Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Ultimate Ball Pit

Do you know those ball pits that little kids adore? Now imagine a HUGE ball pit, filled with small, medium and large BOULDERS. That's where our latest geology field trip landed my family. The Boulder Field at Hickory Run State Park is a National Natural Landmark. It is also another stop in the Pennsylvania Trail of Geology series. The field is 400 ft. by 1,800 ft. with depths of about 10 ft. and was formed by a process called gelifluction. Walking on these boulders is quite the workout! My adult daughter came along to be the extra set of hands I knew I would need. I was having enough trouble of my own, let alone worrying about boys and their dare-devil behavior. On Tuesday, I was diagnosed with foot tendonitis. I managed to hurt myself and my new-found running addiction had to be put on hold. The doctor assured me that if I wrapped my foot and ankle well, took my meds and wore good shoes, I'd be able to handle the boulder field. Part-way out I had to take off my boot and make some adjustments. After that, things went fairly well. My daughter insisted that if I did Yoga like she does, I wouldn't have been having so many issues with my balance.

My boys surprised me a bit with their different takes on the place. When we first left the car, EM asked me where the glacier was. He seemed to have misunderstood the fact that although during the last ice age there was a glacier that came as far south as the park, that had melted a LONG time ago. Once we were out in the boulder field itself, EM took off and had no trouble at all. He was jumping from one boulder to the next, trying to give his poor mom a heart attack. JT was taking things nice and slow. Now usually, I wouldn't think of JT as the cautious type. He climbs trees...trees that seem much too high to me. He has been known to ride sleds in ways that make me have to stay in the house and not watch. But today, he was in no hurry to move. At one point, EM was telling him to hurry up and just jump across the rocks. JT, recalling a conversation we had this week about brain development and risk assessment replied with something like, "It's obvious your prefrontal cortex has not developed completely!"

We took note of the types of life that are finding ways to survive in what seems to be a pretty inhospitable location; a lone tree growing away from the edge of the field, lichens on the rocks, spiders weaving their webs between rocks, the way the forest was slowly encroaching on the field itself. By far the biggest threat of change to this interesting geological feature is human beings. We saw many instances of graffiti and litter. We also saw a family toting rock picks, in spite of the warnings to take nothing from the field except pictures. One other thing we noticed, that seemed odd, was two families with dogs on the boulders. I would think it would be easy to lose a small poodle in some of those crevices!

We wrapped up our day with a visit to the sand beach next to one of the park's lakes. Swimming season has not begun, so the boys had the beach to themselves. Many dams and locks were constructed from sand and water plants along the water line and much messiness ensued. The boys' feet and hands were freezing when we started to clean them up, but they had a wonderful time. I will probably take them back for another visit later this spring or summer, so we can dedicate more time to the trails.

Geology rocks!

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