Death Valley National Park, California
A pyramidal peak or glacial horn is a sharply pointed mountain peak usually with three sides. When three or more glacial cirques erode backwards to a central point they form a triangular peak, a pyramidal peak or horn.
The number of faces on a horn depends on how many cirques come together, however the most common is three or four. When a peak has four symmetrical sides it’s called a matter horn after the Matterhorn peak in the Alps.
In May of 1980 lava exploded from the side of Mount St Helens blowing the top off this mountain. Before the 1980 eruption Mount St Helens rose 9,677 ft above sea level. The blast reduced the mountain to 8,366 ft, a loss of over 1,300 ft. I was living in Indiana during the eruption, far way in safety but I remember pinkish skies and a lot of cloudiness.
Twenty-five years later I visited the park. While she didn’t erupt she occasionally let off steam demonstrating volcanic activity is still present. I didn’t see much wild life but I must say, these are the friendliest chipmunks ever. They climb all over you hoping you’ll feed them.
Mount Saint Helens is a stratovolcano which is the most explosive type of volcano. This is common in the Cascade Range. Mount Rainier (pictured below), another stratovolcano, is clearly visible from overlooks at the national monument.
Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument was established on August 27, 1982 by then President Ronald Reagan. The monument is located nearly 100 miles southeast of Seattle, Washington within Gifford Pinchot National Forest.
“A mountain is the best medicine for a troubled mind. Seldom does man ponder his own insignificance. He thinks he is master of all things. He thinks the world is his without bonds. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Only when he tramps the mountains alone, communing with nature, observing other insignificant creatures about him, to come and go as he will, does he awaken to his own short-lived presence on earth.”
Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
The low, smooth white sand dunes are contrasted in size and appearance by the jagged rock of the San Andres Mountains. But also the sand dunes are contrasted between light and dark by their wind-blown curves.
White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
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I lived and traveled throughout the eastern and southern US until my mid-40s. I’ve spent a lot of time in the Appalachian Mountains. The mountains in this range are generally about 4000 feet above sea level and the highest is Mount Mitchell in North Carolina at over 6600 feet. The Appalachians are the oldest mountain range in the world and such have experienced much erosion. They’re rounded, covered in green and often look like rolling hills.
In 2005 I finally took my first road trip west. The mountains dwarfed anything I’d seen in the Appalachians. The Yellowstone Ecosystem in general proved quite unexpected. I expected geysers and hot springs but soon realized there was so much more. As we traveled south down the John D Rockefeller Jr Memorial Parkway my eyes and soul experienced a most unexpected spiritual awakening. We were already 8000 feet above sea level when we saw those towers of granite jetting into the sky for another 5000+ feet.
I haven’t been the same since. I even changed my geographic focus from human to physical, teaching geomorphology instead of culture and sacred landscapes. I’d seen photos of Yellowstone and the Teton’s but nothing compares to seeing such places with your own eyes. You can’t grasp the majestic nature of the American West, or any geographic region, until you visit yourself. No photo can adequately convey the treasures of this earth.
And while I did return, I still long to see them yet again.
Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
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Moraine is a glacial landforms which results from glacial movement. As a glacier moves down the mountain it leaves behind debris of dirt and boulders.
Look below the glaciers in these photos. It looks like a river of rock. This is the debris left from the glaciers above which have retreated for the summer months.
Grand Teton National Park
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