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Mount Whitney to Yosemite: the Geology of the John Muir Trail Paperback – January 29, 2009
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This is a book for those seriously interested in rocks. There are 44 geological maps with continuous coverage of the trail, and 135+ additional diagrams and photographs near and far spread over the 336 pages. It begins with a mini-course in geology, starting with basic rock types. This is where one can learn about the different varieties of granitic rock (rocks that we imprecisely all call “granite”). Figure 10 is a diagram that distinguishes true granite from quartz monzonite, gabbro, granodiorite, and the other variants. Next comes the big picture (the rock cycle, plate tectonics, and geological time), followed by processes and mechanisms (faults, intrusions, uplift, erosion, batholiths) and finally a glacial history of the Sierra Nevada. Pointers on the interpretation of geologic maps, and an overview of Sierra Nevada geology, conclude the first chapter.
At the heart of the book are the remaining 10 chapters that cover the trail starting in the south at Mt. Whitney and proceeding north to the floor of Yosemite Valley. One spot that has intriguing rock exposures is located just north of the solid bridge across Piute Creek, at the boundary between the John Muir Wilderness and Kings Canyon National Park. Here “are good exposures of the granodiorite (KJgd) intruded by mafic dikes. The granodiorite body is a large elongate intrusion in to the meta-volcanic rocks of the Goddard pendant (Fig. 76). The granodiorite in places has small anastomosing (braided pattern) brittle faults that deformed the rock. At Piute Creek the granodiorite is foliated, and contains several small magic inclusions” (page 188).
An extensive list of references to published scientific literature (approximately 220) will be an invaluable aid to those who want to go deeper and explore topics such as the complex geology of the Goddard pendant. The author does not shy away from poorly understood aspects of Sierra Nevada geology, and surveys some competing ideas. The author also offers some trip planning suggestions, advice, and a list of trail access points.
The book has some flaws. There are a number of typographical errors such as references in the text that point to the wrong figures. The author offers some harsh criticisms of past literature that are jarring to read and disrupt the flow of the book. The writing would have benefited from the services of a professional editor. As interest in the trail grows, one may hope that a revised version of the book will make its way to commercial publication. The book weighs over a pound so a decision to bring it along on the trail cannot be taken lightly, and it would be ideal if an electronic version were made available.
I'm not all the way through, but it's definitely going to get some space in my pack for the trip.