This Totally Creeped Me Out

DSCN3244_edited-1This is the view from the ranger station at Pinnacles National Monument this past Thanksgiving Day. Beautiful, huh?  (It was not this that creeped me out.)

DSC_4537_edited-2See the size of the itty bitty humans at the bottom of the picture?  See the size of the giant boulders?  (It was not this that creeped me out.)

The difference in landscape and temperature between the central California farm lands and the deep valleys of the Pinnacles is striking. (It was not this that creeped me out.)

We had not yet reached the deepest, furthest, darkest part of Bear Gulch Cave.  I looked up at the boulders overhead. That’s what a “talus cave” is — a cave formed by giant boulders. Then I got to thinking about the San Andreas Fault. That’s what created Pinnacles and that’s what created the caves and that’s what creeped me out. And I got out as quickly as I could.

Pinnacles San Andreas
The dotted red line is the path of the San Andreas Fault. [map via TheScientific.com]

When you’re standing in Pinnacles National Park, you’re really not standing still. The earth beneath you is gradually moving north, at the pace of about an inch a year, compared to the mountains of the Diablo Range to the east.

This motion is taken up by slip on the San Andreas Fault, a 600-mile long fracture between two of the planet’s tectonic plates. The Pacific plate has been grinding past the North American plate for about 30 million years.

As these two chunks of the Earth’s crust met, the Pinnacles volcanic field was born about 23 million years ago and 195 miles to the south. Eruption after eruption accumulated a pile more than 8,000 feet thick of volcanic rock layers made up of lava, rock fragments, ash, and glass. Millions of years later, the stack of volcanic rocks was split by the newly formed San Andreas Fault, and the land to the west of the fault moved northward, just as it does today.

Millions of years of tectonic motion both brought the volcanic rocks here and lifted and tilted them, exposing them to erosion by wind and rain that has carved the spires and canyons of Pinnacles National Park.  As the steep canyon walls erode further, huge rocks fall to the canyon bottom and pile to form the talus caves.  — NCPA.ORG

12 thoughts on “This Totally Creeped Me Out

  1. The landscape in the first and third photos were a pleasant reminder of my time spent at Ft. Ord. I can certainly understand why you were creeped out and it’s a good example of why we should all work together to help stop the movement of tectonic plates.

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    1. I knew I could count on you, David, to share the burden. I considered holding my ground inside the talus cave, but I knew that forming a support group is a better use of my energy.

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    1. I never think of myself as having phobias, including claustrophobia. But I confess a few times I’ve been “under” stuff and this creeps me out. Not small spaces, just being under huge weights. Like once I was at Mt Blanc and some guys had made an ice cave in the glacier. I was in there, wandering around, and looked up and saw tons of blue water above me. Creeped me out! Thanks for your comment & visit, Susan.

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    1. It is quite beautiful in this park, and the giant boulders are actually everywhere, as you can see. Perhaps being in the cave protects from having anything else fall in you? Seems reasonable. And yet being outside in the light and air feels better than being in that cave. Thanks for your comment, Karen!

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  2. I like the way you led us through to post to finally find out what made you nervous. I share your sentiments. I am also afraid of heights, tight spaces and hurtling downhill at great speed on anything flimsy – skis, boards, etc. I like to play it safe! 😉

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    1. Thanks Eliza! When I was a kid I stood on the edge of the Grand Canyon (before they put rails up) — no problem. And when we moved to California I went body surfing in some pretty big waves — kind of scarey, but I kept doing it. As the decades have passed, I grow more respectful.

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    1. I was beguiled by the open spots — the clearing just coming up, or the roomy chamber, or the bit of light coming in from above. It was thinking about it that got to me!

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