A Geology Lesson at 70mph

I was not far from Pittsburg myself this weekend. I hopped in the car on Friday afternoon (immediatly after soil science) to take a six hour trek up to Morgantown West Virginia. NPR and a couple CDs don’t exactly make the trip go by easy. So, while trying to stay on the road as much as possible (which isn’t easy on curvy roads with about a 5 to 10% grade), I glanced out the window to see the mines and rocks that had to be cut to make the interstate.

Most of the WV turnpike was made by dynamiting through large portions of rock to give the road a path over and even through mountains (I’d never been through a mountain tunnel, never want to again). Since the roads were so curvy, I didn’t try too hard to focus on the rocks. I did try, however, to see if I could see horizons on some of the freshly dug soil that was cut into the sides of some hills. What I noticed was that on these rock faces, there was not only soil and vegetation at the top of the rock, but there was a bit of terracing with think layers of grass, meaning that there were thin layers of soil on these rocks. I even saw some evergreens that had anchored themselves into the rock faces in quite an impressive manner.

The hills and valleys were almost like a pallete of colors: all shades of red, orange, brown, grey and even blues and greens were present in the rocks and soil. I couldn’t identify the types of rock, but I did try. I noticed that there were lines of color and even some layers that resembled limestone.

I do have to admit that as I drove through North Carolina into Virginia, I thought, “I bet I’m driving on cecil sandy loam!” Upon further research, I looked into the types of soil I was passing as I made my drive. The Web Soil Survey showed that Morgantown was mostly an urban land culleoka complex. Just like North Carolina, West Virginia also has a state soil- Manongahela sandy loam, which I assume is named for Manongahela county, which Morgantown is in. I also found that the Virginia state soil is a Pamunkey soil.

In most classes that contain a portion about differences in geography, it is difficult to fully understand what is outside of your daily routine. For instance, I always forget how many hog farms there are in North Carolina because I don’t see them reguarly. Driving through the northern part of the state surely reminded my nose how many hogs we have. I don’t drive through the mountains that frequently so I don’t see all the rocks or the mountain faces or the erosion or the mines. When I have gone to the mountins, I didn’t know much about rock or soil formation so didn’t take much notice. Now, I know that the geological pieces are there because I see them in textbooks and pictures but hadn’t been able to observe them while I was learning them. For instance, I know that trees are more stunted at higher elevations like on mountains in the tundra, but I don’t know that from actually seeing them. I enjoyed this trip because I was able to see more obvious examples of geology in West Virginia than in Charlotte.

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One Response to A Geology Lesson at 70mph

  1. amynoelsmith says:

    It’s funny because not alot of people would do something like this. I, too, just had a similiar experience. I just spent the weekend with my sorority in Tennessee with all the other ADPis from the region. As we were driving through the mountains, I was trying to control my car-sickness, but I also noticed the massive amounts of exfoliation on either sides of the road. A girl in my car said, “it must have really sucked to make these roads a long time ago.” I agreed with the statement and I thought to myself someone would really have to do alot of planning to a) keep tunnels from collasping b) how do you combat massive mudslides when it rains alot c) what about when the roads are cut, where is the vegetation supposed to go? even worse we’re in North Carolina, that means alot of clay that expands and shrinks depending on the temperature and moisture in the atmostphere also all the cracking when it gets hot. Phew just thinking about all that stuff gives me a headache and i’m not building roads. Things like this just go to show how important soil can be. Especially classifying soils. What if a road builder built a road on a vertisol soil that is constantly cracking and someone gets seriously injured or even killed because of faults in the road? Then what would the road builder because that would be put on them? Just somethings people need to start paying more attention to.

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