"Long long time ago, there was nothing, but that nothing was everything until it truly became everything."
I just finished reading our own book for the quadrillionth time and today the words escape me as its end hit me being an era of a different Life. Not fully, not by far, but there is a path which now is paved. The construction took so long, was filled with so much scenery, so many new Friends met and while here I can for now only decide which direction this new path, this thirst for the road stronger than ever will take us. Will I see my surroundings differently? Probably. The colors will be brighter and the curiosity on how all came about, as hills, water, valleys and mountains again staring at us will be deeper.
I have even become more inquisitive about right here, Big Bend, Texas, where we are not enduring a harsh winter but enjoying it. There is an American Native Indian say " After making the Earth, the Great Spirit simply dumped all the leftover rocks on the Big Bend."
Considering that the Earth’s geological history covers a span of about 4.6 billion years and that the oldest rocks presently exposed in Big Bend date to about 300 million years ago, due to technical and geological interpretations, its history in the making can come as a surprise for many such as I. Big Bend was under water for a very long time. The timeline reconstructed by scientists and geologists through the Paleozoic, Mesozoic and Cenozoic Eras are indeed interesting and overall I find it the main reason for my love being in this area.
Can I bore you? Could one’s mind be just for a few moments distracted from the double yellow lanes a bit over the speed limit? I remember a few years back spending a couple days with a photographer visitor. I have even forgotten her name. What I did not forget was on the last night while having our final dinner at the Starlight she said "is that all there is?". The question tongue twisted me, a bit unusual, yet very quickly after my internal shock I did understand she did not care for the area and within myself all I could think was "good… one less visitor crowding the space". A bit selfish maybe, but those were my thoughts toward someone who could not see beyond silhouettes and shadows from just a bunch of rocks staring at her.
The Paleozoic Era lasted from 570 MYA [millions years ago] to 245 MYA. That Era itself started with the Cambrian Period when North America was covered by a shallow ocean belt from Northwest-Southeast Gulf of Mexico all the way up to the Pacific Northwest. Here in Big Bend, the sediments were primarily sandstones, limestones and dolomites with much marine life which included trilobites, brachiopods, snails, clams and sponges. I have myself seen clams with diameters up to three to four feet! An unusual sight as rarely these known organism are presently exposed to the land surface.
After the Cambrian Period, within the Paleozoic Era, then came the Ordovician, Silurian, Devonian and Mississippian Periods. Still covered with shallow seas the numbers and diversity of corals increased and the first land plants appeared. Shade took place! With shade arrived the amphibians throughout the Devonian period taking advantage of the thriving fern forests, horsetail rushes and huge deciduous trees. It must have been quite a sight. By the end of the same Era the Pennsylvanian Period took place. While Big Bend still covered by shallow seas a cataclysmic collision between North America, South America and Africa produced the Ouachita Mountain chain that ranges across the eastern seaboard and the Gulf States. In Southwest Texas, the collision caused the entire Big Bend region to rise above the sea level exposing the land for the very first time. Today, the remnants of the Ouachita Mountains are visible only at Persimmon Gap at the Northern entrance of the Park. That Era is also called "The Age of the Reptiles".
The Permian Period, by the end of the Paleozoic Era, left no geological records in Big Bend. From studies in other parts of the World, that Period was the precursor to the dinosaurs but here, the strata from that time period is missing. What a shame. Such a gap is called a unconformity. Between 245 MYA and 66 MYA they call it the Mesozoic Era. Again, there is no geological records of its beginning called the Triassic and Jurassic Periods. Another unconformity. The next Period is called the early Cretaceous when Big Bend was still covered by an ocean which was slowly receding as also during the Mid-Cretaceous Period turning the area into a swampy environment. With no hope lost the Late-Cretaceous Period arrived, a time of uplift in which the ocean was receded marked by more vast swampland with dense vegetation, deposits of continental clays and indeed through that Period dinosaur fossils have been found. A layer of clay and fossils has been called the Javelina formation and it was during that time that flowering plants first grew in the park.
Are you still with me? Wake up… we are almost arriving to today.
The last Era, from 66 MYA to the present is called the Cenozoic Era. It started with the Paleocene period [they are calling it "epoch" for no reason known to me]. It was the calm before the volcanic storm struck. The oceans receded to where they presently are, terrestrial vegetation continued to evolve and mammals appeared for the first time. The Eocene Period [or "epoch] following transformed the peaceful landscape into an ash covered wasteland after a major volcanic eruption. More volcanic eruptions followed and the lava and ash flows coupled with their sedimentary counterparts are known as the Chisos Formation. Those flows can also be found throughout the central and South sides of the Park.
The Oligocene Period following also marks another violent period of time in the geological history of Big Bend. More volcanic eruptions occurred and the resulting strata is the South Rim formation which is a massive lava flow combined with ash beds, sandstone and conglomerate. The South Rim formation is exposed on the top of the Chisos mountains and is also present atop Burro Mesa.
Finally four more periods bringing us to these present days. The Miocene, Pliocene, Pleistocene and Holocene Periods. Throughout those times talus slopes formed and are continuing to move on around the massive and resistant volcanic features of the Park. Sand and silt are carried from areas of high elevation by rainfalls and eventually swept into the Gulf of Mexico by way of the Rio Grande. A long journey. Left behind after at one time the Park being overgrazed is Desert vegetation and sparse grasslands. Bears, javelinas, rabbits, coyotes, some mountain lions and… tourists now inhabit Big Bend Park.
If you are still awake after reading the above introduction to the geological history of the Park, maybe next time you go through it you will have a different outlook, a sense of knowledge on how all this came about.
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“Freedom on Both Ends of the Leash”, our Book, is now available autographed through us for $24.99 [$19.99 + $5 S&H, Continental 48 States] by clicking the photo links on top of this page. [PayPal accepting all cards]. It is also available through Amazon in paperback or as a Kindle download. All other electronic formats are also available.
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Ara and Spirit