Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Petrified Forest

Just outside of Calistoga I found this remarkable place.
(Italics is from writing provided at the site)

"This petrified forest, dating from the Eocene period, is the only known example of a petrified forest in California." 

"In this forest are the largest petrified trees in the world.  Here, turned to stone are gigantic redwoods as large as 105 feet in length."

"Since 1871 the quiet beauties of this forest have attracted scientists, students and visitors from all over the world."

"Trees do not turn to stone in the literal sense of the word.  Many years ago a forest grew here.  It was covered by ashes and mud from an active volcano.  Water seeped down through this dust carrying volcanic ash.  Gradually the wood was replaced by the silica, in many cases cell for cell.
So perfectly was this accomplished that very thin sections of the petrified wood can be studied microscopically and their structure determined.  This process of petrification took a long time and gradually the mud and ash that were deposited ages ago were eroded away."  

"Glowing with beauty in the petrified wood are rich deposits of minerals, crystal, opal, obsidian, silica and others."

"Out of stone trees grow oaks and firs.  From the ancient volcanic ash, which forms a sanctuary for the forest, spring living trees including white, black and live oak, fir trees, 100 year old red-barked manzanita, laurel, madrone and chaparral."

"This tree is unusual because it is the only petrified pine tree found in this forest."
"These coastal redwoods fell like matchsticks in the direction of flow from a volcanic explosion.  The source of the blast came from behind the present day Mt. St. Helena, seven miles to the northeast.  A blanket of volcanic ash covered these trees for several million years.  The ground during this time became saturated with water containing dissolved silicon and oxygen or silica from the layers of ash.  The molecules of silica replaced the molecules of the wood, turning wood to solid silica, quartz and stone."  

The Queen--length 65 ft
Species, Ca. Coastal Redwood
Age when living--2000 years.
Buried approximately 3,400.000 years.  

The discovery of this petrified forest was by 'petrified Charlie' in the year 1876.  Robert Louis Stevenson immortalized him in the book, 'Silverado Squatter'.

Approximately 30' of this tree is exposed outside of the hillside

"Excavation of the trees is done in three stages...
A backhoe digs out the hillside from around the tree trunk.
Pick and shovel work is done to get nearer to the top and sides of the tree.
Geologist's picks and brushes are then used to remove the remainder of the dirt and rocks to expose the truck itself. " 

The remaining 70' or so are still being excavated...

I couldn't help but wonder how many more of these giants are still under these hills waiting to be dug out.

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