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Erratic Rock, Erratic Times

A few meters into Olympic National Park’s Heather Park Trail, I came across a weary, elderly man. “Are you hiking to Halfway Rock?” I asked. After a long pause, he shrugged and answered, “I guess I am.”

Halfway Rock is not a destination many people seek out. It rests 2.2 miles into the trail, and its moss-covered form is easy to miss if your eyes are on the ground before you; the only thing that made me stop was the sound of the small, lively creek that curves around the rock.

Halfway Rock

The rock is simply a place people end up. This serendipitous truth is not unlike the history of the rock itself, which is a glacial erratic— it was transported by a glacier many years ago. The rock did not seek out this locale, nestled beneath tall trees and atop emerald ferns, it merely ended up here.

Glacial erratics such as Halfway Rock can range in size from pebbles to boulders. Boulder-sized glacial erratics are more obvious because they are often far larger than the native rocks around them. Halfway Rock, for example, is at least three times my height, whereas the dominant rocks of the surrounding area are fine sediments. In addition to their size deviation, glacial erratics often differ in rock type from local bedrock. Researchers can discover where they came from by comparing their composition to that of bedrock elsewhere. Doing so also allows them to better understand the magnitude and direction of the glacier movement that transported them in the first place.

As I sat upon Halfway Rock, with only the sounds of birds chirping, the creek flowing, and the occasional twig snapping, my mind wandered to deep time. These days, weeks, and months of stay at home orders feel like short eternities. Those feeling are so real, and they are harrowing at times. That being said, in a world that has lived through continental drifts, five mass extinctions, and glacial advances and retreats, this time we are living in is barely a blink of an eye.

So, take a breath, hear the trees shiver around you, smell the blooming spring flowers, feel the warm, soft earth in your hands, and know that time will continue on.

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