March 1, 2010

Fossil Canyon near Ocotillo, CA

We decided to say goodbye to the Sonoran Desert and head west to the promised land of California. So, on Sunday we drove 5 hours from Tucson to Ocotillo, CA. Ocotillo is a tiny town with only 250 people and absolutely no services just a few miles north of the Mexican border. in fact, it is so close, we were driving along the brand new border fence and high-tech towers they put up on I-8.

But, it is close to I-8, so I get good cell reception. As a welcome to California, we felt a 3.5 magnitude earthquake overnight that woke us up, which had an epicenter directly under us. It was said on the news that it was caused by the Chilean quake.

Today, we went directly up from the village to a beautiful area known as Fossil Canyon. It is called that because it's walls contain thousands of fossils of clams, oysters, and snails. Most of them are crushed and thus the walls are a mis-match of shell fragments embedded in the clay-like materials.

Here you can see some oyster and snail shells in this rock

Here Hilina is examining some embedded clam shell fragments

It is early spring now and quite a number of plants have begun flowering including tiny little poppies, purple sage, lupines, and some brittlebrush.

Hilina checking out the brittlebrush

Lupine and unknown species of mini-poppy

The hike goes several miles up a wash with a constantly changing geologic setting of sedimentary, metamorphic, and igneous rocks. The wash has all sorts of sparkly mica-containing rocks of every color and variety. There are areas of basalt flows and layers of ocean-sediments. It would take a geologist to explain how all of this came together in one spot.

But, I suspect it has to do with the accretionary docking of various islands and landmasses onto the North American content when California was forming and then the uplift and mixing of these materials due to the transform plate boundary of the San Andreas fault.

Anyways, it was an extremely enjoyable walk on a sunny mid-70's day in extremely Southern California.

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