Thursday, November 3, 2011

I Geek Rocks

I have been a rock geek since I was a child. I like to climb rocks, hike around them, buy them at rock and gem shows, and photograph them. If it is a rock, chances are good that I like it, and to me, the definition of “rock” spans the gamut from mountains to faceted gemstones. A local type of rock, Indiana limestone, which you can learn more about from the Indiana Geological Survey, is used at home and afar. Did you know that the Empire State Building in New York City was made with Indiana Limestone? So was the Flatiron Building, and let me tell you, if you have not seen either of those buildings in person, put it on your list of Things To Do. But what about here in Indiana? Take a quick trip to downtown Indianapolis to admire the Circle Tower, an Art Deco masterpiece in Indiana limestone. Of course, if you want to see another stunning work made with Indiana limestone, when you get to the circle, simply look up. The Soldiers and Sailors Monument, a memorial to the Civil War heroes of Indiana, is 285 feet of native limestone. There are plenty of examples of Indiana limestone all around us that you can learn to recognize, perhaps even your house was made with Indiana limestone.

If you like to hike as much as I do, there are thousands of places to visit in the world that offer spectacular views with rocks under your feet and miles above you. Rocky Mountain National Park can leave you breathless- literally. Be prepared for thinner air when hiking any mountain, take it slowly, and stay properly hydrated to avoid altitude sickness. Flying over the Rockies during a clear day provides incredible aerial views to make a rock geek like me swoon, but to get a quick fix when you are not in the air, check out the live images from the Pikes Peak webcam. Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs looks like a piece of Arizona dropped into Colorado, with its red rocks at the base of the lush green and snow-capped Pikes Peak. Speaking of red rocks, add Sedona, Arizona to your list. I took the above picture in Sedona while hiking with a friend. We hiked for over an hour up a mass of red rock, only to find ourselves facing a sheer rock wall next to a straight drop-off, so we turned around and happily retraced our steps back to the base.

Want something closer to home? The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is not too far of a drive from Indiana and is abundant with trails, waterfalls, wildlife and, you guessed it, rocks. After hiking through the Smokies, why not go underneath them? Forbidden Caverns is a fascinating excursion underground, filled with stalactites and stalagmites, but bring a jacket because it is chilly under the mountain. Luckily, my friend and I were wearing our matching custom airbrushed sweatshirts (hey, what can I say, it was the 1990s). For more underground rocks, pop over to Kentucky and check out Mammoth Cave, the longest known cave system in the world.

Some of my favorite rocks are minerals and gemstones. From lumpy, glittering crystals to cold squares of pyrite to sleekly cut precious stones, all of these catch my eye. I once spent hours in the Mineral Sciences Collections in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., captivated by the rocks, including a particularly famous rock called the Hope Diamond. The gallery has other gemstones, too, and if I would have been permitted to, I would have spent a month nonstop inside of the gallery.

To give you a head start in learning more about rocks, my “I geek rocks” display on the second floor at the top of the grand stairwell throughout November contains books about hiking, gems, caving, mountain climbing and all sorts of other things to do with rocks. Visit the display and borrow any of the books you see. If you are looking for something in particular, about rocks or anything else, just ask us and we will help you find it. After all, the library is the best place to find information about what you geek.

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