"Every planet has its own weird customs. About a year before we met, I spent six weeks on a moon where the principal form of recreation was juggling geese. My hand to God. Baby geese - goslings! They were juggled."

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


Today is my fifth day in Alaska, and it's 60 F out. Not bad! Currently FREEZING in a Borders in Anchorage, though. Trying to work on my thesis revisions, but it's just not happening. It's like climbing or hiking a really difficult route - you use serious amounts of physical and mental energy getting to the goal, but when the goal's in sight, you collapse...not quite there, but almost.

The geology we saw on our trip from Socorro, NM, was spectacular. I've always loved northwest New Mexico, but it just got better after we left the state. My last impression of Utah was a never-ending desert with mountains in the distance you could never reach because it was so flat. My new impression is that Utah is a dynamic state, packed with history and exposed geology. We drove a ways into Arches National Park to see the Windows section, but saw the enormous Moab normal fault, hoodoos, fins, balancing rocks, pretty much all manner of amazing desert formations.

The next day, we realized our hotel was located a mile north of a geyser. A cold geyser - one that ejects water and CO2. When we arrived on site, the geyser was gushing away noisily. CO2 poured out the top of the pipe and refracted light...I wondered how much it expels a day. Shortly after, the geyser ceased and mudpots just 30-40 feet away began filling with water and bubbled away. About 30 minutes later, they completely drained, and the geyser began bubbling up again. Totally fascinating.

We spent two full days wandering around Washington state, including a day on Rainier to measure the temperature of the springs in Longmire meadow and to see a really fantastic video of the park in Paradise. I took my mom to the northwest side of St. Helens to peak into the breached crater, but we only got *just* close enough to see the very northern tip of the dome. Coldwater Visitor Center was closed, as was the road to the Johnson Ridge Observatory. Another attempt at getting to the JRO spoiled. Someday, right?

I thought the northern Canadian Rockies would top all ranges I've ever seen, until we spotted the St. Elias mountains. They closely resemble the enormity of the Himalayas and extend 300 miles - the Magdalena Mountains in New Mexico are only 18 miles long. The St. Elias are just 10 million years old - once more to compare, the volcanic rocks of the Magdalenas are about 32-28 million years old.

Totally stunning.

Curving around the Yukon and into Alaska, a very narrow view of the Kluane ice field was visible. The ice field is the largest non-polar field in the world, and I think I read the ice is up to 2,200 feet thick. Wish we could have seen the interior closer.

Finally reaching Denali National Park, we were able to drive to mile 33 on the Park road due to good road conditions (a first this time of year since 1980). We only got a short glimpse of Denali from 76 miles away. The drive showed me how much work I have to get done at Denali, and how hard this work will be to complete.

We tried to find some glaciers on the Kenai Peninsula, but it was raining hard the entire day yesterday. Portage would have been our best bet, but the boats are out of service until May and the lake is frozen over. I walked down to it from the gate but there was nothing to be seen.

And now, I have to finish this thesis forever. Santiaguito just had its biggest explosion since 1989 - not something I would have expected for a lower extrusion rate.

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