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GeoStories (TM)
by Richard Allen

"There is no clear distinction
anywhere on the Earth's surface between
living and nonliving matter."  --- Dr. James Lovelock

  Scroll down for articles and short stories inspired by gemology, geology, astronomy, and archaeology.  Most of them are about the Phoenix area, and many of them have been published in Northwest Valley Lifestyles Magazine, over the past few years.
  Yes, I know, this page is getting a bit unwieldy, with all the graphics and stories, and will be restructured soon!
  These articles can be downloaded FREE for NON-COMMERCIAL USE ONLY in PDF format.  All are around 1MB in size.  Generally speaking, newer stories are placed above older ones.
  If you do not have Adobe Acrobat Reader with which to view them, you can download it for free below.
  All text and images: (C) 1999 - 2017 Richard Allen.
  Please feel free to suggest other categories or ideas by using our contact form.

Gimme Shelter

Tonto Cliff Dwellings are built into the Dripping Springs Quartzite.

  What better for structural protection than an arch?
  What better to put it there than nature itself?

Otherworldly, yes.
The paint?  Volcanic ash.
The canvas?  Prehistoric Arizona.
The artist?  Big and violent.

Air Brush

A major landscape artist is at work in the Painted Desert of Arizona.

Growth Spurts

Roosevelt Dam is made of stromatolites from Precambrian time.

  A magnificent opportunity, at first brilliantly disguised as an impossible situation?
  The dam?  No, the rocks that made it.

A desolate lunar landscape lies right next door.
And breathing there is easier, too.  Than on the moon, that is.

Pressure Cooker

Cerro Colorado, in the Pinacate Volcanic Field, in Sonora, Mexico.


San Francisco Peak, north of Flagstaff, Arizona.

  Geology is a s-l-o-w process.  But not always. 
  And in Arizona, our highest point is the best example.

"Breaking up is ha-ard to-oo-oo do."  So goes the old popular song.
Not is this part of the world, however.


The Sierra Estrella, near Phoenix, Arizona, in the Basin and Range Province.

Hard Place

A spectacular set of Anchan cliff dwellings in the Sierra Ancha of Arizona.

  Summertime .... and the livin' is easy.  Well, not quite, and who knows what the rest of the year was like.

Is the lure of "Lost Gold" stronger than the lure of "Found Gold"?
More than one person thinks so.

Gold Dust

Herein lies the Lost Dutchman's Gold -- the Superstition Wilderness.

Coats of Many Colors

Yellow Paint Lichen coats black rocks on Black Mountain, near Cave Creek, Arizona.

  What makes Earth really different from other planets is its "coating of life" -- lots of life.  It also lends character.

But it is more than just "skin deep".  Scratch below the surface, and who knows what you will find.

Granite from The Boulders in Carefree, Arizona, in cross-section.

Simple Mines

Volcanic rocks in Monument Valley, Arizona.

An Arizona Anthill Garnet.  It could hardly be easier to get at these Arizona gems.  It just takes a small army.

The Little Colorado River Gorge, near the Grand Canyon, Arizona.

Sandstone and conglomerate formations on Camelback Mountain, Phoenix, Arizona.
  Landscape is made not so much by putting things together, but by taking things apart.  Let's call it creative destruction.

Time on the Side

The Phoenix Mountains and Squaw Peak, from North Mountain, in Phoenix, Arizona.

  Here you can take a walk on the wild side -- right through millions of years of geohistory, and some mightily different terrains, all in one of Phoenix's City Parks.

Star Chart

The ancients here didn't have books or fancy watches.  But they did have a knowledge of time that most modern people have lost.

Chimney Rocks near Pagosa Springs, Colorado.
Ancient kivas and ruins at Chimney Rock Pueblo, in Colorado.

  The rocks in this place tell a story, and the story goes on even today.  Why did they live here, and why should you care?

If you think times here today are crazy, violent, and dangerous, read this and count your blessings.

Tuff Times

Geronimo Head Formation in the Usery Mountains, near Phoenix, Arizona.

Mining Towns

Crumbling stone walls protect some colorful rocks in central Arizona.

  Arizona is home to more than a few old mining towns.  Here is the story of some of the really old ones.

 Hohokam traders once ranged over great distances through some very wild country, and undoubtedly lived colorful lives.  How colorful?  Read this.

Look closely and you can almost see the human caravan headed towards Snaketown.

Green Zone

Diggings abound and the sand is even green on Peridot Mesa, near San Carlos, Arizona.

  "Eighty percent of success is just showing up."  So said Woody Allen, no relation to me.  And I was glad I did -- show up, that is.

The "Gem of the Sun", fittingly enough, is found in major quantities in Arizona.  If only Geronimo had known to start digging way back when.

Green sparkling crystals of peridot (olivine) from San Carlos, Arizona.


Camelback Mountain, from Papago Park, in Phoenix, looking north.

  Camelback Mountain is a symbol for Phoenix and Scottsdale.  It illustrates our Valley's "look" in more ways than one.

And it has been important to the residents of our area for more than a thousand years!   Discover more about it here.

Camelback Mountain, from Squaw Peak, in Phoenix, looking north.

Name Game

Ruins in Keet Seel Canyon, Arizona.

  A name is a relative thing.  And what you call a place can make all the difference.  What happened here?

She of the Jade Skirt
(aka "Turquoise in the New World")

Ruins at Chaco Canyon, New Mexico.  An unassuming mountain now in New Mexico let loose one of the great treasure hunts of all time.  It's one of those places you could drive by every day, and never know that.
  The treasure was carried far and wide, and those who did the carrying were a mysterious bunch.  Who knows how distant, or why it all ended?

Turquoise tesserea-style jewelry, from Arizona. 
  Couple that with a little village in the right location, and the result can have a big impact on the world.

Be careful what you say along the hiking trail.
The person listening in on your conversation just might be a geologist.

Black Hills

Pyramid Peak, from the Hedgpeth Hills, near Glendale, Arizona.

Rooms with a View
(aka "On Cloud Nine")

Spiral petroglyphs decorate a basalt boulder on Shaw Butte.

  First, we discover an ancient Hohokam solar observatory, right in the middle of Phoenix!  If they could only see it now.

The sprawl of Phoenix, Arizona replaces an older landscape. 
Then, we find ourselves in some modern day ruins with colorful character and a history worth preserving.


First Impressions

A desolate valley in the White Tank Mountains, near Sun City, Arizona.

  Two parts rock plus one part Zen equals alternate state of mind.  Or is it alternate state of reality?
  The point is, don't think about it too much.

Protruding through the fragile skin of the Earth, bleached and weathered granite boulders are all stacked up like so many relics in a great outdoor museum.  Or are they?

Bones of the Earth

Surrealistic granite boulders abound around the Valley of the Sun.


This is Moon Hill, in Phoenix. Is it a sad place to live?

  The next time you pick up a stone, treat it nicely.  Rocks have feelings, too!  And you never know what they might be telling you.

One half dark, one half light; both are really old.  These two rocks make up a lot of the scenery around Phoenix.  It's something to think about on the way to the bar.

Dividing Line

Black Mountain, near Carefree, Arizona.


Ancient petroglyphs decorate a boulder at the Deer Valley Rock Art Center, in Phoenix, Arizona.

Sometimes what you are looking for is right in front of you.  Maybe those that drew all these petroglyphs knew that way back when.  Maybe we have forgotten it.

Somewhere in the shadow of Weaver's Needle, in Arizona's Superstition Mountains, lies the lost Dutchman's gold.  How did it get there?  The Needle, I mean.

One Piece at a Time

Weaver's Needle in the Superstition Mountains, east of Phoenix, Arizona.

Full Tilt

Tilted red beds in the Papago Buttes, in Phoenix, Arizona.

  Forget all the holes.  They are the least interesting things about these standing rocks in Papago Park.  You'll probably not know why, unless you read this.

It looks like snow, but it is not!  This example of one of "Nature's Jewel Boxes" crowns the Sierra Estrella, southwest of Phoenix.

Crown Jewel

A brilliant white pegmatite in the Sierra Estrella, near Phoenix, Arizona.

Pebbles in the Sun

Blue pebbles in the summer sun. Turquoise? Or just pretty rocks?

  Are they pretty?  Will they last?  Are they worth anything?
  In the end, it's all up to you.  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  The next time you buy some jewelry, remember that.

What were these people thinking when they chose this location for their dream home?  It's a splendid view, but there is a bit of road noise.


Ancient Hohokam ruins look out over the Sonoran Desert, north of Phoenix, Arizona.

Missing Time

Unconformity on Camelback Mountain, in Phoenix, Arizona.

  The line separating two rock formations on Camelback Mountain, in this picture, is about one and a half billion years wide -- or about the thickness of nothing.

  Only read this one if you want to get very depressed, angry, or just plain even.  While not about the Phoenix area per se, this affects us all.
<Web Page Version>
<Watch it go down, generally, that is.>

Payback Time

Look closely at this picture. It will either make you cry, or very angry.

Name That Tune

Stretch marks are easily seen on South Mountain, in Phoenix, Arizona.

  Phoenix's South Mountain Park is home to one of the most unusual geologic structures around.  You know the mountain looks different.  Why?

  If you think there is no mystery left in geology, read this.  Maybe another plot for a disaster movie?
Help us all and come up with your own idea.

Rock and Roll Geology

This rock doesn't look right to me. How it got here, on Camelback Mountain, will blow you away.

Pendants Big and Small

Four Peaks is home to some of the world's best quality amethyst.

  Arizona's Four Peaks is geology upside down
  And you can even wear a piece of it!

  Step back into time 1700 million years, and hold your breath.  But don't look for any fish.
They don't exist yet.

Time Travel
and other Everyday Things

The remains of ancient hot springs greet you along SR51, in Phoenix, Arizona.

Treasures in the Basement

Evaporation pond at the Luke Salt Deposit, Glendale, Arizona.

  Underneath the West Valley lies fifteen cubic miles of salt -- enough to keep everyone's popcorn tasty for the foreseeable future.

One of my early articles from Gemological Digest focuses on Montana's famous Yogo Mine, and the beautifully blue, natural, non-heat treated gems it produces.  Find out why these stones are among the British Crown Jewels.  This link will take you to a series of web pages with GIF graphics of the article (no PDF available).

The Yogo
Sapphire Mine

Read about natural, non treated sapphires from Montana's famous Yogo Mine.

If you like
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geology, hiking,
& stars in the sky,

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(updates here are always in progress)

  for Gemology
  for Geology
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  Because of some recent bad (and costly!) experiences we've had with them, we strongly ADVISE AGAINST AMAZON as a source.
  Try Barnes and Noble instead!

of the Southwest

  View a really fascinating set of drawings of what
this part of the world has looked like throughout geologic time.

Favorite Movies

  Go rent these videos or DVDs -- Hollywood movies with rocks in the story line or significantly in the background.

The Dark Side

  Read all about
Ruby, Sapphire, and the dark side of the gem world, by "the devil" himself, Richard W. Hughes.

Arizona Peridot, Four Peaks Amethyst, & Sleeping Beauty Turquoise -- all American Gemstones, all from Arizona, all NATURAL.


GemLand's Recommended Reading
(chosen not for technicality, but to make you think)


   Ruby & Sapphire, by Richard W. Hughes, 1997, RWH Publishing
   This beautiful "coffee table" size book is the world's most definitive treatment of the subject.  Ruby and sapphire are both varieties of the mineral corundum, and this book covers every conceivable thing you would ever want to know about them.  For those interested in fine American gemstones, Montana's Yogo Sapphire Mine is covered in great detail.  Worth its price for the pictures alone, the controversial author's way of telling the story of these two legendary gems is both very entertaining and lively.
   You can learn more about it, and even buy it directly from the author, at his excellent website:

   The Curious Lore Of Precious Stones, by George Frederick Kunz, 1913, Dover Publications
   Talismans, superstitions, amulets, crystal balls, gemstones, legends, history, and more are discussed in detail in the chapters of this old classic.  Dr. Kunz was a gemologist for Tiffany & Company, and was at the time one of America's foremost mineralogists.  If you want to know which stone to wear to cure a hangover, you can find out here.  And why.

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   Roadside Geology of Arizona, by Halka Chronic, 1983, Mountain Press Publishing
   One of the Roadside Geology series, it gives a road by road description of Arizona Geology, with good descriptions of the geology around Phoenix.  Includes a section on Earth's basic geology.

   Geology of Arizona, by Dale Nations and Edmund Stump, 1981, Kendall / Hunt Publishing
   A little more technical than the above book, this book is still highly readable with many good photos and other graphics.  Arizona is the world's best geology classroom, and this book shows why.

   Basin and Range, by John McPhee, 2003, Noonday Press
   Although this book is more about the Nevada area, the geologic principles it covers apply to southern Arizona also, and it is very readable, woven together with stories about people.  It is included as a section in the larger book called "Annals of the Former World", also by John McPhee, which covers North America, and might appeal to those with an interest in the geology of the whole continent.

   Cadillac Desert, by Marc Reisner, 1993, Penguin Books
   This is the story of the development of the American Southwest, its thirst for water, and how that water has been obtained by government and private-industry manipulation, corruption, and the damming (or damning, if you prefer) of the Colorado River.  Those dams may ultimately do more damage to the Southwest than anything else.

   Hiking Arizona's Geology, by Ivo Lucchitta, 2001, The Mountaineers Books
   If you want to learn something of Arizona's great geology, and be outdoors at the same time, this is the book for you.  Ivo Lucchitta was a Director of the United States Geological Survey in Flagstaff, and has really put some time into this book.   It offers over 40 day hikes around the State, each highlighting geologic features and outstanding scenery.  There is no better way to see the rocks than to go out into them.

   The Japanese Art of Stone Appreciation, by Vincent T. Covello and Yuji Yoshimura, 1984, Charles E. Tuttle Company
   Remember when you were young, picked up a stone, and took it home just because there was something about it?  Asian societies have really different ways of looking at rocks, and this edition is the place to start learning some of them.  Those who love rock gardens, big and small, should not do without this book.  Pretty soon you'll be walking around looking for stones to put on your mantle, too.

   The Ages of Gaia, by James Lovelock, 1988, W.W. Norton and Company
   Gaia is the name the ancient Greeks gave to the living Earth, and in this work Dr. Lovelock takes you step by step through the hypothesis that our planet should (indeed, must) be viewed as an integrated system -- a living being in its own right.  You can't separate the rocks from the organism.  I wish this book had been around when I was in college, and made required reading in the Geology program.

   Future Evolution, by Peter Ward, 2001, W.H.Freeman Company
   I had a lot of trouble getting into this book.  Maybe it is the way the author writes -- the style is somewhere between "storybook" and "textbook".  But something about it kept me coming back, and I did finish it.  The far look it presents of our destiny, and the world's future, is disturbing and bleak.  My take is that we (humanity) are like a wildfire sweeping across the landscape, and the result will have fossil hunters of the future scratching their heads, wondering where all the life went.  The author is a geologist, and a paleontologist, and his science is sound.  There is strange, colorful artwork by Alexis Rockman throughout, too.

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   Living the Sky -- The Cosmos of the American Indian, by Ray A. Williamson, 1987, University of Oklahoma Press
   If you want to know what kivas, hogans, and medicine wheels were really all about, then get this excellent book.  Any Native American knew far more about the workings of the sky than the average modern American does.  If you have ever desired to become a Sun-Priest, you can start here.

   Prehistoric Astronomy in the Southwest, Revised Edition, by J. McKim Malville and Claudia Putnam, 1993, Johnson Books: Boulder
   Archaeoastronomy among North America's Native Americans is a fascinating subject, and this book focuses on the Southwest.  Whether at the amazing ruins of Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, or the stone circles found in some Phoenix city parks, the principles involved are the same.  This book, also, is a primer on basic astronomy.

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   1491, by Charles C. Mann, 2005, Alfred A. Knopf Publishers
   Whatever you and I were taught in school about the Indians of the New World is at the very least seriously incomplete, and at the worst almost totally wrong.  In this engrossing book, subtitled "New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus", science writer Charles Mann takes us through new findings and new perspectives about what the Western Hemisphere was like prior to its "discovery" by Europeans.  Cities larger than any in Europe at the time, mathematics advanced beyond that of contemporaneous "Old World" scholars, and the then most accurate calendar system in the world are but a few of the cultural facets discussed.  And this is not even to mention the amazing artworks and constructions that now lie in ruin.
   My only complaint is that the book almost completely ignores one of the Americas' most civilized prehistoric areas -- that of our own Valley of the Sun.   Why, I don't know.  But it is definitely worth reading nevertheless.

   The First Americans, by J.M. Adovasio, with Jake Page, 2002, Random House Publishers
   All the native peoples of North America came over the land bridge from Siberia, right?  Probably not!  For a great overview of up-to-date North American prehistory, in very readable and entertaining form, get this book by one of America's leading present-day archaeologists.

   In Search of the Old Ones, by David Roberts, 1996, Touchstone Books
   A thought provoking and highly readable look at the archaeology and history of the Four Corners area and the Pueblo cultures.  If you aren't in favor of draining "Lake" Powell, you will be after reading this.  David Roberts and friend Jon Krakauer voyage into the canyonlands.

   Desert Farmers at the River's Edge: the Hohokam and Pueblo Grande, by John P. Andrews and Todd W. Bostwick, 2000, City of Phoenix Parks, Recreation, and Library Department (available from Pueblo Grande Museum)
   This brief but encompassing book should be in every Phoenician's home.   The achievements of the Hohokam people are the basis of Phoenix's very existence, and the city should more proudly boast of its prehistory.  Any other city in the world wanting to capitalize on tourist appeal would love to have what we mostly ignore.

   Man Corn -- Cannibalism and Violence in the Prehistoric American Southwest, by Christy G. Turner II and Jacqueline A. Turner, 1999, The University of Utah Press
   The name of the book comes from the Aztec word tlacatlaolli, "man corn", a ceremonial meal of human flesh and corn.  Sounds grisly, sure.  But there is much to be explained about the "holes" in the history of the Southwest by the theories presented here in the Turners' very comprehensive and technical study.  Maybe the reason all those old pueblos were so hurriedly abandoned had to do with the fact that their residents were about to become someone else's dinner.

   Landscape of the Spirits -- Hohokam Rock Art at South Mountain Park, by Todd W. Bostwick, 2002, The University of Arizona Press
   I never knew there was so much rock art in South Mountain Park.  Until I read this beautifully illustrated book, I thought there were a few petroglyphs on the mountain, here and there.  But the place is loaded with them!  The South Mountains (as they are correctly called by us modern-day Phoenicians) must have been a real power place, and you can see the effects that they had on the Hohokam in this compilation by Dr. Bostwick, Phoenix's recent City Archaeologist.

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  If you have any suggestions for this list, please contact us.

   "Rocks, like louseworts and snail darters and pupfish and 3rd-world black, lesbian, militant poets, have rights, too. Especially the right to exist."
   --- Edward Abbey

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