Mt Greylock Covered in Ice

Yesterday I referenced a photo of a sign along the drive to the summit of Massachusetts’ Mt Greylock. When I finally arrived at the summit, well, there were quite a few people as the day was very pleasant. But walking about the summit I also found a few more signs. One that impressed me was the following.

Yesterday I had mentioned how glaciers carved the geography we see today. But just how big were these glaciers? Massive. This graphic shows how high the glaciers would have been over the summit, already nearly 4,000 feet above sea level.

That’s a lot of ice.

Naturally the silhouettes of both the Memorial Tower and Empire State Building help given additional context of just how large these glaciers were. This sign isn’t far from the tower, which just reinforces the mental image the sign creates.

But the glaciers retreated thousands of years ago, and since then nature has reclaimed the summit. One of the things that impressed upon me was how the whole summit smelled. I grew up in a house where we frequently burned balsam fir incense and candles scented the same. Opening the car door I immediately was hit by that very same smell.

It turns out that the elevation is sufficiently high that the summit of Mt Greylock supports a sub-alpine environment, including a boreal forest, which you’d typically find near the Arctic Circle. And those kinds of forest are full of those kinds of evergreens and balsam firs. This sign detailed just that.

Need smell-o-vision for this…

Credit for the piece goes to the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) designers.

Mt Greylock Cross Section

I spent the better part of the last two weeks travelling and hanging out in the Berkshires and Connecticut River Valley in western Massachusetts. One of the coolest experiences was driving up the automobile route for Mt Greylock, the tallest point in Massachusetts.

Most of the drive itself was just regularly spectacular as the mid-morning sunlight hit the trees above the road, creating a warm yellow-orange light that bathed the route. But maybe about halfway or two-thirds of the way up, I rounded a bend in the road and came upon a clearing—and convenient pullover. The scene elicited an audible swear and not surprisingly I stopped the car to enjoy the scenery and take some photos.

Whilst there, I also noticed a small sign that, among other things diagrammed the cross section of Mt Greylock and points to the east and west. And I figured that would be a good way to start the week.

Mt Greylock

The sign uses an old map to illustrate the different rock layers that define the mountain. Marble, which is a soft rock, erodes during glaciation whereas schist, a hard rock, does not. And during the recent ice ages, when glaciers covered the area, most of the marble areas of the mountain range were eroded away, leaving just the sharp stony peaks of schist.

Credit for the piece goes to the US Geological Survey designers, ca. 1894.