Wild and Woolly,
You're the Scary Sort
Of Ski Resort
Well, because of the rhyme scheme.
But also because of the volcano.
In fact, Mammoth is in one of the largest calderas on Earth, the
Long Valley Caldera, the collapsed crater
of a "supervolcano" which last erupted catastrophically 760,000 years ago, covering Western North America with ash.
Local businesses protested the naming of the Mammoth escape route as "Mammoth Escape Route",
so that it was renamed "Mammoth Scenic Route".
If California ever did decide to "slide into the sea", it would simply slip back where it came from. Rather, the sea is
continuing to slip into California, as it has done since the Jurassic or so. The western
edge of the North American continent is actually at about the California/Nevada border. The sea floor is generated
somewhere mid-Pacific, and rolls like a conveyor belt towards the edges: towards East Asia on the one hand, and towards
the Americas on the other. The sea floor belt collects mud on top of it, which it conveys to its end. Where the sea-floor
reaches the North American continent, it dives underneath it (subduction) and is melted again to slowly work its way
back to the center of the Pacific. Before the sea-floor dives under America, it scrapes off its mud layer, which
piles up vertically and tears into slabs which stand upright, squeezed together like geology books on a shelf. This mudden
library is California. As the sea floor sinks and melts, it forms magma bubbles which grow and build up pressure,
striving to get out the top - and push the mud above them skyward: The Sierra Nevada. In places, where mixes of mud and sea floor
are under enough heat and pressure, metamorphic rock forms, melting and fusing these materials. Thus the geology of the Sierra is
a mixture of sedimentary (sand and mud - thus we have beachy sand dunes at 10,000 ft), metamorphic and igneous rock; granite, quarz.
Every September, Bill invites Stella and Frank to come to Mammoth, where he and his father David have gone in September for decades.
This time, we agreed, and spent a month strutting about the Peninsula in hiking boots, training our soles to avoid blistering.
Bill also invites other people. This year, two of Bill's riding partners, Ron and Alice, also participated. Ron and Alice lived at a
campsite in their Plasterboard Palace, which their Polar Bear dragged over the pass. Stella and I inhabited a spare room in Bill and David's
While everyone else stayed longer, Stella and Frank had a dinner appointment to keep in Vermont, and made the best of the three days.
We never did grow used to the thin air, though that was less of a problem than it had been two years earlier on our
Yosemite trip. The most difficult part of the thin air was the perpetual insomnia, and arriving
in the kitchen upstairs out of breath and panting.
Day one is a short easy, warm-up hike, unspectacular but for the landscape.
Day two is Stella and Frank's big day; the long hike to the Teats.
Day Three is David and Bill's big day, and a pleasant wind-down [*] for Stella and Frank
Stella says she wouldn't call it that.