Catskill geology nerd
Wednesday, April 7 2004
I should have said no, but I went on it anyway: a housecall all the way down in Ellenville, some 25 miles to the south. It ended up being a perfect housecall; two things were wrong with the computer, one anticipated and the other not. But I had everything I needed to fix it out in the truck. I like to think I've become a master of this business, that I know enough about the sorts of problems I face to be able to handle most situations on the ground, but the truth of the matter is that a good fraction of my housecalls stray frustratingly far from the ideal.
Sometimes you have to look in community calendars to find things to do up here along the eastern edge of the Catskill front. This evening Gretchen took me down to Stone Ridge to attend a lecture at SUNY-Ulster (where she is currently teaching an introductory library science class). The lecture was on the subject of Catskill geology, given by Dr. Robert Titus, "The Catskill Geologist." We showed up a little late, and I was amazed to see the makeshift lecture hall, a huge rectangular room, was packed with people.
Dr. Titus carried a familiar strain of nerdiness in his enthusiasm for the subject matter, but he used a variety of rhetorical and comedic techniques to keep us interested. He repeatedly asked us to imagine that the room we were in was actually the way its real estate had been back during various time periods, beginning with the late Silurian, 417 million years ago. Back then our part of North America was 20 degrees south of the equator and covered by a shallow coral sea. Later it was a vast river delta west of the ancient Acadian Mountains (a range that once was as tall as the Himalayas and whose roots are now the Berkshires). It was fascinating to learn that the entire Catskill complex is mostly comprised of a moderately uplifted mass of river deposits that had once filled a geologic basin.
The lecture was illustrated mainly with slides of various plants and animals, first those of the ancient coral sea and then later those of the primitive Devonian forests.
Dr. Titus wrapped things up with the conclusion of the Devonian, some 350 million years ago, although he obviously could have kept going had he only assembled a larger series of slides. After the lecture, we bought a copy of a book Titus had written about Catskill geology during the ice age. With a geeky panache that he'd kept leashed throughout the lecture, he signed it "To Gus and Gretchen with warm sediments." Then he did a little jig.
Eleanor today out along the Stick Trail.
Sally and Eleanor raided a skeleton in the woods today
and each ran around with articulated leg bones in their mouths.
Eleanor eventually lost hers but Sally took hers all the way home.
Stopping for a drink, Sally dropped her bones in Funky Pond
(atop Funky Pond Summit,
second highest peak on the Kingston West Quadrangle).
I had to fish them out with a stick.
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