Saturday, January 30, 2010

Because It Is There

On a recent day just before the Blizzard of 2010 and the ensuing Great Freeze threatened to trap us in our home, I embarked on a snowshoeing journey.

It wasn't so much a journey, not really an epic expedition, but more like a 0.5 mile walk up to the rockhills overlooking the ranch headquarters. On a clear day, it stands out boldly.
On a day just before a blizzard, when the winds are high and the snow which has just begun falling is blowing, it was easy to imagine what Everest might be like. And like Sir Edmund Hillary noted on his trip to the top of the world, I went "because it is there." And also because I am tired of being a prisoner from the cold.
It is a remarkable little jaunt. On a clear day, you can see forever up here. The coyotes love to frequent this hilltop to yip and howl at one another. And it's off limits during the warmer months due to the threat of rattlesnakes hiding near their dens, although I have been known to explore it from horseback.The rock features are amazing. They change every year as wind and cold and heat erode the rocks and soil. Small rocks tumble off of their mothers and down the hill. New rocks seem to emerge from the depths of the earth. It's an absolutely captivating place,
and it has been for generations. Even Danish Cowboy's ancestors couldn't resist the call of the rock hills.
The rock hills are far enough away from our home that Tucker Dog rarely, if ever, ventures there. It was a whole new world for him, too. Rabbits to chase, rock chasms to sniff and explore.
And not only is the view amazing, so are the rocks as snow drifts and swirls around them, the moss on them more brilliant now than during the brown months of autumn when I typically explore the hillside.
I'm not an official geologist, though I do own a rock hammer and keep a rock collection squirreled away so that no one will make fun of me. These rocks have historically been called lava rock by locals, but the more accurate term is porcellanite. It is a type of sedimentary rock similar to chert with a smooth, conchoidal, almost lava flow appearance at times. The rocks are then theorized to have been "fired" by the underlying coal seams which caused them to develop an appearance not unlike porcelain. The underlying coal seams which burned are now called scoria with angular fractures and a much lighter density.
The colors range from light and dark shades of gray to orange to red to black. While the rocks are incredibly dense, they are not immune to the powers of wind. The hillside was covered with a fine red dust as winter winds had beat the outermost layer of the exposed rocks to a fine powder.
We weren't gone for long as the blizzard was quickly approaching and I discovered that I, like most other human beings, couldn't walk a straight line to save myself. And the house was quickly disappearing in the blowing snow.
And when we got back, Tucker took a picture of me, too, so that we could prove to the world that I do go on some adventures, albeit small.

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