Green Rock


Green Rock

Daily Photo

Where our land meets our neighbors’ is a large rock.  A landmark for miles, it is the cornerpiece of three different properties.  An old survey marker decorates the far side like a beauty mark.  Our side is wild and untouched.  A road arches and writhes up the steep hill to the left and there, a hand hewn small quarry displays where the massive rock sheds smooth sided pale green pavers like scales.  Most of us nearby have some tucked into flowerbeds or creating pathways. Presumably it is some kind of chert but geologists are stumped.  One friend took pieces with him to his job at the USGS.  Everyone poked, proded, and tested it but they had never seen anything like it.  It is a Sphinx, rare and unusual.

Climbing to the top is difficult and intimidating.  The bottom isn’t a tame place either. Once my middle son went exploring a crevice, a sort of tunnel writhing through a corner of the base.  About 14 years old at the time, he wandered here by himself one afternoon. Though he had been to the spot often before, this time he noticed there were animal bones in front of the crevice.  Bending down looking at the bones, he saw through to the light on the other side and he decided he could squeeze in and then out the other side.  At first he crouched and twisted but soon he slid onto his belly.  Rock pressed tighter and tighter.  Rock pushed from the top and dirt from the bottom.  He no longer could get much leverage with his arms and found himself trapped, barely able to move his chest enough to breath.  He couldn’t go forward.  He couldn’t even push back.  For a long time he lay in the dark panting his fear in the shallow breaths allowed by such a tight space.

He hadn’t told anyone where he was going.  We live on hundreds of acres of wild country.  How would anyone find him here, in a crack, in the dark.  Even his shallow breaths dug his skinny back into the rough rock above.  The bones outside seemed ominous now–a warning.  In desperation he thrust himself the few millimeters of movement he could in any direction.  The rock pressing into his spine ripped a hole in his shirt and tore his skin.

With one last desperate hope, he blew out every puff of air and threw himself forward.

Just as he thought he was stuck tighter, his shoulders found a slight depression in the side of the rock and that was enough.  He turned and wiggled into the slightly wider space and then was able to writhe out the short distance to the other side.

The rock and the land around can be proded and explored but like any giant beast, we’ve learned to treat it with caution.  Though it is beautiful, it just might bite.



  • That is a scary story. You must respect the land, and sometimes people aren’t careful. Good way to die out there.

    When I was about 16, and my next sister 14, she and her best friend wandered away from a community picnic and got lost in the woods. Of course, everyone else had left, and there I was stuck with the littler kids waiting for #2. I had to find a phone, and think I had to drive into the little town, and call home collect. Then wait while my folks called the sheriff’s office, and until my Dad got there. Then I could take the little ones home. They were found early the next morning none the worse for wear. I think the rest of the family was in worse shape worrying about her.

  • I’ve always heard people refer to its composition as serpentine, but I like your romanticized imagery of it as a mystery rock. It certainly has a singular presence!

    Many years ago, Fenwick carved about a dozen giant “tusks” out of curving cedar branches and I had to help him haul them up there for one of his out-in-the-elements exhibits. I guess he thought it had all the magic of a secret elephant burial ground….

  • ps. I love the light in this photo; it has a kind of Alphonse Mucha quality, dreamy.

  • That is a scary story…could have had a terrible ending. I’m glad he was able to free himself.

  • My own heart was felt squeezed as I read this story. I am so claustrophobic. You just described my worst nightmare, magnified by a thousand if I imagine it happening to my son (who also likes to explore). That must have been unbelievably terrifying. I am sooooo glad he managed to rescue himself!

  • Oh my god, that story almost made me throw up, Kym! Your storytelling is as vivid as your photos… thank goodness for the happy ending.

    Your pictures are amazing as always.

  • Silverstar, that must have been terrifying! Once my littlest got lost for about 15 minutes and my heart exploded out of my chest and there is still a tiny scar that aches whenever I think about it.

    Kato, We had it thin sectioned at Berkeley by a member (Geoff Phelps) of the USGS and the and several professors couldn’t identify it! It doesn’t fit into any categories. Kevin said that my saying chert was something out of my “bullshistory” as Ernie calls it but the best they know about it is that it is a sedimentary rock that has been metamorphized but no one came up with an actual identification for it. Cool, huh? I think secret elephant burial ground captures the feel there, too.

    Aunt Jackie, Yes, me too!

    Indie, Every time I think about him in there I get tight chested and angry at him–even though one of the things I love about him is his love of the land and exploring it.

    Jennifer, I’m glad my writing moved you;> Seriously, thanks for the compliments.

  • You should also be commended for raising a boy who didn’t panic and didn’t give up; he showed he has as much determination as curiosity. May he always be able to get out of “tight” situations!

  • Kym
    I could have told that exact same story. There is a rock up the ridge above Dean Creek hill that we used to call the “Mountain Lion Den”. I went up there with another kid that was bigger than me. He had crawled through it many times. Some mud had washed in and dried in a recent winter storm. The crack floor was too tight for me to fit through, the crawl hole was square due to some quirk of fracturing and mud filling. The fracture was about thirty feet through and had many twists in the rock leading up to it. After I got so far in that I couldn’t get out I hollered to the other kid behind me not to follow because I was getting stuck. He ran around to the other end and crawled up to me which was good because that gave me the courage to go on, knowing that the hole got bigger. The same as your son, I was sure that I was about to take my last breath.

    Damn we used to have fun back before television!

    We have some of that same rock that we call Chert or Jaspar above our house on the hill at Benbow. It chips off like onion skin. The layers are about an inch to one and one half inches thick. But it is grey/liver colored.

  • Like most of the other commenters, this story scares the heck out of me, as I am a tad claustrophobic. Well done in the telling Kym.

  • Yes Kym, well told. I guess that I was too busy reliving my own nightmare to notice. I guess that it what a well told story is for. To incite a visceral feeling. Well done! You had my skin crawling.

  • good story. knowing your family a bit, i would expect that there is a male genetic ability to get into and out of “tight spaces” type situations getting passed along. i hope that came across as good natured, as i meant it to be.
    during my life on the river i came to appreciate the wonderful variety of serpentitish rocks in the river, much of it just weathered riprap. knowing that there is a form of wealth in accumulating things of little value to others, i was a glutton for green rocks. if there was a local GRAA, my friends would force me to go. all my gardens are lined with the stuff, my walkway is green, and i have a pile to import to friends and family. different parts of the river have different kinds, near sylvandales there is a lot of the pale turquoise variety i love most.
    the variety that is smooth and a little flakey near blue rock on elk ridge is more like the serpentine that you find as a contact rock near gold seams in the sierras. no gold here tho.
    the underlying formation here in the coastal ranges is called serpentite, so i think we are seeing relatives of that. thanks for having it tested as i always wanted to.
    glad the boy made it. i squeezed into an Alaskan snowtunnel as a kid, and didnt make it out til i had passed out and a neighbor busted me out.

  • This reminds me of my own “between a rock & a hard place” story. My brother took me & my hubby spelunking for my birthday about 7 years ago or so. Well, I am, as the teapot, short & stout, and had a tight experience at the bottom of Moaning Caverns, and was right there with Middle Son, feeling again like I wasn’t going to get out. Unlike Middle, though, I looked like I had been beaten when I finally resurfaced. I’m sure Mid fared much better than I – he probably doesn’t bruise as easily either. 😉

  • I got a lot of enjoyment out of reading these stories. This blogging thing is a blast; I can’t tell whether I enjoy telling my stories or love hearing yours the most. (I’d heard yours before, Heather, but I’d forgotten it and enjoyed the retelling!)

  • Claustrophobes do not read….
    i used to spelunk in a side cave near the cave of the winds complex in colorado. cave of the winds is the third or fourth largest cave complex in the US. we spent a lot of time exploring possible ways to get into the bigger caves which were not open to the public.
    the one cave that was the most fun went down a few hundred feet and had skinny ledges over deep holes, and a scary 30-40ft on your belly crawl in a tunnel that divided two areas.
    2nd claustrophobe warning!
    our little game was to crawl it in the dark and push the fear edge a bit. i could do it alright, but it was a huge adrenaline rush. i did not like going second and having someone in front of me in the tunnel, only let it happen once. after the dark crawl doing it with a flashlight was a breeze.
    that cave claimed a few terror victims every year as we were near a few military bases, and rescue teams would have to go save some person who had fallen or was lost or too scared to do the tunnel crawl. i bet that cave is blocked off by now.

  • I love caves but I’m not into squeezy tight caves. Your story makes my chest grow heavy imagining how scary it would be!

  • I love caves but I’m not into squeezy tight caves. Your story makes my chest grow heavy imagining how scary it would be!

  • Apparently, me, too, two;>

  • Oh my gosh, how scary for you and for your son! I can’t imagine the panic you would have felt if he didn’t return home and not knowing where to look for him, well yes I can because my son disappeared for a while one day and I was panicked. You tell a good story.

  • Anybody but me noticing the responses seem to break along gender lines? The women, presumably mostly mothers, respond with care and concern for the child and mother… the fellas respond like it was an adventure story, and “I got one too!”.

  • Toni, The panic can be overwhelming, can’t it?

    Olmanriver–you are so right!

  • A lovely photo and story Kym. It is really a perfect example of how, as they say, boys will be boys.

  • Hey, Forkboy, you’re ruining our theory. You should have jumped in with an adventure of your own or at least an adventure of someone close to you.

  • Somewhere on Sunnyside not far from Salmon creek is a big rock
    with a large crack in it. Big enough to walk into. And that’s just what
    4 or 5 head of sheep did one hot day to avoid the heat and flies.
    The sheep bones are still there I imagine as they weren’t able to
    back out.

  • I know sheep are intellectually challenged but you’d think hunger and thirst would sharpen the brain a bit.

  • ok, you brought up animals…. kym and others, please don’t let ernie’s thread on mountain lions/bobcats die out without a salmon krick contribution.!

  • I’m saving my good bobcat, mountain lion and bear stories for when I get a picture of one…sadly, I may never get to tell them.

  • I love this rock, when we lived out there I used to climb all the way to the top and sit for hours. it was always so calm and quiet, no brother or sister buggin me.

  • It is still that way. Hushed.

  • As I recall there was a two foot drop into the crack that the end
    sheep was unable to back out of.

  • I hoped they werent totally stupid!

  • I did, for just a moment, consider tendering a story that is similar, but I think the court injunction prevents me from doing so!

  • Your posts are like an blossoming flower – the beautiful photo catches the eye, the compelling writing, and a truly wonderful group of commenters who add and shape the story as the post unfolds . . . you do a great job Kym!

  • Forkboy, now you’ve piqued my curiosity!

    Steve, Thank you especially for noticing how much the commenters add. They’re half the story!

  • I’ll ask my lawyer about it when I see him in January!

  • Not Alphonse Mucha… DUH…. Maxfield Parrish! And I studied art…

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