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Susan Sampson | Wenatchee rocks: Hunting for Ice Age treasures

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World photo/Mike Irwin Leaf fossil in a sandstone block used to build St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Wenatchee.

All girls like rocks, especially diamond “sparklers,” right?

This gal is equally enchanted by the Wenatchee Valley limestone, sandstone, basalt, agates, fossils, and more.

I discovered intriguing local rocks from the chair in my dentist’s office. While I was waiting for the Novocaine to kick in, I read from a book in the lobby, “The Geological History of the Wenatchee Valley and Adjacent Vicinity.” Seeing my fascination with the book, my dentist assured me that I could buy his book at Hastings.

Next, I found a Chamber of Commerce brochure that maps a driving tour, mostly on the east side of the Columbia, passing rock formations deposited by geological cataclysms in north central Washington, including glacial intrusion and massive flooding whenever water was released from ancient Lake Missoula. Whenever I have guests from out of state, I make them take the drive along “The Trail of the Ice Age Floods.” Thanks to the efforts of the local “Erratics” club (named for isolated lumps of granite dumped by glaciers out), the route is now a National Geological Trail.

In the spring of the year, I walk up dirt roads just outside Wenatchee looking at the rocks washed clean of dust by rains, before summer re-coats them in dust. I see gray mudstone or shale that has split into layers like the pages of a book. Some pages show fossilized muck of a prehistoric pond or forest floor, but some show clear leaf prints.

Higher up the roads, I see gray, bluish, and purple agates. A friend took some that were similar to a gemologist to ask if they were the rare, semi-precious Ellensburg Blue. “No,” he said, “They’re Ellensburg gray, bad color, and with all those internal cracks, they aren’t good for anything.” I think they’re interesting, but I do not collect them. They lie on private property and the property isn’t mine.

Instead, I dig rocks to make flower beds in my own small lot, located within the map of the prehistoric Malaga slide. I dig out rhyolite, granite, lava bombs, sandstone, limestone stained purple or green and sandstone concretions. Concretions are my favorite finds: They are layered like jawbreaker candy. I collect small ones in a jewelry box.

Susan Sampson writes about the joys of being a newcomer in North Central Washington. She can be reached at alien