*Note: This audio essay first aired on KRCC (Colorado Springs’ NPR affiliate, 91.5 FM) on June 10, 2021. The link to the program is here; the audio file and the text from the essay are below.

I’m no geologist but I can’t help myself when I come across a pretty piece of pearly white quartz or a silver-flecked hunk of granite. I scoop ‘em up without hesitation. I end up carrying home piles of rocks. 

Rocks rock. It’s a fact. It’s science. Did you know we’ve got a billion-year-old clock here in Colorado Springs, and it’s made of rock?

It’s called the Monument Valley Park Geologic Column. To see it, head down to Monument Valley Park, across from the North End Playground, where Fontanero Street intersects with the park. 

It’s actually an outdoor geology lesson… a series of layers of different types of rock. These can happen naturally, like the stony layers in the Grand Canyon.

Or they can be built by people.

Ours was built in 1907, and looks a like a giant, sliced-open layer cake—if the cake had ten flavors and each flavor was instead several tons of rock.

As with a lot of things around the Pikes Peak region, the column has its origins with Colorado Springs’ founder William Jackson Palmer. He hired Edmond van Diest to oversee Monument Valley Park’s construction, and van Diest brought on Colorado College geology professor George Finley to create the outdoor geology lesson.

The first layer is Pikes Peak Granite. It’s over a billion years old. At that time there were no plants or animals, the Earth’s land was one enormous supercontinent known as Rodinia, and the planet spun so fast the days were only 18 hours long.

The fifth layer is Lyons Sandstone. It’s 275 million years old, and is the same rock that makes up the spines and spires of the Garden of the Gods. 

This is our deep history, our deepest history, and it is awesome to think about.

Until our next mountainside chat — be good, be well, and no matter what, climb on.

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