Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Antelope Island Field Trip, and A Very Gneiss Day

We read that Antelope Island has deposits of gneiss from the Farmington Canyon Complex, which contains some of the oldest rocks in the United States. The gneiss in this area is 1.7 billion years old---as old as the rocks at the bottom of the Grand Canyon! We've never been to Antelope Island, and it was a lovely day, so we called some friends and headed up there for a picnic and to find some gneiss!
You drive across a 7-mile-long causeway, over the Great Salt Lake, to get to the island. There was lots of stark, interesting scenery, like this smooth, dead tree stump in the middle of a salt marsh.
The island is really beautiful. It smells like the ocean!
One fascinating thing you can see there are the herds of American Bison, about 600 of them, that we learned were introduced to the island in 1893. (Side note: I learned a long time ago that "bison" was the more accurate name for what we usually call "buffalo," but in fact Wikipedia tells me that both are equally correct. This is good, as my friend Andrea kept singing "Man on a Buffalo" and I'm sure she'll be thrilled to know that she can sing on, unhindered by the less melodious term "bison.")
There are pronghorn, too (the eponymous "antelope" of the Island)---see them down on the sand there?
We loved the bison/(buffalo)(s). (Argh, now that I've got their names straightened out, I'm unsure if buffalo or buffaloes is the plural! The words bison and buffalo are both unchanged by the plural---I think. Okay, looked it up, and it looks like buffalo or buffaloes is acceptable, but bison is plural and singular. Thank you; I hope this parenthetical statement has been educational.) They were so huge! And they came really close to us, so we could get good looks at them from our car. Beautiful animals!

My great fear during this little excursion was that I would not be able to recognize the gneiss when I saw it. And everyone was counting on me! I knew what gneiss looked like in our rock field guides, but I didn't know if this would be NICE gneiss like in the books. Or some sort of inferior gneiss that didn't look very gneiss-y.
The gneiss was supposed to comprise the Southern 2/3rds of the island, and to my great relief, as we drove along, we saw this ^^^
Gorgeous, beautiful, textbook gneiss! You can't miss it. I was so glad.
We got out and climbed around. Gneiss is such a cool-looking rock!
Pretty mineral crystals incorporated into this rock (Cowan found these)
While we looked at the gneiss, storm clouds started to gather, making the setting really beautiful and dramatic.
What an amazing setting! I call this series "Gneiss Weather Ahead."  Hahahaha!
We got back into our cars just as the rain hit, and then we were treated to some spectacular clouds moving across the lake. So pretty!
We were so reluctant to leave, because it was a most perfect and interesting day. As we drove away and the rain subsided, we watched (and listened to!) this buffalo drinking water from a puddle on the road. *SLURP SLURP SLURP!* He made such funny noises.
The sunset behind the dark clouds was so lovely.
And that was all---except for us passing this Important Landmark on the way home :)


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