Geology Rocks: A Trip to Enchanted Rock

Great news! I’m starting a new job next week as a Senior Project Environmental Scientist, meaning you can expect more exciting reports from the field as I take NYC by storm in the coming months!

With impending full-time employment looming in the near future, I naturally took a trip to the lovely state of Texas to visit my awesome siblings. They’re in San Antonio – a city with more Walmart’s and HEB’s per capita than anywhere else in the world, but also home to an incredibly rich history and vibrant culture unlike any other city in the south. Oh, and AMAZINGLY authentic barbecue!

The reason I visit San Antonio at least 2x per year - my hilarious family!

The reason I visit San Antonio at least 2x per year – my hilarious family!

My latest discovery in the San Antonio region is Enchanted Rock. My brother and sis-in-law had visited a half-dozen times, and were more than happy to take the geologist of the family (aka me!) along for the hour drive this past trip.

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There she is! Enchanted Rock. Humans for scale.

Here she is in all of her geologic glory – Enchanted Rock! I had to keep my siblings in the frame so you could get a grasp of it’s size.

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I’m totally in my element here at the base of the trail…

Enchanted Rock stands 425 feet above the base elevation of the park, and is 1,825 feet above sea level. According to Texas Parks & Wildlife, climbing Enchanted Rock is like climbing the stairs of a 30- or 40-story building. The meandering route my sister and I took in-between taking selfies broke things up nicely, and was a leisurely little climb. Wear good shoes!

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Geology Lesson 101: Around 1,000,000,000 years ago, magma rose from beneath the Earth’s crust and pushed up the overlying rock surface. The magma then cooled VERY VERY slowly and turned into a granite dome/ pluton/ batholith (take your pick!). The overlying sedimentary rock crumbled away over millions of years of chemical and physical erosion – Granite is a very hardy rock and is able to “weather the storm” against erosion, and that’s why it’s here today!

From below, looking up.

From below, looking up.

Enchanted Rock is just the tip of the iceburg – it covers an area appx. 62 square miles with most of it remaining underground. Maybe in a few million years we’ll be able to climb on more of it!

My brother Edwin and wife Jenna run up the rock face like it's no big deal.

My brother Edwin and wife Jenna run up the rock face like it’s no big deal.

Another neat thing to note about Enchanted Rock is that it’s technically classified as an exfoliation dome – it’s not completely immune to erosion, and it can be seen breaking apart in many areas similarly to the structure of an onion.

Exfoliation: We all benefit from a bit of some!

Exfoliation: We all benefit from a bit of some!

Why does this happen? Well, after the overlying sedimentary rock eroded away from the surface of the granite dome, it began to expand just a little bit due to the lack of pressure bearing down. This expansion caused fracturing of the granite along its “curve”, resulting in a “peeling away” appearance. Enchanted Rock continues to exfoliate today!

My sister Amanda looks like she's on the surface of Mars (except the sky would be a more hazy-brown color!).

My sister Amanda looks like she’s on the surface of Mars (except the sky would be a more hazy-brown color!).

So if you’re looking to get out of the city (that is, San Antonio!), I highly recommend a drive to Enchanted Rock. The drive itself is almost surreal: beautiful winding roads through hills, endless acres of woods, vast grazing fields home to many happy cows, and even a couple wild bobcats (!).

View looking down: vast open landscape of central TX.

View looking down: vast open landscape of central TX.

And the vistas from the top of the rock – so gorgeous and expansive! I especially loved the mini oasis that grew in the center of the dome… it’s incredible how resilient nature is and how determined some species of plants are to live!

Little sister, little oasis.

Little sister, little oasis.

The climb is very kid/ dog/ family friendly. If you have bad knees, the walk down could be a bit intense without hiking poles. And definitely don’t roll or run down unless you don’t mind seriously busting your face open! I took my sweet ol’ time and soaked in the warm sun as much as possible.

Climbing the mini rocks is safe though! The granite had excellent traction!

Climbing the mini rocks is safe though! The granite had excellent traction!

Ah yes, another week done, making the start-date to the next chapter even closer. Sure, I won’t have endless open days to hang out with family and waste away on my Netflix queue, but I’ll definitely have a more structured life/ routine! Stay tuned for more lady-engineer-scientist adventures from NYC… I’m so excited ๐Ÿ™‚

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All photographs taken with my Sony A99 Full Frame SLT Camera ๐Ÿ™‚

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