There's a wide strip on the south side of Oldsville road, where you can get out of the road and park- but it's not very obvious as you sail by at forty miles an hour. The orange sign (which looks brown in this view), at the end of the walkway above, is generally visible as you go by from the east, but it looks as if it's telling you to go around the corner in the road (which is not apparent in this view). It's not: it's pointing up the path. If you're coming from the west, on the other hand, you've just come around that corner, and it's easy to miss the sign. Another landmark to look for is that garage, mostly hidden behind foliage in this view. As I said yesterday, this is an easy spot to miss, so I'm spending a few days showing and describing landmarks to make it easier to find.
This may be overkill and belaboring a point, but as I said when I started this series, Erratic Rock Wayside is easy to miss. It's out of the way to begin with, and it's frustrating to realize you've driven by it yet again. So I'm going to spend the next three days pointing out some landmarks that should make it easier to spot visually instead of sailing past it (Though hopefully, with the advent of GPS, it's less of an issue these days). Today, we're pretty high up on the shoulder of the hill, looking roughly south, over Route 18 farther away, and Oldsville Road maybe a hundred yards closer. There is no direct connection from 18 to the wayside; you have to turn off onto Oldsville Road two or three miles to either the east or west, then follow the latter to the parking area at the base of the hill.
I think we'd started back down the hill from Erratic Rock at this point, and were looking more or less northeast. The trees just past the fence in the foreground are likely part of a Christmas tree plantation- a very common crop in the Willamette Valley, and a major source of Oregon's export income. The hillside in the middle distance looks likely to be another vineyard. Both of these crops owe some of their productivity to the rich silt deposits of the Missoula floods. Finally, in the right distance, the Western Cascade foothills are barely visible through the haze.
A fellow looking for a geocache in the area offered to take a photo of Dana and me standing on the rock. Not only is it nice to have a photo of the two of us, but this is the best of all the pictures I have to give a sense of scale for Erratic Rock.
I was once asked by a student if there was any danger that the Missoula Floods might occur again... a reasonable question from the standpoint of a student initially trying to grasp the scale and destructive power of these events. From my perspective though, I had not even considered the possibility, because the floods clearly depended on a set of conditions that no longer exist. So it took me a moment to find an answer, and to frame it in such a way as to not sound dismissive. I responded, "None whatsoever. The floods were caused by the breach of a glacial dam, and that glacier and the ones associated with it no longer exist."
Despite the ease of dismissing the potential hazard, it's not the least bit foolish, as one thinks about the potential devastation if there was a recurrence, to be concerned. Had I been standing (or more likely, on a boat) at this same location, looking in the same direction as above, at the time of the flood that deposited these erratics, there would have been no land in the scene before the ridge on the horizon. Everything else we see in this photo would have been submerged in nearly freezing, turbid, and turbulent water. Much better to raise the question of a possible risk, and finding it easily dismissed, than to ignore a potential risk and discovering too late that it's all too real.
I think at some point, probably late fifties and sixties, this spot was more heavily visited and, if not better known, known with more intense interest. This was likely because the idea of Harlan Bretz, that enormous floods had scoured the Pacific Northwest, had recently been accepted, and seemed so ridiculously outlandish. As such, it seems samples of Erratic Rock were taken as souvenirs. The rock is, frankly, not all that interesting, just a dark, slightly metamorphosed mud/siltstone. Yet the story it tells is gripping. Unfortunately, in taking a souvenir of the story, tourists have diminished the actual storyteller, by roughly 50%, and scattered miscellaneous chunks around the hilltop. Please do not take samples here.
I'm in the midst of a minor crisis- not a big deal, and nothing to worry about in the grand scheme- and busy dealing with it, so no funnies today.