your submission’s submitted past the October 29th deadline, one of two things might happen to it: Trick or Treat.  Take a wild guess as to which.

Last Chance to Get Yer Treasure Aboard


NP be takin’ all the Elitist Bastards she can muster aboard. Ye don’t want to miss a nice trip to the beach, now, do ye? Get yer best elitist bastardry submitted to [email protected] by end o’ day Friday so ye’re assured plenty o’ sand, sun and rum.

Besides, ye don’t want to miss yer chance to sunbathe with a celebrity, do ye? That’s right – we have a new sailor this time out, and he be famous among skeptics. Ye’ll be tellin’ yer grandchildren about the time ye sailed alongside o’ the illustrious Pirate X – but only if ye get aboard the ship on time.

(Postdated for those who lingered in the tavern too long – new content be below)

Git Yer Bums on t’ Beach!


NP be docking the HMS Elitist Bastard and takin’ the crew out for a little R n R on the beach. Ye know ye’ll want t’ be a part o’ that! All ye have to do in order to enjoy a wee bit o’ sun and fun is get yer submission in to [email protected] by the end o’ day Friday, July 24th.

For those o’ ye who’ve never yet sailed wi’ us, ’tis simplicity itself. Here be the simple requirements:

1. Pick a blog post o’ yours that hits the stupid where it hurts.

2. Send us the link.

That be it.

For some Elitist Bastard inspiration, ye can peruse Roger Ebert’s fine demonstration here. He be one o’ us, as Captain Blake mentioned to me.

Which brings me to our next subject: if ye’re raidin’ the blogosphere and come across a fine bit o’ elitist bastardry, ye can send us the link for press gangin’ purposes. As long as it’s in by Monday, I can wrestle the unsuspecting soul aboard.

We also be runnin’ low on Captains, so if ye want to helm the ship, send me word.

That be it. I expect an inbox flooded with Elitist Bastardry come the deadline. Don’t miss the beach party the way ye missed Captain John’s birthday party.

(Postdated for stragglers – new content be below)

I Am A Disappointed Admiral – and Somewhere, a Pirate Lawyer is Crying

Look what you’ve done to poor Captain John:


Yes, you. You know how many Elitist Bastards answered this months’ call?

4.

People. Not only is there an infinity of stupidity needing bashing out there, you’ve all let John down on his birthday.

I’m so disappointed I can’t even talk pirate right now. And Captain John – well, here’s a reconstruction of his current state:


This situation must be rectified. If you merely forgot to submit, get your submission in to [email protected] immediately. If you didn’t think you had anything worth submitting, find something anyway – you’re Elitist Bastards, your every word drips with immeasurable intellect. If you’re new and have no idea what’s going on, here are the requirements:

1. Pick one (or more) of your blog posts that blasts ignorance or celebrates some aspect of wisdom, or if you’re really ambitious, does both.

2. Send us the link.

Is that hard? Not at all. Do you have any excuse not to submit a post? None.

I want the COTEB inbox full to the bursting. You have until Sunday morning to wriggle back into John’s and my good graces. Otherwise, you will have to live with the fact that you’ve made John sad on his birthday.

Yer Captain’s Got a Motivational Speech for Ye



I’ll take it as a personal affront if there is not a plethora of material. You don’t want a lawyer with delusions of being a pirate to be pissed at you.

Besides, it’s my birthday and, if it isn’t a good Carnival, I might cry. If there’s anything that you don’t want to see more than a pissed lawyer with delusions of being a pirate, its a lawyer with delusions of being a pirate crying.

He be right about that, me hearties. I think ye’d better get yer Elitist Bastardly links in to [email protected] as soon as possible. If ye’re any later than Friday night, a fate worse than drowning in an ocean o’ stupidity may befall us.

We Be Deploying Soon!


Captain John Pieret be looking for a few good Elitist Bastards for this month’s voyage of the HMS Elitist Bastard. I know it be short notice, but I also know that most o’ ye haven’t been on vacation, so ye’ve got plenty o’ Elitist Bastardry lying about yer blogs. Get those links in to [email protected] by end o’ day this Friday, the 26th o’ June. Let’s ensure Captain John sails wi’ a full ship.

Last Day to Bring Me Yer Treasures


Well, I be gettin’ ahead o’ meself, since I haven’t got much o’ yer booty yet. Be gettin’ those links in to [email protected] by the end o’ the day Friday. I plan to have this ship’s hold full o’ Elitist Bastardry. Don’t make me sail over to yer blog and raid ye, now!

For those o’ ye wondering what ye should submit, here be the simple requirements:

1. Pick a blog post o’ yours that hits the stupid where it hurts.

2. Send it in.

That be it. And I don’t want to hear yer excuses – I been readin’ yer blogs, and I know each and every one o’ ye’s already posted some fine elitist bastardry.

I’ll see ye all aboard come Saturday, or I’ll be boarding ye come Saturday, whichever’s required.