Monday, October 11, 2010
When Roxane and I last walked together in the woods and she was in front I got to watch her—how her feet took to the ground and, this being before she cut her hair, the long sway of her golden locks. What exactly is she, am I, walking on? That day we walked Skyline Trail, continuing onto Iris and Rhus, to Bob Moser and, lastly, to get back, we took Pine Trail—having walked most of the park’s circumference and then some.
This non-scientist was certain of this much: decomposed plant matter, animal scat, dissolved and dissolving rocks, gunk that comes in on the bottom of people's shoes, dead bugs, lost feathers. But what else?
Time, again, to call on naturalist, Nikki Nedeff, who told me I could ask her questions anytime. I try not to take advantage, don’t ask everything but this was a Nikki question for sure.
“Ah,” she replied, “this is a very good question!” It’s nice to find I’ve asked a good question, especially when I think I may have asked one too obvious to bother with.
Terms for nature delight me, like this one, “parent material,” that means what’s beneath our feet in the woods. This bedrock, Nikki said, “is entirely made of what is called the Monterey Formation...sedimenatry rock made of inter bedded sandstones and shales, and then glued together...by pressure.” How about the word “inter bedded,”—a dual-mattress system—one below you and one on top!
Nikki continued, “The shaley rock layers are the most prominent ones—whitish chalk rock... made by the accumulation of bizillions of diatoms—tiny, tiny creatures that floated around in a shallow sea—that died and just pile up on the ocean floor.”
People come to Jacks Peak looking for these fossilized creatures; I’ve seen such folks on Skyline Trail, foraging through the soft, fallen rock, and rudely (to me) banging at the rock wall. Nikki wrote, “I’ve seen crabs, leaves, clams and other mysterious things layered in the stones.” She told me that on the southern side, the Carmel Valley side, of the park there used to be a quarry and once workers found a dinosaur bone!
“The trails at Jacks Peak are basically cut into the bedrock and a top layer of soil. The soils have organic matter from the accumulation of decomposing leaves, roots and plant stuff. Hard rock is "weathered" into dirt by the action of roots, rodents, and the acids that occur naturally in our rain. Anyway, the whole soil-forming process on top of the bedrock takes a long time.”
Along the way, I pick up as many candy wrappers and bottle caps as I find. What I’d prefer some future scientists not know about us is all the garbage we leave behind.
Here’s what floats my boat in the-sea-that-once-was where I now walk today, anyway, on dry land: how entirely fascinating this all is. Every dust speck of knowledge about the natural world I gain, feels like another missing piece of the puzzle settling into place. It’s not so much that I feel smarter, though I do, it’s that the more I know and understand about where I am, the more I love it, the closer I feel to this place. And this is not how it’s always been, to say the least.
When I was a kid in school, I fell asleep during geography and geology classes. (The only classes that engaged me were art and English.) I never found an inroad to math and science. They were at such a distance from my life, that I couldn’t reach them, not that I tried very hard. This could be blamed this on any number of difficulties in my early life, and that might be true.
What caught my attention as a child were the things that soothed or met me emotionally. It’s also true that my parents had little interest in nature. They did love the arts though and I was captivated by dance and music, paintings, some of it created by long dead artists. But hey, I’m making up for lost time, enthralled by the ground beneath my feet.
Posted by Patrice Vecchione at 7:22 AM