The Sierra

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The Sierra is rising on its east side and is hinged on the west, so the slope is long to the Sacramento Valley-the physiographic province of the Great Valley-flat and sea-level and utterly incongruous within its flanking mountains. It was not eroded out in the normal way of valleys. Mountains came up around it. Across the fertile flatland, beyond the avocados, stand the Coast Ranges, the ultimate province of the present, the berm of the ocean-the Coast Ranges, with their dry and straw-brown Spanish demeanor, their shadows of the live oaks on the ground. If you zakelijke energie vergelijken were to make that trip in the Triassic-New York to San Francisco, Interstate 80, say roughly at the end of Triassic timeyou would move west from the nonexistent Hudson River with the Palisades Sill ten thousand feet down. The motions that will open the Atlantic are well under way (as things appear in present theory), but the brine has not yet come in. Behind you, in fact, where the ocean will be, are several thousand miles of land-a contiguous landmass, fragments of which will be Africa, Antarctica, India, Australia. You cross the Newark Basin. It is for the most part filled with red mud. In the mud are tracks that seem to have been made by a twoton newt. You come to a long, low, north-south-trending, black, steaming hill. It is a Row of lava that has come out over the mud and has cooled quickly in the air to form the dense smooth textures of basalt. Someday, towns and landmarks of this extruded hill will in one way or another take from it their names: Montclair, Mountainside, Great Notch, Glen Ridge. You top the rise, and now you can see across the rest of the basin to the Border Fault, and-where Whippany and Parsippany will be, some thirty miles west of New York-there is a mountain front perhaps seven thousand feet high. You climb this range and see more and more mountains beyond, and they are the folded-and-faulted Appalachians, but middle-aged and a little rough still at zakelijke energie the edges, not caterpillar furry and worndown smooth. Numbers do not seem to work well with regard to deep time. Any number above a couple of thousand years-fifty thousand, fifty million-will with nearly equal effect awe the imagination to the point of paralysis.

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