How Old is This Rock

June 21, 2012: “How old is this rock,” I asked Marvin, indicating a piece of quartzite I had picked up while we were visiting Steptoe Butte State Park in the Palouse Hills of Washington, not far from the town of Colfax.

“If I had to guess I’d say it’s over 400 million years old,” said Marvin.

“Oh… you read the interpretive sign too,” I replied.

“Yes, but the age is debatable. Dr. E. K. Peter, professor of Geology at WSU, said it was over a billion years old. Other sources say radiometric dating placed the age between 1.4 and 1.47 billion years old. We’re standing on an old pile of sand.”

“Well… then it’s also true that it’s over 400 million years old. So, the sign isn’t wrong even if it is misleading. Dr. Peter isn’t wrong either… he is just a bit conservative if we believe the radiometric dating numbers.”

“Nice view from up here,” Marvin said, changing the subject. “How far do you think you can see?”

“If I had to guess I’d say over 200 miles,” I replied.

“The mountain identifier said Mount Spokane is 70 miles away.”

“I’m a little taller than you so I’m adding another 30 miles… that’s 100 miles this way and 100 miles that way… adds up to 200 miles on my abacus.”

Photo by Marvin Kellar

“It’s beautiful pastoral scenery,” said Marvin, changing the subject again. “I think I’ll take some photos.”

“I don’t know your minister very  well but I think she would like it… There’s a guy setting up a parasail… maybe we can get some shots of that… his kite is colorful… it will add some color to the photo.”

parasail, Steptoe ButteParasailing from Steptoe Butte State Park,

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