Category Archives: Natural Wonders

Finding Basalt in the Granite State

Ossipee Mountain Ring Dike (Dia. = 14Km)

Ossipee Mountain Ring Dike (Dia. = 14Km)

On a recent hike into the Ossipee Ring Dike Complex in NH we went looking for Basalt.  To put it simply a Ring Dike is the extinct core of an old (many millions of years old) volcano and Basalt is a rock, quite similar to granite, that is formed from extruded lava that cools under certain conditions to form hexagonal columns.  If you want more info on Ring Dikes and Basalt I’ll include some links at the bottom.

Anyway, The Ossipee Mountain Ring Dike is the largest and most complete ring dike in the U.S. so it follows that there should be lots of basalt there.  Here’s some hiding under a birch tree.

Basalt and Birch Tree

Basalt and Birch Tree

A few years ago we were traveling in the Sierra Mountains in California and we came upon a Geological site called the Columns of the Giants.  This site included some towering cliffs of basalt columns.

How Columns Form

How Columns Form

Columns of the Giants, Stanislaus National Forest, CA

Columns of the Giants, Stanislaus National Forest, CA

Curved Columns

Curved Columns

Columner Basalt and Talus Slope.

Columner Basalt and Talus Slope.

Other examples of Columnar Basalt include Devils Tower in Wyoming (known as the Bear Lodge, by local Native American tribes)

Devil's Tower - Wikipedia Public Domain Photo

Devil’s Tower – Wikipedia Public Domain Photo

and the Devil’s Postpile near Yosemite National Park in California.

"Devils Postpile National Monument near Mammoth Lakes" by Frank Kovalchek

“Devils Postpile National Monument near Mammoth Lakes” by Frank Kovalchek

So our thought was that we might find some similar formations in the Ossipee’s.  Our hike took us to the summit of Turtleback Mountain.

Turtleback Mountain

Turtleback Mountain

The summit of 2203 feet does not have a spectacular view, but it’s a bare summit (is that Basalt or is that Granite) with a nice view and a good crop of blueberries at their absolute peak.

Wild NH Blueberries

Wild NH Blueberries

Two Cedar Waxwings were hanging around picking blueberries too.

Cedar Waxwing - Bombycilla Cedrorum

Cedar Waxwing – Bombycilla Cedrorum

Cedar Waxwing

Cedar Waxwing

Checking for UAVs

Checking for UAVs

After all the hiking, blueberry picking, bird watching, etc. I thought I had better check for unwanted Drones flying around.  Seems from the news that they are just about everywhere these days.  After my nap observations it was only a short hike off the summit to a connecting trail that leads down to a series of gorgeous waterfalls, but still no significant basalt formations.  We did see some nice Fungi though.DSC06660-pretty shroomDSC06632-an interesting growth.And then we found what we were looking for.  A large outcropping of columnar basalt

Columnar Basalt

Columnar Basalt

You must keep in mind that these mountains in the Northern Appalachian Range are almost half a billion years old.  By comparison the Rockies are about 80 million years old and the Sierras and Tetons less than 10 million years old.  These mountains are really, really, old and have been ground down by wind, water, and ice to their current altitude of less then 6,288 feet (Mount Washington).  Who knows how high they were when new, it is believed that the Ossipee Ring Dike Volcano was over 10,000 feet..  And to all our Western Friends who sneer at our puny little mountains, keep in mind that we are often hiking a vertical of over 4,000 feet up 35〫-45〫  talus slopes, across bogs and rivers, and through thick forest with roots that like nothing better than to trip you up. Come on out and try it some day.  But I digress.  What I’m trying to say is; to find an outcropping like this still existing in these old mountains is nothing short of thrilling.

DSC06643-columnar basalt

You can easily see the sharp edged breaks that are so distinctive to this type of formation.

Note the broken hexagonal piece in the lower left of the above picture. Detail below.

Basalt Column - detail

Basalt Column – detail

DSC06649-explanation of columnar

How It Happens

Here you cans see the fracture lines on a large broken piece of the cliffside.

Hexagonal Fracture Lines

Hexagonal Fracture Lines

We were totally blown away with this find and it turned an average hike on a small mountain into a spectacular hike. As we proceeded down the trail we found several of the waterfalls that this region, overseen by the “Lakes Region Conservation Trust“, is famous for.

"Falls of Song"

“Falls of Song”

"Emerald Falls"

“Emerald Falls”

And lastly, for our friend Tom, the requisite fish picture from the small pond at the trailhead.

Rainbow Trout

Rainbow Trout

Plymouth State University – Ossipee Ring Dike

Columnar Basalt – Worldwide

Granite and Basalt (Igneous Rocks)

Obsidian – The King of the Igneous Rocks – at Big Obsidan Flow, Oregon



More Cobscook Bay Photos

Sculpture in Lubec, ME

DSCN0158-from Lubec to Campobello_edited-1During our stay at Coobscook Bay we took numerous day trips to Lubec, Machias, and Campobello Island

East Quoddy Head light at low tide

East Quoddy Head light at low tide

Very, VERY, Low Tide

Very, VERY, Low Tide

The bridge to Campobello Island, New Brunswick, Canada

The bridge to Campobello Island, New Brunswick, Canada

DSCN0240-beach stones-Campobello

Beach Stones

DSCN0251-beach stones, campobello

Campobello Island Beach

DSCN0255-Campobello rocks

The rocks come alive with color when wet.

Back at the campsite for some kayaking.

Kayakers passing our campsite.

Kayakers passing our campsite.

Launching at low (lowish) tide.

Launching at low (lowish) tide.

A happy test pilot trying out Cheryl's kayak

A happy test pilot trying out Cheryl’s kayak

Another day - another eagle

Another day – another eagle

Cobscook Bay State Park, Maine

Hello from Downeast Maine.

Hello from Downeast Maine.

In the last post I discussed the term Downeast Maine.  Well, go as far downeast as you can and you reach the area where the Maine and New Brunswick coasts, along with Campobello Island, meet.  This is where you will find Cobscook Bay.  Cobscook Bay is an inland bay fed by the tides of Passamaquoddy Bay and the Bay of Fundy.  Unlike Passamaquoddy Bay (20-30 foot tide range) and the Bay of Fundy (30-40 foot range) this bay has a more moderate average tide range of 24 feet.

DSCN0376-bay and islands around Rev Falls_edited-1

Cobscook Bay.

From many of the sites in the state park you can launch a kayak at just about any tide, and even at low tide the bay is navigable except for some of the smaller inlets and channels.  That’s why we are here.  That, and the large populations of bald eagles, harbor and grey seals, and numerous birds.

DSCN0017-our own little sunrise paradise_edited-1

Our own little sunrise paradise

Blue Heron on takeoff.

Harbor Seal

Harbor Seal

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle on Birch Island


Immature Loon

The name Cobscook is the Passamaquoddy name for “Boiling Tide”.  An apt name when you visit Reversing Falls.  A short drive to near Eastport, reportedly the eastermost city in the U.S., and a short walk down a rocky trail, took us to the falls.

DSCN0204-seals in the current_edited-1

Seals fishing in the current below Reversing Falls.

The falls are created when the incoming, or outgoing, tide passes over a band of rocks in a channel.  The channel is several hundred feet across, with a gap on the far side that creates a series of rapids as the water rushes around the falls.  The falls roar for hours as the bay either fills or empties, followed by a short period of eerie quiet at slack tide, then back to roaring in the other direction.  Suffice it to say that it is hard to describe, but wonderful to watch, and you should go see it if you ever get the chance.

DSCN0135-wild waters of Rev Falls_edited-1

Reversing Falls – nearing high tide.

DSCN0137-Rev falls_edited-1

Rapids in the sluice at Reversing Falls

Reversing Falls are about 3 miles, by kayak, from the campground.  We will look into the possibility of kayaking out there later in the week.  Being able to launch at just about any tide level, gave us the opportunity for some early morning paddling while the fog was still sitting in the bay.

DSCN0176-low tide toward Sisters_edited-1

Foggy morning view from the campsite towards the Sisters (Islands).

DSCN9895-ted in the fog_edited-1

Waiting for the sun.

One of the marvelous things about kayaking on the ocean, or ocean bays, is that the sounds, light, and surface conditions change constantly and every day is a new adventure.

DSCN9975-sunrise at #4

Sunrise from the campsite.

DSCN9990-sunrise visitor

Sunrise Visitor – Kingfisher

One of the campers at Cobscook, builds rock art sculptures and this sculpture, we dubbed “The Sea Nymph”, was still standing when we left after two weeks.

DSCN0104-sea nymph

The Sea Nymph.

DSCN0236-height comparison_edited-1

Cheryl, Ted, and the Nymph at low tide.

DSCN9829-C & the sea nymph_edited-1

the Nymph gets her feet wet twice a day.

Each day’s paddle in Cobscook Bay brought new delights.  I mean, really, how often does one get to watch eagles fishing.

DSCN0191-eagle fishing in rev falls

Eagle fishing at slack tide near Reversing Falls.

DSCN0048-a nice paddle_edited-1

Exploring one of the many coves of Cobscook Bay.

The bay is relatively unihabited, (it’s mostly State owned land) so there are numerous places to land and explore this beautiful coast.


“Connemara” (Cheryl’s Kayak) at a rest stop.

DSCN0099-young loon

Our young loon visited every day.

DSCN0128-got eyes on me_edited-1

DSCN0358-from across the bay_edited-1

Across the bay from the campsite.

DSCN9909-campsite from kayak

Our campsite from the kayak.

Just up the road a piece from the State Park there is a rail trail that runs from Dennysville to Machais, about 20 miles.  The surface is a bit rough for biking (It is mainly used as a snowmobile corridor), but we figured it would be nice for a short ride.  We rode about 10 miles, 20 round trip.

DSCN9940-along the rocky trail

Rail Trail

The trail meanders through woods and meadows, with numerous stream crossings and ponds, and some great old bridges.

DSCN9931-flora along trail

Flora along the trail

DSCN9927-along the rail trail

Stream crossing.

DSCN9928-rail trail trestle 1902

American Bridge Company of New York. – 1902

There’s more to come from our two weeks at Cobscook Bay State Park.

DSCN9881-view from  campsite4_edited-1

Morning at Cobscook Bay.

Wind Cave, Logan Canyon, Utah

Posted on

Well, It’s good to be in shorts again.

We camped for a night in Logan Canyon and found a potential hike in the Utah DeLorme Atlas.  Wind Cave.

A Note About Navigation:

For general day to day navigation when driving we use a Garmin Nuvi 550 GPS named Lois.  Lois is pretty good in civilized areas, and great in the cities, but when we head for the outback we go to the paper maps.

For the less civilized areas in each state we use the DeLorme Atlas and Gazatteer.  The Delorme atlases are incredibly detailed and in addition to the maps contain information on hikes, bike trails, scenic drives, and points of interest including unique natural features, National Parks, Recreation areas, Public Lands, boat launches, and campgrounds.  Many of the great finds on our trips come from the DeLorme Atlases.

The hike to wind cave, about 2 miles, was pleasantly steep, enough for a good cool morning workout, with lots of great views of Logan Canyon.

The cave is above us, right there in the middle of the picture.

We could see the cave as we approached.  Wind Cave is actually a series of interconnected arches that form a shallow cave.

Looking at Logan Canyon from Wind Cave.

I am continually amazed at the stuff we find all over the country.

Valley of the Gods, Utah – A special hike and a storm.

Posted on

Arroyo, wash, draw, dry wash, slough,…Call it what you will it is basically a dry creek bed, that flows only during times of high water.  There was a pretty good size wash just behind our campsite so on the last day at the Valley of the Gods we decided to see where it goes.  When free hiking in the desert, that is “off Trail” there are certain rules to follow. First and foremost, Don’t damage the “Crypto”.  Crypto is cryptobiotic crust, a combination of red or brown sand, some small amount of moisture, and minute plant life that binds it all together into a crust about as tough as pie crust.  It’s tough enough to keep the wind form blowing the soil away, but not tough enough to withstand a footstep.  When damaged, it can take decades to repair itself and vital soil may be lost before the crust re-establishes itself.  Therefore, off trial hiking is done on durable surfaces such as rock or gravel and in washes which periodically get rinsed out anyway so there is no permanence to the wash soil.

Crptobiotic Crust

There was actually a small flow of water near the beginning of our hike, but it was due to a small seep or spring, not an actual creek.

In the beginning

Long nosed leopard lizard

Long Nosed Leopard Lizard

Up the wash

Red blvd

The Red Boulevard.

Walking the red blvd

Most washes are primarily sand and gravel with boulders strewn about, this one, near the beginning, had long stretches of red slickrock, sandstone smooth enough that you could drive on it.  We’ve done lot’s of wash hikes and never seen one like this.  It was like a solid rock road.

Walking blue blvd

The Blue Boulevard.

After a mile or so of red slickrock we passed through a gravel area and then found blue slickrock for another half mile.

Close up red purple blvd

Purple and blue blvd

The Red, Blue, and Purple, Boulevard.

Finally we found several sections of red and blue mixed together, often with purple highlights, and inclusions of various types in the rock.


Funny rock

Shortly after we got back from the hike, the wind blew up and storm clouds started to build all around us.

Wind+ desert=

Post storm rainbow

Post Storm Rainbow.

Rainbow over TC

Where we went

When the storm cleared we could see back into the layers of canyons where we had hiked. The storm finally blew itself out and presented us with a beautiful sunset.

Sunset in the VALLEY

Sunset – Valley of the Gods.

The next morning was Saturday and in the distance we could see the dust trails of cars and trucks heading into the valley so we left for Lake Powell.

Someone s comin

Valley of the Gods, Utah – The Valley

Posted on

Valley of the Gods is in the BLM area of southeastern Utah, just north of Monument Valley in Arizona. The valley is a flat arid plain riddled with huge sandstone monoliths and rising in the north to Cedar Mesa. A 17 mile gravel road traverses the valley, winding around the monoliths and skirting the southern edge of the canyons of cedar Mesa.  There are ample dispersed camping sites along the road.  There are no facilities and the rules are leave no trace, anything you bring in, take out.  Perfect territory for a self contained unit like our truck camper.  There is not much to say about the area so I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

The getting there

TC at Valley of Gods

In the land of red and green

In the morning light

Sun on towers

View from Our Campsite

Sunrise on the cliffs

Sunrise on the Cliffs

NewTC friends

We met some Truck Campers from Washington State.

The road out of the Valley

Leaving the Valley of the Gods to head north is via the “Moki Dugway”.  The Moki Dugway is a series of switchback on gravel roads that climbs 1500 feet in 3 miles to ascend Cedar Mesa.  The Dugway was built to allow large haulers to make the journey from the Uranium Mines in Utah to processing areas around Los Alamos, New Mexico during the “Cold War”.  It’s a fun trip.

Moki Dugway warning

A camper on the Moki

A camper on the Moki Dugway

Petrified Forest / Painted Desert National Monument, Arizona

Posted on

I had an interesting preconception / misconception about Petrified Forest National Monument.  We had been talking about visiting for a couple of years, but it’s in an out of the way place and there’s no camping, so it just didn’t seem to happen.  This year our route north from New Mexico was going to take us very near the park so I did a little internet research to find a place to camp nearby.  I visited several forums looking for info and came away with the impressions that many people see it as a quick stop with a couple of interesting things to look at, and that’s about all. Hmmm! I did find a place to camp, a gift shop right at the entrance to the park, “The Crystal Forest” gift shop, has a free campground.  How unusual, but oh so nice, so we figured we’d give the park a look. (we love free camping).

Fortunately my preconception was entirely false, the park is wonderful and I recommend it to anyone who is willing to walk a bit and open their minds and eyes to a unique natural wonder.  Now it is true that petrified wood can be found in all 50 states, we ourselves found a small petrified forest in Yellowstone NP a few years ago, but nowhere on earth has such a concentration of petrified wood artifacts as this park. This is in spite of many, many, years of rampant collecting before the park was adequately protected.

Here’s the process.  225 million years ago some trees were felled, quite a few trees actually, maybe from a volcanic eruption like Mt St. Helens a few years back.  Many of these trees floated downstream to calmer waters, gradually became waterlogged, and sank; to be covered by 100s, maybe 1000s of feet of silicon rich volcanic ash. The sediment cut off Oxygen and prevented decay of the wood. Over many eons the silicon migrated into the wood and replaced the organic materials of the wood turning each cell into quartz.

Quartz often contains impurities which give it color.  Manganeses for dark purple & blue, carbon for black, Iron for red, Chromium for yellow, and many others.  Cyrstal inclusions are often found in gaps in the wood.

There are 13 extinct species of conifer represented at the park, and one deciduous tree closely related to Ginko.  Several of the softwood species are antecedents of the Giant Sequoias, although the largest of the park trees were only about 200 feet tall. The biggest log we saw was maybe 4 feet in diameter.  By comparison we saw logs in yellowstone that were 6 feet or more in diameter.  This Petrified Wood is much more colorful, and there’s a lot more of it.

At the Blue Mesa, halfway along the 30 mile park road, the topography of the park changes into a badlands type landscape similar to The Badlands in South Dakota or Theodore Roosevelt NP in North Dakota. Hills of Bentonite (a soft clay like rock) are eroding away and exposing yet more petrified wood.

Blue Mesa Overview.

There’s a one mile loop trail that winds through the hills along the mesa top. Unlike the northern badlands, these badlands are colorful and many of the same minerals present in the petrified wood turn the hills pink, gray and blue.  Blue Mesa is on the fringe of the Painted Desert.

Iron, Copper, Manganese, and other minerals make the vivid colors.

Just north of the Blue Mesa is Newspaper Rock, an ancient petroglyph site.

As we traveled north, we found less petrified wood, but entered into the Painted Desert area of the park.  The Painted Desert, only a small portion of which is protected by the National Park, stretches south from Utah to areas east of the park.  Here, the bentonite hills exhibit even more color from pale to deep greens, blues and grays, and rich vibrant reds and pinks.  Often chunks of petrified wood or sparkling crystals coat the eroding hillsides.

The first look at The Painted Desert.

The step like features on these hills are due to areas of the hillsides sloughing off during heavy rains.

After almost 2 days exploring this “Quick Stop” of a National Park we made a final stop at the Painted Desert Inn

The Inn was originally built around 1920 though it never successfully functioned as a lodge, but as a lunch counter where travelers could get meals, or a cold beer in the downstairs taproom.  In the 1930s the CCC restored and enlarged the inn and it reopened for business, again mainly as a lunch room, after World War II. In 1963, due to structural damage, the inn moved to a new building near the southern visitor center and the old building was scheduled for demolition.

After much wrangling a public campaign to “Save The Painted Desert Inn” succeeded, and in 1975 the building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.  In 1987 the Inn was declared a National Historic Landmark and the Park Service restored it to it’s present condition.  Today it functions as a small bookstore and public attraction.

The Lunchroom at the Painted Desert Inn.

There are some fine murals by Hopi artist Fred Kabotie that alone make the visit worthwhile and I couldn’t help but wish the taproom still functioned.

Mural at the Painted Desert Inn.

Glass ceiling tile paintings by some unknown CCC artist.

The stone pillars on either side of the doorway are made of blocks of petrified wood.

I know someone will ask so here’s a little petrified wood factoid:  You probably noticed that many of the logs look like they have been sawn apart with a chainsaw, and the log ends often have smooth, flat surfaces.  Why?  After the wood turned to stone it was buried deep within the earth for millions of years.  The movement of the earth at times exerted immense pressure on the brittle unyielding logs, snapping them like glass rods.  (They are essentially glass after all.)

Fracture Lines.

Wood Turned to Stone.

Some Petrified Specimens.

Next stop:  One from the bucket list – Canyon de Chelly National Monument.


art therapy in India

Winter in the Desert, Summer in the Mtns

Sharing our love of America's Natural Wonders


Sharing our love of America's Natural Wonders