The Sun Never Sets on the Gladstone Gladiators

As the summer research season begins to wind down, the Gladstone Gladiators are working overtime to understand to the underlying geology of the Gladstone quadrangle. The last few weeks have been extraordinarily helpful in achieving this goal. We have been processing our rock samples in the lab to better understand what we saw in the field. Since my last post, the amount of data we have collected has more than doubled. That means both a lot of work and a lot of results. Contacts (the lines on a geologic map that differentiate between one rock type and another) have become clearer as we synthesize our observations. Drawing contacts in the lab allows us to physically test them in the field, providing opportunity to conduct field experiments.
The month of July has been mostly devoted to field work. Earlier in the month we went on the Spears Mountain Smother. This day consisted of non-stop hiking from 9 in the morning to 4 in the afternoon. We started at over 1600 feet (on top of Gladstone’s highest peak) and end up on River Road at ~500 feet. You would think that the trek was all down hill, but a wrong turn at the end sent us straight up a cliff face as one final challenge for the day. Like all good Gladiators, however, we persevered and woke up early the next day to start another traverse.
Our data from the Spears Mountain Smother and other traverses provides more clarity to the structural geology of the Gladstone quadrangle. We’ve been able to discern a stratigraphic order for the terrane in the northwest and further hypothesize on the provenance of the terrane in the southeast. The latter terrane is thought to be the Smith River Allochthon by other researchers, but we’ve come to the conclusion that it is not the SRA. Rather, it is another enigmatic western Piedmont terrane (go figure!). On our field map, we’ve drawn the great “Purple Line” that splits the two terranes (eastern Blue Ridge and western Piedmont) and this upcoming week we look forward to testing its accuracy.