I accidentally found a 320 million year old “primeval stream bed” today. I made a last minute trip to Peninsula, OH but I didn’t realize that it’s in the middle of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Truth be told I didn’t realize there is a national park in Ohio two hours from my house. I went to pick up a tiny wood stove (for our tiny cabin) that we scored on eBay this weekend but if I’m going to any place I always do a little research JUST IN CASE there’s something I shouldn’t miss. In today’s case what I didn’t miss is this park. Specifically, the Ledges, sandstone cliffs that mark the prehistoric edges of Lake Erie. These rocks that I got to share space with today shifted a little something in me. It felt like the most beautiful cathedral ever. It was church.
I am fascinated by geology but a better writer (from nps.gov) can more clearly tell you the tale of this valley: The rock history of the Cuyahoga Valley is missing quite a few chapters. While very old 350-million-year-old rocks are common, newer 150-million- or 50-million-year-old rocks are hard to come by. You won’t find any rocks from the dinosaur days, for instance. What happened to these rock layers? Erosion erased them. An ancient ancestral river carved out the original Cuyahoga Valley many millions of years ago. Its flowing waters helped erode away the rock layers before the Ice Age arrived.
The Ice Age started about two million years ago. Glaciers bulldozed northeastern Ohio at least four times before the Ice Age ended 10,000 or so years ago. Glaciers are giant moving mountains of ice, some a mile thick. As a glacier moves, it pushes the tons of scraped-up rock, sand, and clay ahead of it like a bulldozer. As glaciers slid down into northern Ohio, the glacial deposits buried the landscape and filled in the ancient river valleys. Glaciers completely buried the original Cuyahoga Valley with rock, sand, and clay deposits.
When the glaciers melted, their water sometimes created lakes—including Lake Erie. The Cuyahoga Valley town of Peninsula was also a glacial lake 50,000 years ago or so. Melting glaciers also left behind the sand and rock they were pushing and carrying. You can see some odd out-of-place rocks in CVNP that the glaciers carried down from the north and left behind. There are boulders of granite—a kind of volcanic rock—here and there. These so-called glacial erratics are reminders of an icy time past.
The Grand Canyon is around 70 million years old. The Rockies were formed 80 million years ago. The ICE AGE - that thing that is sooooo old we use it to reference the time before time…was 100 million years ago. The Ledges are 320 million years old. Our Appalachians are 480 million years old.
I love the Rockies and their breathtaking glory. Every corner you turn is another gasp of excitement and wonder. But when I come home to the Appalachians, I’m truly HOME. Our mountains are ancient, wizened, welcoming, accessible. The Rockies are dramatic, temperamental youngsters compared to our soft, old granny mountains. Can you believe how lucky we are?? I am happiest when I’m in these old woods, walking on ground and climbing on rocks that are older than time. Old East.