Friday Rocks #33: Vesicles in Tuff

The volcanic tuff at Smith Rock, Oregon is a volcanic ash that was erupted and deposited ~30 million years ago. The depressions or holes in the rock that make up this popular climbing route seen below (Nine Gallon Buckets, 5.10c) are formed from vesicles, gas bubbles trapped by the ash. For more information on Smith Rock and Oregon geology check out this great field trip guide.

Vesicles in the tuff at Smith Rock, Oregon.
Vesicles in the tuff at Smith Rock, Oregon.

Seeing a different kind of conference

Jess setting up the displays for Texas Clay Fest
Jess setting up the displays for Texas Clay Fest

As scientists a large part of our collective communication and collaboration is born out of conferences. In fact sharing ideas and beers with peers may be one of the funnest parts of our jobs. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend SEG in Denver or GSA in Vancouver this year.

This past weekend I attended a different kind of conference… Texas Clay Festival in Gruene (pronounced Green), Texas to help my girlfriend, Jessica Faulk with her booth. Jess makes functional ceramics that are quite cute if you ask me. Mostly she earns a living teaching ceramics to hobbyist potters and running a studio in Stafford, Texas. Once a year she crams to finish a ton of work for Texas Clay Fest. It was a stressful last couple weeks getting ready for clay fest. Her stress levels were comparable to when I’m trying to finish a poster for a geology conference.

Angelfish Bowl
Angelfish Bowl

The stress really came to a head the night before set up. We’d loaded up the car and driven out to her boss’ house at Canyon Lake. While we walked our dog Oliver around the neighborhood I asked about the plan for set up the next morning and we realized the canopy tent and tables weren’t in our car. This was a good lesson to always use a checklist especially when juggling last minute mini-crisis. I had loaded the car full with shelves, boxes upon boxes of pottery, her toolbox, our clothes, dog bed and food, climbing gear (for after the show), and cooler. Science conferences provide poster stands and tables, so it hadn’t occurred to me that we would bring our own canopy and tables. Panic time. We quickly ran back to the house and jumped in the car. It was 8 pm, Home Depot and Lowes closed at 10. For the sake of keeping this post from being a rant against Home Depot, I’ll just say that we got what we needed from Lowe’s just before they closed.

The next morning we headed out to Gruene to set up. We got there early and set up went smoothly. Jess asked me to help arrange her pottery, but I knew that she would just move each piece after I set it somewhere, so I stepped back from that process and let her get her booth ready.

The Booth is all set.
The Oliver with the booth, ready to go.

Later that day the festival kicked off with a happy hour of kegs and wine. Jess led me and Oliver around introducing us to potters and artists. The crowd was fun and friendly, but we were exhausted from running around the night before and headed home early to cook the sausages we were bringing to the next day’s potluck.

Saturday was very busy. I got first hand experience working a craft fair. Even with the canopy we were standing in the sun almost the whole day. We sold a lot of pottery. It was great people watching (shout out to the lady with the pet parrot) and Oliver attracted dog lovers to our booth. Even funnier was Oliver’s “playing lost” gimmick to get attention from the crowd. We had him off leash and he would lay in the middle of the path looking sad, he would even curl a paw in to get more sympathy pets. Smart dog.

Patterns with Crowds

Crowded shoppers
Crowded shoppers

Working the booth all day I began noticing patterns in types of customers and and an interesting pattern that is similar to presenting at geology conferences. People come in waves. If there is one or two people at your poster, other scientists tend to stop and listen. Because they only heard the second half of the poster, often you are asked to start from the beginning, keeping traffic at the poster. This pattern continues until traffic dies off and the next wave of traffic begins rising. Similarly, at clay fest, if there was a few people in our booth and one person made a purchase, the other people were more likely to buy. I should look into purchase time data from Jess’ Square app to see if I can plot out those relationships.

Clay Church

Sunday kicked off in the morning with Clay Church which featured heartfelt songs about pottery by the older potters. It was a hilarious time and the brunch potluck food was great. More geology conferences need a “Rock Church” like this with songs about geology.

Sunday was a much slower sales day than Saturday. This is due to two reasons: 1) Collectors shop on Saturday. 2) We had sold most of Jess’ cups, her most popular item, on Saturday. This left a smaller selection of animal designs for the Sunday shoppers.

Jess giving a demo on making oil bottles.
Jess giving a demo on making oil bottles.

Jess had to cut out from the booth to give a one hour demonstration. She showed the crowd her process for making oil bottles. I was able to sneak off for a couple minutes to snap some photos.

Monday we drove out to Reimer’s Ranch for hiking and climbing. It was a gorgeous way to end a stressful weekend. I was happy to pull down on some rock and snap some photos.

Calcite formations at Reimer's Ranch
Calcite formations at Reimer’s Ranch
The Sex Cave at Reimer's Ranch. No, it's actually called that.
The Sex Cave at Reimer’s Ranch. No, it’s actually called that.

I’ve joked with Jess about how she is like a geologist. I am able to look at a rock and deduce its life story. Jess and other potters can look at a piece of pottery, take in details such as the texture and glaze, and determine what glaze was used, how the clay was thrown, and at what temperature it was fired.

For more information about Jess’ pottery you can follower her on Instagram at @jfaulk. We’re currently revamping her website, but until the update you can find it Here.

Friday Rocks #32: Folded Obsidian

Today’s Friday Rocks is a folded obsidian block from the Big Obsidian Flow in the Newberry Caldera, Oregon. The flow is geologically young at only 1300 years old. The folds in the obsidian aren’t make from tectonic forces, the folds were made by the oozing and flowing of the lava.

Folded obsidian at Big Obsidian Flow, Newberry Caldera, Oregon
Folded obsidian at Big Obsidian Flow, Newberry Caldera, Oregon

Oh Pumice

I just realized that I missed two Friday Rocks in a row! For my trip to Squamish I had prepared photos to automatically post while I was gone. Looks like I thought it would just keep going once I was back in Houston.

To make up for it, here is a video of some pumice I collected in Eastern California floating in my dog’s water bowl:

Some pumice I collected in Eastern California floating in my dog’s water bowl. Pumice is a very light rock, owing to the high number of gas bubbles, or vesicles as geologists like to call them, relative to minerals making up the rock.  These vesicles make the rock less dense than water, so it floats!

This has been a bit of a bumpy week getting back to real life-ish. I returned to find the interior of my car covered in mold. Insurance ended up totaling it out, which leaves me carless for the time being. Also I’ve been working to prep for an interview with a major energy company.

Immersed in rock or immersion learning through rock climbing

Wisdom before the traverse on Skywalker (5.8)

“Yeah, we’re definitely not normal,” Mal stated, BC microbrew in hand in the evening light at the Rec Center campground. One of us asked him to elaborate. “Well, what do you say to someone who asks you what you did for vacation?” He continued, “I got really uncomfortable on the side of a cliff, had to shimmy, muscle, and grunt up a big rock, scared the shit out of myself, didn’t shower for a month, got hot, got sweaty, got cold, and got really stoked. Who does that?”

Finger locks and toe jams
Ryan Cerf crushing Crime of the Century (5.11c)

How time off from work is spent is weird. I spent the month of September living in my tent in Squamish, BC. In addition to my sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and backpacking stove I had two pairs of shorts (one climbing for climbing, i.e. get dirty), two pairs of pants, four tshirts (two are destroyed from climbing), rain jacket, down jacket, light fleece sweater, a handful of underwear, and some socks. Most days I found myself roped in, too hot or too cold, belaying my friends up a cliff. I pushed my climbing ability passed what I thought I could do. In fact, I’ve put myself in some personally terrifying situations that could result in injury, probably not death, but “yeah, don’t fall here” kind of places. I don’t think anyone keeping score would call that a relaxing vacation.

I came to Squamish to learn to trad and crack climb. Trad climbing is a style of climbing where you place cams and nuts in cracks in the rock to protect falls. I had done a small amount of trad climbing before, but how does two afternoons compare with a whole month?

I learned to climb indoors on plastic at Allez Up in Montreal over three years ago. It wasn’t until last summer when I took a two week trip to Tuolumne Meadows that I really started climbing outside.

The best way to learn is by doing. So to learn to trad climb, I jumped in and did. Over and over. For the entire month of September, minus off days to work on job applications, I jammed my hands, fingers, feet, and toes into the best granite cracks in the world, placed cams and nuts, pulled up rope, and swapped leads on multi-pitches to complete the longest climbs I’ve ever done.

Angel's Crest
Above “The Acrophobes” on Angel’s Crest.

Do you want to get better at rope management? Yeah, tying knots in your living room on a rainy day helps, but climbing for 10+ hours straight where the only direction to move your body is up, works. I guarantee that by the end of the day there won’t be any more cases of short-roping your leader because you found a way to make a complete bird’s nest of the rope.

The Chief
The Chief

I am making a case for immersion. On this trip, that 10+ hour day (car to car) where my friend Ryan and I climbed Rambles to Over the Rainbow to Boomstick Crack to Ultimate Everything (21 guidebook pitches in 17) was a turning point for me. Climbing started to flow. This was the longest possible route up “The Chief” It was immersive and although the climbing wasn’t particularly hard, we worked to get up and keep moving.

That long day made me faster and safer in every aspect of my climbing and belaying. I’m a better climbing than I was a month ago. The notion that doing and thinking about something every day for a month straight makes you better at it, might not be very surprising.

Somewhere on Ultimate Everything
My sketch of the topo for Ultimate Everything

Geology students in University are lucky because they cap off their training with an immersive field school. I experienced this during UC Santa Cruz’s summer field mapping course. We camped out at Westgard Pass and for over two weeks mapped the Poleta Fold Belt. This immersive experience of mapping and thinking critically about geology everyday made us better field geologists.

Was there a time in your life where you gained expertise in a skill though immersion? We’d love to hear about it in the comments.