Notes from the Waxhaws

Rock of ages

with 2 comments

Yesterday…driving down the road on which I live, about two tenths of a mile from the house, I made a totally unexpected discovery. Something caught my eye off to the right of the roadside. A rock. A BIG rock. How had I not seen that huge boulder sitting there, as I’ve driven past it everyday for the last two and a half years? A little later in the day, when it warmed up a bit, I grabbed my walking stick and set out on foot to investigate. Up close, it was a massive boulder…over ten feet high and about twenty or more feet long. While it was readily apparent from the road this time of year when the leaves have fallen, and the scrubby vegetation has died back, it was covered with mosses and lichens, giving it a greenish hue. That may help to camouflage it during the summer months, especially when the surrounding vegetation was full and green.  Upon closer inspection, the rock was clearly some kind of granite. The rock was exfoliating in spots, with tiny ferns taking advantage of the cracks and crevices. At the very top, there were even some small trees that had taken root in the leaf litter. I was left wondering…how on earth did it get here?

Granite boulder

After I returned home, I wrote an email to a geologist at the local campus of the University of South Carolina, here in Lancaster, asking if he had any ideas. He drove by the rock later in the day to take a look (I guess geologists can’t resist a good rock sighting). In his reply, he said that large boulders like this are usually the result of erosion caused by streams. This one was located in a ravine through which a very small stream now flowed. He also mentioned that this area, the Piedmont, is underlain mostly by granite.  Coming from the Midwest, which was scoured out by glaciers in the past, I’m more accustomed to seeing sedimentary bedrock like limestone, with some occasional boulders…called glacial erratics…composed of granite, carried in and deposited far from their northern origins by glacial action. Evidently, this was too far south to be of glacial origin.

How long has this sentinel from the past been here? And what kind of forces were involved in unearthing it…and eroding it over the many years that it’s been exposed to the rain, and to the alternating hot and cold shocks of the changing seasons? Born of seething magma…solidifying into the crystalline structure of granite…and now being decomposed by water and tiny living organisms…all things must pass. Something to think about on a cold winter day. But it also sets me to pondering…what else have I missed as I absent-mindedly go about my daily life?

Written by Jim

January 16, 2012 at 3:27 pm

2 Responses

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  1. How true that we miss so much around us in the distraction of our every day lives. I just spent a half hour trying to find the blog I wrote about the very same thing. What I’ll do to procrastinate. Anyway, I chuckled at the amount of effort a couple of geologist will go through to investigate a big ol’ rock, but then I’m kind of partial to them myself – only I usually tote mine around in my pocket. Keep your eyes peeled…never know what you’ll spot next. Life is such an adventure~


    January 17, 2012 at 1:36 am

    • Why do today what you can put off until tomorrow?
      That’s what my life has become…combing the neighborhood for big rocks ;)


      January 17, 2012 at 11:53 am

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