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The joy of rocks

Dustin Mennella | Thursday, January 25, 2007

Rocks are everywhere. There is no doubting that, nor do I think anyone would. However, like some friend who is always around eating your food, I think rocks are unappreciated. Think about it – if that friend was to leave, you may have more food, but something would still be missing.

Well, that metaphor may have fallen short, but the point remains. Rocks, or naturally occurring aggregates of minerals by definition, have played an important role in the history of the world up to this point. In fact, the Earth itself could be viewed as a large compilation of solid and molten rock (without which we would be as homeless as hobo Joe).

And hey, the Stone Age? Without rocks, what would cavemen have used to invent tools? But moving on, this isn’t about the past – there are plenty of rocks around to appreciate today. You could be walking along the road and come across a felsic Rhyolite (an igneous type), or perhaps even a nice metamorphic Gneiss, who knows?

For as long as I can remember I have always enjoyed climbing, and I would climb anything really. Trees were major targets, but jungle gyms, cars and even houses as I got older were all summited in turn. As we grow older though, different things are expected of us, and alas my tree climbing days are now very few and far between.

However, I recently discovered the Rockne Memorial contains a rock climbing room – “climbing on rocks?” I thought. Sure, I don’t see why not! I tried rock climbing out for size, and with it rediscovered my joy of climbing. I found the challenge of traversing an inclined face, or completing a certain climbing route entertaining, and also a good way to keep in shape.

But I digress, back to rocks. As of now I have only climbed in man-made gyms, but I hope to climb actual rocks in the future. Perhaps a nice sandstone wall or granite boulder would be nice, I’m not really sure what rock-types are good for climbing. By the way, did you know that from an engineering perspective, rocks larger than three inches in diameter are classified as boulders?

New Mexico. Just one word away from traditional Mexico, which is also the traditional Spring Break destination. However, for my Spring Break, I signed up for a geologic field trip into the Bandelier Mountains of New Mexico for some true rock appreciation. Carlsbad Caverns is also on the itinerary, where the nation’s deepest limestone cave exists within a Permian-age fossilized reef. Needless to say, I am already excited.

Perhaps next year I should plan to study the black sand beaches and Basalt lava-flows of Hawaii for spring break …