Granite Sometimes Becomes Gneiss

Granite 21-1
Exploring the domain of Cougar Canyon in Anza-Borrego State Park, California.

After spending four days in the wilderness of the Anza-Borrego Desert, we returned to a world that had turned to chaos – schools closed, roads empty, and everyone in quarantine from the Corona Virus. We should have just stayed out there.

But since we’re back, we thought we’d share some of our discoveries – one of which was that the desert’s arid shrublands, although beautiful, can be seen as mere decoration. It’s the plutonics that center stage – igneous rocks cooked deep underground.

Formed when the Farallon Plate was diving under the North American Plate (beginning about 170 million years ago), all shapes and forms of granite and granite-like rock were created from molten earth five miles deep. At times, reheating and extreme subterranean pressure transformed it all into beautiful, defoliated gneiss. At other times, cracks or weak areas filled with crystalline minerals of quartz, feldspar, and mica. Exposed to the surface after millions of years of erosion, decomposition sets in – it rusts, it crumbles, it’s turned to sand.

Granite 1-1b
Iron exposes itself to oxygen.

Granite 19-1b
By far the biggest rock found, until the next one around the bend.
Granite 10-1b
Black and white.
Granite 7-1b
A living fossil remnant of another time.
Granite 20-1b
Very  nice gneiss.
Granite 6-1b
Biologics working slowly, transforming granite to sand.
Granite 9-1b
A vein of dark quartz, iced with feldspar, sprinkled with black hornblende.
Granite 18-1b
A band of feldspar surrounded by granodiorite.
Granite 16-1b
Dark, foliated bands of biotite mica and hornblende.
Granite 22-1
The face of time.
Granite 15-1b
A flash of crystal feldspar.
Granite 23-1b
Atop a granitic mound, life, and much more can be found, if you are willing.

A few non-granitic gems…

Nick 24-1
Black-tailed Gnatcatcher.
Nick 22-1b
Barrel cactus.
Flower VII-1
Baby barrel along a quartz vein.
Nick 5-1
Anna’s Hummingbird.
Nick 23-1b
Desert colors.
Nick 21-1b
Mistletoe fruit.
Flower II-1
Climbing Milkweed (Funastrum Cynanchoides)
Flower final b
Chuparosa (Justicia californica) and Parish’s goldeneye (Bahiopsis parishii).
Flower V-1
Beavertail Prickly Pear (Opuntia basilaris var. basilaris).
Flower VI-1
Desert colors II.
Nick drawing-1
A naturalist doing what a naturalist does.

And back to granite, again…

Nick 26-1b
The 3-day effect.
The end.

4 Comments on “Granite Sometimes Becomes Gneiss

  1. Regarding the pic of touching God in an Encelia farinosa bush:

    Once upon a spring-of-2008 time I hiked from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon down to Phantom Ranch with about ten classmates from NPS’s Albright Training Center, where I was taking a class. As we neared the bottom of the canyon we abruptly entered a new life zone that supported a lot of Encelia farinosa. I know that shrub Anza Borrego and the inland edge of coastal sage scrub distributions in San Diego County. I think of it as a cousin of my more familiar coastal friend Encelia californica. I had no idea it hung out this far east way out in the Sonoran Desert.

    So I just spontaneously exclaimed what I was thinking, “Encelia farinosa! My good friend! What are you doing way out here? ”

    One of my classmates was a marvelous New Jersey woman from NPS’s Washington Office who didn’t know Encelia farinosa personally or professionally, and in fact was not on a first name basis with any suffrutescent shrubs from the American Southwest. She burst out laughing at my behavior. I don’t think she knew a lot of botanists.

    We had a conversation about it, each being very careful not to shame the other. I think we both learned something. The thing I hope I taught her was that Encelia farinosa is a really cool plant and that botanists talk to plants sometimes. And it is entirely appropriate to call plants out by name if you find them doing something surprising, like gallivanting about the Grand Canyon.

    Anyway, I’m pretty sure I can see God hanging out with Encelia farinosa too in certain inspired moments. Good on you for noticing that.

  2. Your pictures touched my soul. I too love nature and find it so healing and joyous.

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