Tuesday, April 26, 2011

California Desert Redux- April 2007

Another old favorite, published in the April 2007 issue of The Noise...

California Desert Redux
April 2007- The Outs
Ellen Jo Roberts

Joshua Tree at Joshua Tree
Joshua Tree. It was our very first Karmann Ghia road trip, 8 years ago, and now it was looking like it would also be our last. Driving such an old car you must always be prepared for anything.

I don’t really know how we ended up sitting on the ground in front of French’s Vintage Volkswagen Parts & Repair in Yucca Valley, California. Thank God such a place existed, with its racks full of Volkswagen parts and back-lot graveyard of VW ghosts.

VW shop 3

We sat there for five hours while a brash young feller worked on our car so we could get back on the road home. Electrical problems. Faulty ignition. Intermittent sputtering. Five hundred miles done, 325 left to go. The sky fluctuated between sun and rain. The grove of Joshua Trees in the distance added to the surreal scene. Sometimes we’d go inside and chat with the old hippies and greasers at the front counter as they took long drags on their cigs.

VW shop 1

When you own a vintage Volkswagen you are instantly member of a tribe, a subculture of sorts. Somehow the idea that we might be truly stranded in this blasted stretch of Mojave Desert didn’t even upset me. I had miraculously transcended the anxiety caused by an ill-running automobile. (Note: years of practice had led up to this moment). A strange sort of calm. This was an authentic experience, and we were meeting real people. We were getting down and dirty, down to the nitty gritty.
Those people in their modern minivans, with their air conditioning and DVD players didn’t know what they were missing. They drove past us on Hwy 62 like we didn’t even exist.

Joshua Tree National Park- Ghia

Last time we went to Joshua Tree National Park was 1999, an inaugural road trip taken in a recently purchased 1973 Karmann Ghia. Now many miles and many road trips since, we had been hankering to return. Joshua Tree National Park is a jewel in the crown of the National Park Service - a vast forest of Joshua Trees (a member of the lily family, closely related to the yucca) and gigantic granite boulders covering the landscape in big molten lumps. It was a favorite spot and we were going back to it.
The Ghia, with its new tires, new clutch, fresh oil seemed the most sturdy choice from our stable of vintage junkola. But I don’t ever kid myself. It’s always risky. We packed it full of camping gear, clothing, picnic items, dogs, and shoehorned 6’4’’ Chad into the passenger seat for the nearly 400-mile trip to Twenty-Nine Palms, California.

Mapquest advised taking the interstates, but we disregarded the Internet and headed through Jerome and over Mingus on 89A, Hwy. 89 out of Prescott through Yarnell, towards Salome. A gorgeous drive, smooth and lovely, dropping in elevation in big lazy curves. A lady at a Yarnell gas station came out and asked if were on a “road tour,” barely containing her fascination with our strange looking yellow car. She suggested we hook into nearby Hwy 71, to Hwy 60 to 72 and up to 62 across the Colorado River into California.
“To 29 Palms that’s the fastest way. Sure is.” And it sure was. It lopped about 90 miles off of those stupid Mapquest directions, though didn’t cut down too much on time, as the roads were all paced at a historic 50-55 mph. The roads less traveled.

end 72

Sailing along in the sunshine and dry desert breezes, we were starring in our very own movie, some hipster adventure on grainy film, only difference being we weren’t on a killing spree nor on the lam from the law. Listening to the Devotchka soundtrack of “Little Miss Sunshine” and following old railroad tracks, the windows down, the dogs asleep, the engine purring like a sewing machine.
Crossing into California onto Hwy 62, we noticed names and phrases written with rocks along the edges of the railroad embankment. Hundreds of names all created with rocks lined up into letters. Some were created with brightly painted rocks, but most were just the dark brown color of the ballast below the tracks. It went on for miles, sometimes stopping for stretches and starting back up again later.
The road was a lullaby, a roller coaster up and down through dips and vados.
What a glorious day. “I think this is my new favorite highway.”
We were the only ones out there.
Watching the gas tank dip below, we suddenly realized the road less traveled also had no gas stations. The needle dropped past “Reserve” and slowly crept far to the left, the farthest I’d ever seen it go. One hundred twenty miles with no service stations. The last 50 miles were spent with knuckles white and sphincters clamped tight in fear we’d sputter out alongside the road before reaching any civilization.
Thinking of a plan, how we’d do it, who’d we wave down. No cell phone. But we breezed into 29 Palms on fumes and a stiff tailwind, all the way from Clarkdale, Ariz. to 29 Palms, Calif. on just one 11-gallon tank of gas.
“This will have residual problems,” I said, as we exhaled deeply and filled the tank up, “I’m sure we sucked up lots of crud from the bottom of that old tank. Never had that tank so low.” We also wondered why our 1973 model car gets better gas mileage than most other cars on the road today. Seems pretty backwards. Seems we could be driving solar powered hovercrafts by now.

Joshua Tree National Park wears a loose necklace of towns, ranging clockwise from Palm Springs, to Cabazon, Yucca Valley, Joshua Tree and 29 Palms. The entire area is engulfed in a postmodern cloak of “Googie” style architecture, so predominant in mid-century California. Motels and liquor stores feature “Populuxe” signs full of starbursts and arrows and wonderful fonts. Gas stations with outrageous cantilevered roofs swing out towards the heavens in extreme geometry.
First off, we headed west to Cabazon to visit some old friends. Two giant dinosaurs, “Dinny" (1964) and “Mr. Rex” (c.1981) famously watch over the “Wheel Inn” restaurant and from time to time appear in rock videos or Pee Wee Herman films. Guarding the windy entrance to the Coachella Valley, the Cabazon dinos are pop culture superstars and always worth a stop. The bodies of the beasts hold a gift shop and museum respectively. If you happen to go there tell ‘em “Large Marge” sent you.

Cabazon Floyd

After a campout and a brief jaunt through Palm Springs (no famous people were spotted, though we did see the intersection of Bob Hope & Frank Sinatra Boulevards) we began heading back east. An afternoon in the national park, followed by a night spent at a sleazy dive in the town of Joshua Tree: some old highway motel which looked far better on the Internet than it did in real life.
The car began acting up. Sputtering, cutting in and out, and finally not starting at all. Crud in the carburetor was of course the first suspect, but no, plenty of gas was flowing … it was more electrical. It was a mystery and we were in trouble, far from home. Joshua Tree, Calif. was dusty and windswept and slightly ominous. It was as if we’d been slapped hard across the face! We were not going to make it home as breezily as we had blown into town!

“Pee Wee Herman was here and so wuz Floyd. No sign of U2 or Gram Parsons’ ghost. Beautiful drive in on old Hwys 71,60, 72, 62. Like we were in a movie” — postcard I sent.

Original “alt-country” rocker and former Flying Burrito Brother, Gram Parsons, died of a morphine overdose in Joshua Tree, Calif. in September of 1973. Supposedly his ghost can be seen at some local motel in the form of a spooky white cat. A white cat dressed in a fantastic sequined western jumpsuit!

Last day there we got an early start — a push start to be exact — and headed back west to Yucca Valley. A local had informed us we could find a top-notch dune buggy/vintage VW shop to diagnose our issues.
Five hours and $570 later we began our 8-hour return drive home, estimating we’d pull in the driveway (if we were lucky) just shy of 10pm that night, back to work the next day. As I looked at the receipt from the mechanics and the bag of old parts they’d removed, I thought about printing up a t-shirt that said: “I went to California and all I got was this stinking bill for $570 and a bag full of electrical parts!”
The Cali boy had the machine timed and tuned to run best at full throttle, like a jet, about 80 mph, so we opted to return a different route, up to connect with the old 66 in Amboy and over to Interstate 40 East. Amboy, California is a postmodern ghost-town, famous for its iconic Rt. 66 “Roy’s Café and Motel” sign, created at the height of Googie style, circa 1959. The town is actually one of California’s oldest cities, dating from 1858, due to the valuable salt lake chloride beds that line the region, and thriving until the early 1970s when Interstate 40 completely bypassed the town.

Amboy California Karmann Ghia

Nowadays, it sits smack dab in the middle of nowhere, a remote Retro-Future relic and a curiosity for nostalgia hounds and Rt. 66 buffs. Amboy is about 60 miles worth of remote highway north of 29 Palms and another 40 miles until I-40. Roy’s Café and Motel dates from the 1930s and closed in 1995, though word is that it was purchased by the owner of a California restaurant franchise a couple of years ago, and plans are in the works to preserve, restore and reopen the place. Perhaps next time we pass through (in another 8 years) we’ll be able to check into Roy’s and rest our road-weary bones in Populuxe-style splendor.

Googie Ghosttown Ivan

The rest of the trip was a blur, boring interstate, setting sun, and snow. When you drive an aged, air-cooled Volkswagen 900 miles, every single mile makes its impact on you — the loud hum of the highway and the noisy engine, the windows down, the wind in your ears and dust in your eyes. No hermetically-sealed modernity for us. We felt every bit of that road, we breathed every germ, we smelled every stink, and every sweetness.
We finally pulled into the driveway about 10pm, just as we suspected. Even though we had only been gone 3 days, it had seemed like an eternity. The house looked, and smelled wonderful. After a crazy trip like that, full of such trials and tribulations, nothing ever feels as good as your own bed. Completely exhausted, we fell into a slumber and dreamt of Joshua Trees, old motels and ghosts of Gram Parsons and Volkswagens past.

Ellen Jo Roberts lives in Clarkdale, Ariz. and likes to drive her Karmann Ghia to assorted far away places. All this hassle just so that she can take funny photos of her dogs. Read about it at www.ellenjo.com

Greatest Hits on Cassette

Here's a story I wrote for our local writers group about 5 years ago. Just found it again while searching for something else, and thought it was worth sharing...

"Greatest Hits On Cassette"
By Ellen JD Roberts c.2006

“keep feeling fascination, passion burning, love so strong” – human league 1983

It arrived in a box of detritus cast away from mother’s house in Milwaukee. Junk she’d left in the basement for many years and many miles past. Martha received the box on a Tuesday and by Wednesday morning the contents were spread all over her meager apartment. Martha was new to Seattle, starting fresh on a different coast. Mother had died the November before and her sisters and brother had finally gotten through the house, emptied it and sold it. This was all that was left of Martha’s in that house and though it seemingly had no rhyme or reason it was all linked by fragrant memory. Old yearbooks, square photos taken with 110 film, scuffed 45s records, tiny rubber figurines given by the dentist as rewards for good check ups, mash notes from grade school crushes. The smell of the box was initially the potently musty smell of mother’s basement, but once the box was discarded and the items stood on their own for a bit the smell of her childhood returned. There were several forgotten cassette tapes in the box, most had been left behind because she simply hadn’t wanted them anymore. One from an old boyfriend was sure to be sweet and she pushed it to the side for later. And tucked into the broken binding of an over-packed green diary was a white plastic cassette tape. Written on the white plastic in her 12 year old hand was “My Hits” on one side and “Tape of All Tapes!” on the other, in frayed magic marker.

Something about this made her laugh a little bit out loud, thinking of Iraq and the “Mother of All Wars” or “Mother of All Bombs” , some outrageous political hyperbole. She knew that this cassette tape in her hand was a fantastic time capsule that was going to transport her back 20 years the moment she played it. She held it a moment. Martha was certain she’d still know it by heart even though she hadn’t listened to it in decades. She closed her eyes and saw images of childhood changing behind a rolling foreground of the highlights in words, just like on the old k-Tel commercials…
Featuring these all time classics! ....

· The sounds of static and the spinning radio dial!
· Leftover bits of mother’s Simon & Garfunkel and Neil Diamond bleeding through between portions of Enrico Morricone’s “the Good the Bad and the Ugly” soundtrack on vinyl.
· Billy Preston and the Beatles on 45.
· 30 seconds of “Abracadabra” by the Steve Miller Band recorded by holding the tape recorder up to the speaker!
· The famous 1970s baby talk: “dank you fo’ letting me play wiff your toys” jibber jabber leftover from a recording made to send to Aunt, Uncle and cousins in rural Ohio
· Trashy 80s tunes! (Heady flashes of first kiss in Donny Griffin’s garage)
· Various interruptions by (now-retired) Wisconsin disk jockeys
· Commercials for cancelled TV shows and the auto-body repair shop
· Cackles, laughs, belches and the sound of breathing.
· Interview with Duran Duran and Def Leppard, acted out by you and your neighbor!
· The brief ill-advised fascination with reggae in high school
· An unabashed fondness for the Andrews Sisters that left all peers shaking their heads in disbelief.
· The disorder and cacophony that somehow became the soundtrack of your childhood.
· Order now and get the complete set of grainy snapshots of 8th grade!

She recalls having taken this particular tape with her on several school trips, and family vacations, tuned into the greatest hits via headphones while the world went by outside the window.

Wednesday night Martha lay on the floor for 45 minutes straight, in a trance, completely transported back to another time and place. The orangey red sculpted carpeting of her childhood living room, the basement full of records and the old shopping cart they used to collect the dirty laundry, the sound of the water cooler in the pantry gulped and belched big bubbles of air, her brother’s and sisters’ attempt to host a neighborhood circus one summer which mainly amounted to the brats of the block taking over and throwing the whipped-cream pies at everyone. “This tape is like a recording of my life,” she realized as she got up to flip it over to “Tape of All Tapes”, side B. Songs that were favorites were suddenly interrupted when they grew tiresome and smothered with a dose of some newer favorite. She listened to the entire cassette twice and realized it captured roughly a 20 year span, from 1975 through 1995. The next day en route to her job at the diner she popped into an electronics shop and asked for a portable cassette player, something with headset like the one she once had, but the greasy-faced boy shuffling on the carpet tried to persuade her towards an ipod or mp3 player.
“They quit making cassettes”, he said in a way that made her feel completely dumb, like a caveman awakening from a frozen block of ice. They quit making cassettes back in the stone age, you dumb lady! Stupid dumb-dumb head! She wandered away from the boy who she began calling “Pimples” in her mind, and did indeed find a cassette recorder, not one intended for playback of music really, but would do just fine—it was more for recording business meetings or a professor’s speeches.

On break from the diner Martha sat in the grass near the carwash fumbling with batteries for her new cassette player. She checked in on Boyfriend 1988. Listening to Echo & the Bunnymen, Love and Rockets, and John Lennon -- she could smell the nagchampa incense, clove cigarettes and the greasy engine of his ‘69 Buick, the sticky feel of the vinyl upholstery beneath her bare summer thighs. The sensation was nearly overwhelming, washing over her in waves, thinking of him hovering nearby with his shell necklace jangling. She had to turn it off. Turn it off. That f*cker, he was an a$$hole anyway. But, oh what a lover. Real hot stuff. Time was up, back to work. Standing at the coffee maker Martha felt her knees going weak. She couldn’t shake Zeppelin’s “Who Lotta Love”.

Boyfriend 1988 was shelved after that, but “the Tape of All Tapes” sat right with her, didn’t make her feel queasy or lonely—it was from an innocent time of optimism and hope—it was a comfort and she studied it in great detail. Rewinding to make note of background sounds and things she may have missed over the years listening to the surface noises--- Grandpa laughing at Christmas opens side A.
“What do you want for Christmas, Grandpa?,” asks Martha at age 9, clutching the new tape recorder that was under the tree for her that year.
“All I want for Christmas is my two front teeeeeth!”, sings Gramps, whistling as he pops his dentures out. The kids all squeal with delight. Quick cut into the Beach Boys recorded from WMLW, summer 1985.
Midway through side A and Kenny the annoying cousin butts into “Tears of a Clown” to do his best “Miss Piggy” impersonation. Lots of clicking and scuffling as young Martha tries to get the recorder back from him.
“Kermy!!! Ohhh I love you ! Kerrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrmie!” Smooching sounds and laughter from the background. Cut into Mike and the Mechanics and Eddie Grant “Rock down to Electric Avenue”. Was that Aunt Lucy back there? Who was that murmuring low at the dining room table, Great Uncle Jack?
The Tape of All Tapes embraced Martha in cloak of tranquility, despite its jarring edit job and scrambled playlist. Long dead relatives, long lost friends, and forgotten favorites washed back up to shore.

She came across something at the end of side B she didn’t remember-- she rewound and listened again, turning up the volume. It was Manny at the diner asking if she’d heard anything from Bill, the new line cook. He was late for work and nobody had heard from him. “Has he already quit?,” asked Manny, somewhat frustrated. She heard it clear as a bell, the sizzle of the griddle, some old-timers at the counter griping about the relentless fog. It was last Tuesday. She rewound it and played it again. ”How in the hell?...,“she asked herself, and fussed with the tape player, and in scrutinizing it she realized how easy it would have been to mistakenly press “record” instead of “stop” when she returned from break on Tuesday. Sure enough. There were about 40 seconds of current-day diner time on top of some snippet of high school era dancehall reggae. Luckily the cassette was near the end, and soon clicked off with Manny getting the final word in, as usual, “Damn it to hell!”

Strangely, Martha was not upset by the mishap. Only briefly she considered breaking the tabs off of the old cassette, rendering the recording safe from future accidental interruptions. Thinking of the cold, painted concrete floor of her childhood basement, the double-paned windows frosting up in the winter, the annoying clamor of the Milwaukee DJ known as Petie “Super” Powers. Martha looked around her small but cleverly furnished apartment, out to the scenic view from her small kitchen window and then closed her eyes.

This is a continuing story, she thought to herself. That was not the past, it is the same as the now. It is all connected like the tape spooling in this cassette.

That night Martha got the best sleep she’d had in years.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Seismic Southwest

Seismic Southwest
The Noise
May 2011
The Outs
Ellen Jo Roberts

           The sub-oceanic earthquakes and subsequent tsunamis that struck Japan’s coast this March are a powerful, and terrifying reminder of earth’s forces at work beneath us. Arizonans might feel some semblance of comfort to live in a region free of such dramatic plate tectonics. However, the truth is we are not immune to seismic activity in our state. In fact, there are small tremors occurring all around us all the time. As of press time there have been 19 earthquakes documented in Arizona already this year.
What makes our state’s geology so varied and visually thrilling is also what creates the potential for shocking uplifts, volcanic eruptions, and other dramatic changes to the landscape.

sycamore entrance, 11:49 a.m.

On January 23rd, and again on March 18th 2011, there were two minor earthquakes reported in the vicinity of Sycamore Canyon’s confluence with the Verde River, northeast of Clarkdale and west of Sedona. With magnitudes of 3.6 and 3.7, respectively, and centered deep underground in an area of wilderness, the quakes went mostly unnoticed, except for an assortment of finely attuned Clarkdale residents.
On the date the January quake occurred, a flurry of local chatter stirred up the neighborhood. “Earthquake! Did you feel an earthquake?” The only thing I felt that day seemed like someone slamming a door in some distant part of the building.
(Note: it may have actually been someone slamming a door.)
“These two quakes were likely located on a branch of the Verde fault,” explains David Brumbaugh. Professor of Geology, specializing in Geophysics, at Northern Arizona University, and Director of the Arizona Earthquake Information Center, “The Verde is the large fault that runs along the eastern front of the Black Hills through Jerome.

               Earthquakes are measured by seismometers and assigned “moment magnitude scale” numbers based on the measuring formula originally created in 1935 by Charles Richter and Beno Gutenburg of California’s Institute of Technology. The intensity of shaking is measured on the “Modified Mercalli Scale”, with shallower earthquakes causing the most damage. “We use the seismogram itself to estimate size, especially for smaller earthquakes,” explains Professor Brumbaugh, “This method is to use the time from the beginning to the end of the wiggles of an earthquake signature, as an estimate of size. This is called the ‘coda magnitude’ and can be related to the Richter Magnitude. Epicenter locations are determined by the travel time of the earthquake waves from several different stations, which can then be converted to distance.”
According to the various measuring scales, any quakes less than 4.0 magnitude are minor, and below 3.0 are scarcely noticeable, except by sensitive scientific equipment. Above 4.0 the tremors become noticeable to the local population. Knick-knacks and bric-a-brac fall from shelves, loose items rattle. Above 5.0 real damage begins to occur.      

               As the numbers increase, the scale of the damage and movement increases.
Magnitudes 6.0 to 7.9 are considered “major”. The Loma Prieta Earthquake in California’s Bay Area that disrupted the 1989 World Series, caused freeways to collapse and killed 63 people was a 6.9.  At 8, things progress from “great” to “massive”. The 1906 earthquake that decimated San Francisco is debated to have measured between 7.7 and 8.0.  Mexico City’s catastrophic 1985 earthquake, which killed 10,000 people, was measured as an 8.1. Its epicenter was in the Pacific Ocean over 200 miles away. The tsunami that hit Indonesia in December 2004 was a result of a 9.3 coastal earthquake. This year’s catastrophic tsunamis devasting Japan resulted from a 9.0 sub-oceanic “Megathrust” earthquake 45 miles off the coast. Megathrust earthquakes generally produce the highest magnitudes, and the most damage, and are caused by converging tectonic plates, as opposed to rumbling fault lines. While the Pacific Coast (and California’s San Andreas Fault running up the state like a zipper) is a well documented as a seismic hot spot, there are frequent minor quakes occurring all the time throughout much of the United States.  The New Madrid Fault Line in the Midwestern U.S. has seismic potential to seriously threaten seven states: Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee and Mississippi. As a child in Chicago in the 1980s I remember a tremor shaking our neighborhood as a direct result of the New Madrid Fault, hundreds of miles away in Missouri. It felt like our brick bungalow suddenly shuddered, like a dog having a dream. 

Grand Canyon Trail of Time

              Here in the southwest, earthquake activity is caused by many faults not even visible, hidden deep below the earth under many layers of sedimentary geology, and granite from volcanic flows. Other faults and breaks are more noticeable, and some glorious uplifts are dramatic landmark geographical features. Most seismic activity in Arizona happens on the Colorado Plateau, and along the “Arizona Strip”, our northern border with Utah. The Grand Canyon, perhaps ever in flux and transition, is also a hot spot for shocks and continuing aftershocks. No earthquake in Arizona history has ever caused a single injury or death, though there have been a few that have inspired great fright.

“The cumulative terror produced by a series of 52 earthquakes, from September 10 to 23, 1910, caused a construction crew in the Coconino Forest near Flagstaff to break camp and leave the area. Boulders rolled down on their camp from nearby mountains, and the earth maintained a constant quiver. The shocks grew in intensity until September 23, when a very strong shock raged throughout northern Arizona. It was so severe north of the San Francisco Mountains that Indians fled from the region.”
- “Seismicity of the United States, 1568-1989 (Revised)”, by Carl W. Stover and Jerry L. Coffman, U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1527

 “For an earthquake to cause serious damage in Arizona, it would have to be M6.0 or larger,” says Professor Brumbaugh. One of the largest earthquakes ever documented in Arizona registered at a magnitude of 5.6, and occurred at 5:39pm on July 21st, 1959 along the Arizona-Utah Border near the neighboring cities of Fredonia AZ and Kanab UT.

northern az holga

The tremor caused damage to buildings, breaking windows, walls and toppling chimneys. Store merchandise fell off of shelves, and a rockslide occurred at Grand Canyon’s Mather Point.
        The professor also sites three potentially damaging earthquakes in Northern Arizona’s history: an M6.2 in 1906, the same year as San Francisco’s killer quake, an M6.0 in 1910 and an M6.2 in 1912, “Most earthquakes occur in Northern Arizona in a belt extending from Utah to Blue Ridge through Flagstaff known as the ‘Northern Arizona Seismic Belt’,” he explains, “As a worse case scenario, the faults in this seismic belt could generate an earthquake of about M7.0, but this is not very likely. There has not been one this large in historic time.”

central hotel, jerome az- june 5 2010

When we lived in Jerome, we were often teased that our house might not be there when we got home, that it might “slide down the mountain”, making sport of the town’s steep trajectory, as well as the 88 miles of mining tunnels spidering beneath it. 
     Back in 1976 there was different concern, as a series of light earthquakes struck the area in February and April of that year. The epicenter of these quakes was about 20 miles northwest of Jerome, in Chino Valley, AZ. Current resident Jane Moore first arrived in Jerome in the early 1970s and she remembers the shocks shaking the historic town.
“I distinctly remember the day, and that I was outside doing something with my horses, who were in a corral down below Rich Street. I didn't feel the first shock too much, being out on the ground, but do remember all of sudden people poking their heads out their windows and saying stuff like ‘What the hell? What's going on?’ and that their houses were rattling and shaking,” Ms. Moore recalls, “Then later that afternoon I was back in my house…and felt an aftershock that shook the house... no damage.”

Mescal Canyon, Mingus Mountain, Jerome AZ

        The Colorado Plateau is home to some of the world’s most amazing landscape, most of it created by violent geological changes such as volcanic activity and shifting plates (the two actions are often times connected). “An active volcanic area like the San Francisco field around Flagstaff is likely to have relatively frequent, but smaller earthquakes,” states Professor Brumbaugh. “But eruptions do not occur very often. Sunset Crater was the most recent, with an eruption about 1,000 years ago. The eruptions in the San Francisco Field have been spaced out every few thousand years so far.”

San Francisco Peaks, Flagstaff

         Other features have been formed by millions of years of slow moving change, such as sediment-depositing floods, receding floods revealing sedimentary sandstone, carving rivers, and gradual uplifts. Below the Mogollon Rim, ancient lakes, effluvial plains and rifts in earth give us gifts like Sedona, the Verde Valley, and fossilized sea creatures embedded at 7,000 feet above Jerome. The ever-changing planet we call home, despite being bound with wires, pipes, antennae, factories, and roads, will never be harnessed completely. The exact things that make planet earth a living, ever-changing organism capable of sustaining life are the exact things that also make it dangerous to its inhabitants. It’s unpredictable, fiery, quarrelsome, sometimes grumpy and dissatisfied. Like us. We too, are a danger right back, changing the earth to suit us, and seldom considering the impact we may have on its future.

For more information on Arizona’s earthquake activity, visit NAU’s Arizona Earthquake Information Center: http://www4.nau.edu/geology/aeic/aeic.html

Ellen Jo Roberts lives in Clarkdale, Arizona with “Bike Daddy” Chad, “Five Pounds of Fury” Floyd, and “Super Spaz” Ivan, and a fine assortment of 1970s Volkswagens.
Read all about it at Ellenjo.com