Earth Day '02

Looking down into the canyon.

Two-Lined Salamander, streamside.

Up on the Devil's Backbone.

American Toad.

How was your Earth Day?  We Earthlings give the Earth one day a year, poor payment in kind when you stop and think about it.  The Earth's always there when we need it, it's right outside our window when we wake up.  Earth never takes a day off.  Or a night, for that matter.

What did I do on Earth Day 2002, and thanks for asking?  I took a day off work, and visited one of my favorite places on the Earth.  Along with Tracey, a friend who also asked off for the Earth's sake, I went to a little place about an hour's drive away from me, over in eastern Indiana.

Picture a small, slow stream, meandering over the countryside, looping back and forth in a series of severe curves typical of water on flat land.  Now come back and visit the place again after several thousand years, and now the river has managed to cut down through several feet of the soft sandstone that lay underneath it, sandstone laid down who knows when by what ancient sea.  Once again we'll come back to visit some thousands of years later and -whups! - while we were gone, an Ice Age happened, big glaciers galloping down from Canada, dragging a goodly portion of that country with them.  Now all that ice is melting, and the mile-high icewall is retreating northward.  It leaves behind big, hard chunks of Canuckia, all worn 'round after serving time as ball bearings under the galloping glacier.

At this point our little stream is a roaring torrent of meltwater and hard, round rocks, and since the bed is deepened, most of the water and all of the rocks follow the ancient looping curves.  It is a combination of curling (a Canadian sport that uses large, smooth stones) and the luge (zipping along icy curved channels, also popular in Canada), and over time, the water and tumbling rocks carve the streambed deeper and deeper.  It etches a groove through twenty, thirty feet of sandstone, and far into the shale beds (another ancient ocean) below.  The streambed widens as well, and the meandered loops grow closer as the walls between them narrow.


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