Those lovely mats of five-petaled flowers, in whites and blues and pinks, which Tom McGuire and I saw all up and down Big Granite Canyon, are Granite Gilia, not my oddly imaginary "Douglas Phlox."
The reason that the Tuttle Lake Formation of metavolcanic rocks, which make up most of Snow Mountain, are so granitoid in character, so resistant to glacial erosion, is that by and large the Tuttle Lake is not divided into fine slate-like strata. It has strata, all right, but it is just a much more massive type of rock, with fewer cracks and joints. It also has masses of genuine intrusive rock; diorites, which are much akin to granite.
Our granite, which is usually actually granodiorite, but that is hardly the point, is more massive still. Glaciers will tend to flow over it, and round it down smooth, rather than tear it up.
It was likely enough wrong to remark, as I did, that the dark mafic inclusions and lovely swirls and patterns within the granite around Big Granite and the Loch Levens are in any way related to the Emigrant Gap Mafic Complex. We need not invoke a complex of mafic plutons a few miles away to explain these curious dark patches. Having said that, it remains possible that there is some vague connection. But the granite is some several to many millions of years younger.
My daughter Janet, an astute critic, gently remonstrated with me, concerning my portrayal of Tom McGuire. Did I intend, she asked, that my readers imagine Tom to be some kind of shameless rake, adding notches to his belt as one woman after another succumbed to his mighty charms? Like the Musketeers?
No, I did not intend that. Not quite that, anyway.
No, no, Tom is quite the character. If I say Oh my God, Tom answers, O my Goddess.
We were chatting away down there by the big waterfalls, and Tom would mention this or that exciting place he had hiked in the mountains of California, and I remarked, Tom, you know California better than I do!
But, Tom, my good man, have you ever been to Wabena Point?
Then you do not yet know the North Fork American.
It has to do with the petroglyphs. Rock art, thousands of years old. A couple dozen sites are scattered around the upper North Fork. All are sacred ground. If a people lives here for thousands of years, they will know the lay of the land in a way we cannot imagine.
The lay of the land? I mean, the song of the land. And certain crescendos and passions are met, within that song of songs.
That is where the petroglyphs are. Often they are in places which make perfect sense, some patch of Paradise like the Old Soda Springs, in the upper North Fork, where a giant whaleback of granite is incised with hundreds of designs, right beside waterfalls and mineral springs and pools and meadows, and all surrounded by snow peaks.
In ancient Greece, such springs would often become the sites of temples or shrines. And I say that, just as springs mark sacred ground, so also do petroglyphs.
That's what I say.
And just as in ancient Greece, where there were hundreds of little temples and shrines, hundreds of sacred sites, but one and only one Delphi, so also, in the North Fork American, there is only one Wabena Point.
Wabena Point is in the Royal Gorge, on the very tiptop of the promontory dividing Wabena Canyon from the North Fork itself. Snow Mountain looms across the North Fork, rising 4000 feet above the white waterfalls in the Gorge, and Devils Peak is seen end-on, a narrow black spike of rock it seems, with two owl-like ears.
Devils Peak, the one and only summit in this area which had already been named (that is, named by those of European descent), when the Gold Rush struck.
Have you ever been to Chalfant, where giant petroglyphs are inscribed on cliffs of rhyolite ash, facing the ten-thousand-foot slope of White Mountain, away down in the Owens Valley? I have visited many many petroglyph sites in California and Nevada. Chalfant is the only one I can compare to Wabena Point, for sheer magic, mystery, and depth of feeling.
It may take quite a few visits to Wabena Point to really get it. Wait for the shadows to lengthen, do not go there at midday! I have slept out there on the clifftops, and made many a day trip, over the past thirty years. It is not always possible, especially with other people present, to find my own heart and open my own ears to the song. I could long for a thousand years to share what I feel there, those few special times, but longing doesn't make it so. Beware of people who are busy. They have no place on those magic cliffs.
Wabena Point is Delphi, and the North Fork--canyon, river, cliff and waterfall alike--is The Goddess.
Unfortunately, the money-changers are in the temple, and it's long past time to cast them out.