Saturday, November 14, 2009

Geology Tour Road

One of our favorite places in Joshua Tree National Park is the Geology Tour Road. It's an 18-mile, four-wheel drive route with a host of interesting geological and manmade features. This first photo shows Malapai Hill, a striking black basalt outcropping.

The Towers of Uncertainty are visible in the background--they're a group of rock formations popular with climbers. At the time this picture was taken (June of this year) the towers were "closed"--we found out later it was because of the raptor (red-tailed hawk) nesting season.

The next three pictures were taken at Squaw Tank, a site once used by both Native Americans and cattlemen. Molten magma pushed through joints in the rock to form the band you see in the photo above.

Bill and our friend Timothy explore the dam, which was built by cattlemen in the early 1900s to collect rainwater. The area was used by Native Americans for around 1,000 years--water pooled in natural "tanks" here, and there are mortreros in the rocks.

BTW: The light-colored rocks are known as monzogranite and date back 85 million years. There is also gneiss (pronounced "nice") along the tour road that dates back 1.7 billion years!

At one point, sharp-eyed Bill suddenly stopped the car. Turns out he had spotted a large lizard right in the road. We all got out for a look at this long-nosed leopard lizard. He let us get quite close before he finally dashed away, inspiring the following poem.

The Stand

The driver stops at the body,
then backs up. Four pairs of feet
exit the vehicle. Faced with odds
that would dwarf a lesser creature,
the leopard lizard stands fast
on warm spring earth.
Colors of sand and scrub
secure her desert camouflage,
strung with rusty patches—
the pollen of mating season.
Flawless from long nose
to long tail, with splayed feet
and the legs of a sprinter,
the lizard stays rooted
until a sneaker kicks up dust.
Then she turns trickster,
snapped into creosote flats
below metamorphic rocks.