New-Road Rock: Stories in Stone

I’m looking for a better understanding of what rock type this is, and a bit about its history as it was involved in the formation of the Appalachian chain. Rock like this is stacked with intention to shore up the New Road, and forms exposed outcrops, high  and moss-covered on both sides of our valley.

This rock is uniformly gray, and fractures roughly into flat plates, but is not quite a shale.  This rock is a been-here, relatively speaking.

On the other hand, the rocks in the creek and forming talus slopes along the rubble-strewn flanks of the steepest reaches of Nameless Creek are altogether different in substance and story.

Countless boulders were once plowed from the creek bottom created over the ages by the raging stream that gushed with great force from the eroding rock faces of ancient Blue Ridge bedrock.

A crude rock wall follows the pasture side of Nameless Creek, each stone with a history. This rock is most certainly a come-here, carried by gravity and water from great heights at some distance.

In this image, a split stone from the rock wall sits atop the lichen-covered source. Its rock type is gneiss.

You can see some evidence of  banding of the granular, shining bits of mountain turned to grit, compacted under great force and heat into bedrock, lifted into mountains once more, tumbled into a nameless creek millions of years before language, now waiting to become beach sand once more. If we could only teach a stone to talk, eh Annie? Maybe if we spoke first…

Are you on speaking terms with the soil and rock under your feet, or in the walls of the high-rise stone of the buildings you walk past every day? This article in American Scholar might whet your appetite. Touch a rock today. Listen.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Fun article, Fred. I was required to take Geology when I was 49 years old, getting a teaching certificate in Science. I absolutely loved it, and now, traveling freqquently in the Southwest with all the exposed rock, my tiny bit of knowledge is tantalizing, and makes me fervently wish I understood more about what I am seeing.

  2. My son was a geology buff at age 8-10, and have loved looking at rocks since I was a kid. I don’t know much about them, however, I did recognize that gneiss as granite, simply from the coloring.

    When I drive from home (now) to Home (where I was born) I always wish I had time to stop and photograph all the interesting rock formations between here and there. Of particular interest are the sedimentary rocks that have been plunged upward and thus lie sideways or almost perpendicular to the ground. They are particularly prevalent in SW VA, as I am sure you know, and also So. WV.

  3. I love the line “Are you on speaking terms with the soil and rock under your feet” .. that speaks deeply to me. I feel that rocks and soil are living memories–grandmothers and fathers of this earth. Calling out, trying to teach us the most important things about this world.