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 🙂

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All photographs taken with my Sony A99 Full Frame SLT Camera 🙂

Ten Things I Learned Living on a Tiny Island

This past fall, I found that living in social isolation (on a 15-square mile island) with nothing but a good book and long hours of work will really force you into a state of introspection. Add that to 2 months of living back home in Brooklyn with loads of free time, and you’ve got a pretty excellent elixir for reflection.

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Clouds over Cayman Brac.

What did I discover?

1. I accept who I am: my strengths, weaknesses, and I have so much to offer the world.

2. Humans are a social species. We need a tribe. It may change from time to time, expand and contract – but our inner desire to connect with others is directly linked to our natural ability to love others.

3. The core of my tribe is my family. And I ride the ebb and flow of its continual expansion and subsequent waning.

4. Loss is an essential part of the Human experience. It reminds us that we are not in control and must press on forward: continue living and thriving. If we don’t, the world will leave us behind.

5. Heartbreak is inevitable. There are many forms, but ultimately it strengthens the heart, mind, and soul. It should not be avoided, for evasion means you are not living life to its fullest – you are closing yourself to experience and growth.

6. You are your best advocate. You know who you are, what you stand for, and what is best for you. The only person truly looking out for your best interests is you. Others will eventually learn to know the needs and ways of your heart, but until then, you know best.

7. Do not seek approval and love from others in order to be happy. Does this dress make me look fat? I feel like all of my friends have forgotten about me. I just want to be in a relationship with someone. I need his love to feel happy, secure, and complete. Stop. If you read Lesson 1, you already accept yourself. It’s hard, and will never be easy. But you’re worth it. You will always have YOU.

8. You need to do something. Humans are built to survive, and in 2015, that means work. You will always find a way to complain about your job, where you live, who you work with, etc. But we need to continue enriching our lives. Our brains, bodies, and inner beings were not built for stagnant waters. That makes for an early grave.

9. Find balance in all you do, and establish priorities – and accept that they will change with time. What is important to you? What is truly essential in your life right now that serves the highest levels of your inner happiness? (Right now, mine are finding fulfilling work that satisfies my desires to make New York City a cleaner and healthier place to live, continue to open my heart again to love and trust in that love, balance the material necessity of a healthy paycheck with the wishes of using that monetary resource for experiences to enrich my life and the loves of my life.)

10. Change is the truest form of the Human experience. With all the lessons learned (above), you will be a champion of yourself with the ability to live and breathe in the flow of life. Accept change. Embrace change. It leads us closer and closer to the ultimate lesson of life: Transformation.

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Live, Breathe, Transform, Transcend.

-This post is dedicated to my dad. Today would have been his 70th Birthday. His passing was the deepest form of loss I have experienced thus far in my lifetime, and I am truly grateful for the love and memories my dad and I shared. Thank you, dad, for giving me life and the inspiration to make it a great one. I love you, to Pluto and back.
Happy Birthday Daddy

Tuesday Inspiration – Happiness

“No single decision you ever made has led in a straight line to where you find yourself now. You peeked down some roads and took a few steps before turning back. You followed some roads that came to a dead end and others that got lost at too many intersections. Ultimately, all roads are connected to all other roads.”

-Deepak Chopra

Footpath on Cayman Brac

Footpath on Cayman Brac

I am entering my second month of unemployment, or what I’d like to call “fun-employment”. Don’t feel bad for me – it was a path I chose for the well-being of my body and heart, and I took all precautions in preparation for the monthly income drop.

It’s been an incredible experience to literally hit the pause button on life, to reconnect with myself, and deepen relationships with the ones I love. I have also learned a few important lessons on happiness…

My friend Keino and I on Cayman Brac's bluff edge.

My friend Keino and I on Cayman Brac’s bluff edge.

You know how all philosophers, prophets, and parents say, “Happiness comes from within”? We hear this over and over again, and with such repetition we often accept it with blind faith as we trudge through our everyday lives. We allow ourselves so few opportunities to actually experience this inner bliss, so much so that we ultimately forget how to recognize it when it’s staring us in the face. The straight A’s, the fancy apartment, the fat bonus, the dozens of friends, the luxurious vacations, the handsome boyfriend, the newest iPhone, the size 2 dress… We’re still unhappy.

Carib Sands Dock, Cayman Brac

I’m not perfect, and have just skimmed the tip of the iceberg on tapping into this inner resource of happiness. It’s taken me 25+ years, a few broken hearts, hopping the globe from the Caymans to Iceland to Morocco, living on a relatively excellent paycheck to having $2.00 to my name, and feeling completely alone in the wilderness to realize that happiness can really only be expressed. Not ours for the taking and holding inward, but truly reaching from within ourselves and giving it back to others. It’s as if we’re each holding a little sun within ourselves – a bright resource that regenerates over and over again. The more we give, the happier we are. It’s a pretty simple science.

Growing, giving, light

Growing, Giving, Happiness.

It’s just not easily duplicated because of all the superfluous garbage in the material worlds we live in. Add an inner frustration to the mix as we perpetually put ourselves down, saying we don’t deserve happiness for all the terrible things we’ve done… What have I done to deserve this? Exist. Don’t let the question be, Why Me? – More like, Yes, Me!

Be Happy :)

Be Happy 🙂

There are many paths I have yet to take, but having come from one that was equally as exciting as it was intensely challenging, I’m ready for what lies ahead. I’m thinking of going back into the environmental field – whether it be working at a consultancy or state department, you can’t take the science out of me 🙂

Besides, I’m fully entitled to change my mind at any moment in time and hop onto another path! I just have decided to chose happiness over all. And the next time I’m feeling down, it’s time to take a good look at myself in the mirror and truly ask why. Life is pretty simple, and I truly believe we are all predisposed to living in a state of bliss. Again, I’m far from perfect, and the occasional trip to Anthro and frequent bowl of ice cream can bring some (temporary) happiness.

Be calm, be happy my friends!

-ps this entire post is my way of procrastinating in preparation for my interviews this week… back to it!