Monday, October 21, 2013

UNBALANCED reports a story about a video that has apparently gone viral: A Boy Scout troop laughingly knocking over an ageless rock formation in Utah’s Goblin Valley State Park. The act—and the attitude of the Scout leaders—is maddening. And it brings to mind something closer to home:

When our daughter Anna was about fourteen, she attended a Black Hills retreat center as a “counselor in training.” One afternoon she invited a group of her fellow fourteen-year-old trainees to our nearby cabin (I’m fuzzy on the details – an adult staffer must have been present; we weren’t). They hiked up beloved “Rubble Rock Mountain” that rises behind our cabin.

Anna's nephew Sam, in more recent days,
resting near the top of Rubble Rock Mountain
About 6,500 feet high, we named it Rubble Rock because of it’s shattered evidence of the geological uplift—occurring 60 million years ago—that formed the Black Hills. (The rock itself is about 2 billion years old). The rubbly “evidence” of which I speak is indicative of an originally horizontal slab that was suddenly (in geological terms) thrust vertically upward almost 90 degrees--part of the resulting formation remaining upright, other bits of it sloughing off from the pull of gravity and the violence of the uplift. Some of what was hoisted upward now lies on the opposite side of the valley: boulders the size of a house that must have broken away and rolled down almost immediately. Others form a scree of Volkswagen-sized rocks creating the hillside (and much of the fun of the climb -- the rocks still shift underfoot!). But most of the gray wedge held together and, promontory-like, points to the sky. At the very top, the slab is serrated into a series of parallel vertical chunks, as evenly flat as though cut by a saw. One piece, about the size of a refrigerator sliced in half length-wise, was balanced between its two neighboring chunks. And I mean balanced. It weighs probably three times as much as that refrigerator, but you could take your little finger, give it a tiny push, and it would rock—almost swishing—back and forth, like a primeval metronome. And then it would settle back into place, seemingly eternally immovable. It seemed so delicate that I
Rubble's Balancing Rock,
no longer balanced.
never dared push with more than a finger. But, since I’m now writing in the past tense, you’ve probably figured it out. A couple of the fourteen-year-old boys (of course!) weren’t so constrained. With a good shove they dislodged it from its 60 million-year-old cradle; it now leans sorrowfully against its lithic neighbor.

(I may be exaggerating. Geologists who have studied the rock of our valley have determined its ancient age, but are uncertain as to the epochal details of its movements. Perhaps it was only balanced there since the last Ice Age, a mere 100,000-10,000 years ago.)
Let's hope the Boy Scouts don't find this.
(In Arches National Park, Utah)

I grieve the loss of our Balancing Rock, but I don’t blame Anna. I don’t even blame the fourteen-year-old troglodytes because…

…when I was fourteen I would have done the same thing.

(Adult scout leaders, however, I don't let off so easily...)

No comments: