Rock or Ice Cream? Erosion Tales

I’m fascinated by erosion patterns in rock that make solid rock look like ice cream that has been scooped with a spoon or carved with a giant fork. So, I was transfixed by this “fork action” on the red rock in Sedona.

Seeing this horizontal pattern in the sandstone along Oak Creek made me wonder how Nature made this carving. So I asked my geologist friend, Steve Austin. Location: West Fork Trail, Sedona, AZ, USA.

It’s amazing what Steve can tell us just by examining this photo and knowing its location. He said, “The sandstone has horizontal layers but also has inclined layers internally (25 degrees). The cliff shows these inclined layers because rockfall has sculpted the surface. These inclined layers were formed in underwater sand dunes by flow velocity of 2 meters/second.”

Wow! That’s why they call Steve “Mudflow Man.”

Crossing Oak Creek 26 times

Both Charlie and I slipped and got one shoe wet while crossing Oak Creek, hiking the West Fork Trail in Sedona. Only one slip for each of us was pretty good considering the rocks and logs we needed to balance on while crossing the ice cold water. I snapped a few candids with my new iphone 11 Pro Max as we crossed a few times, to show how tricky it was.

With his Steeler hat and jacket, Charlie is ready to talk NFL football with anyone he meets, while climbing boulders and trying to stay dry crossing Oak Creek.
You hope that the rock you step on is sturdy and won’t tip over, sending you and your backpack into the water. Crossing Oak Creek on the West Fork Trail, Sedona in November.
After 5 hours of hiking and plenty of quad and knee exercise, we were a bit tired, but we paused and made a strategy for one of the last crossings of the day on West Fork Trail.

Rewards of West Fork Trail

Sedona’s West Fork Trail is described in the guide books as iconic with towering cliffs and 13 stream crossings as you follow Oak Creek for 6.4 miles round trip. The elevation change is moderate (245 ft.), so I considered it doable with camera equipment on my back.

It took us 3.5 hours to reach the end point, as I stopped for photos so often, but the exertion was well worth it. You know you have reached the end when you can’t go further without getting wet, and in November it’s too cold for that!

A mirror-like reflection was the reward at the end point of the West Fork Trail. Sunny conditions were perfect for the hike, as rain can create dangerous flash floods, and snow would make the hike too slippery.

The cave like erosion you can see along the left side of the creek reminded me of “the subway” in Zion National Park created by the Virgin River. I had to explain myself to my husband after exclaiming, “there is the subway!”

I find myself fascinated by the power of moving water that erodes rock over time. Are you?

Can I walk on this lake?

Gazing at the clarity of the rocks under water and the clarity of the reflection on the lake, I’m not sure what would happen if I stepped into this lake… Would my sneakers get wet as I balanced and slid on those round rocks? Or is the lake surface really reflective glass that would allow me to walk across?

Jasper Park Lodge sits unnoticed on the far side of this mirror lake in Alberta, Canada.

I have to give my husband Charlie all the credit for suggesting that we walk a few miles back from the town of Jasper to the Jasper Park Lodge. We approached the Lodge along the lake and golf course on a perfect September afternoon.

Nature’s Mysteries

Sometimes I can’t figure out why Nature develops the way it does, from the big questions (How was the Grand Canyon carved?) to the little ones (why did this tree grow like this?)

Why did this tree grow with a twisted trunk? From a hike in Joshua Tree National Park, California.

Nature’s mysteries keep us coming back to explore some more, and keep us reading and wondering why. I’m always impressed when I see “opportunistic plants” growing in the desert from tiny cracks in the rock where rainwater pools.

Hiking the Holy Island

Lindisfarne, the Holy Island, is isolated from the mainland by the tides for five hours a day, but can be visited during low tide. Most visitors flock to the 16 century castle, which is normally quite picturesque, but is now shrouded in scaffolding as part of its restoration. I found the hike to the castle quite beautiful, along the border of this sheep farm.

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This stone fence led the way to the 16 century castle on Lindisfarne, the Holy Island, in Northumbria, England.

Saints Aidan and Cuthbert, both living in the first century, spent time on this island. Saint Aiden was an Irish missionary who founded a monastery here, and St. Cuthbert was a monk who lived as a hermit on Inner Farne and later became bishop of Lindisfarne. (Source: Eyewitness Travel, Great Britain.)

Point Lobos Cove

The arid landscape that you often find in California is raised up in both beauty and comfort by the Pacific Coast. While you hike, it is hot and dry and sometimes dusty. But here in Point Lobos State Reserve, you feel the ocean breezes and your eyes feast upon the soothing sight of crashing waves. The coast line, pleasingly irregular, hides a new view behind every incline and bend in the path. Just keep walking.

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The hiking path in Point Lobos gives the hiker an ocean breeze and a constantly changing view of the Pacific coastline.