Million Dollar View (Rock Dunder)
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My inspiration for this cache:
Every since I started caching in 2008, I've had many interesting geocaching experiences and have been taken to spots that have simply amazed me. However, on October 10th, 2008, my geocaching life was changed forever, for that was the day I did Yorkshire's "Dunder Thunder" (GCXF76). I couldn't believe the view up there and the beautiful hike up to Rock Dunder was amazing, it was at the time and remains now, my favourite cache of all time. It really personifies what a perfect caching experience should be. It's not just about the cache, but about getting to the cache and being introduced to something you've probably never seen before. I have since made the climb to Rock Dunder about 15 times with family and friends, getting excited each time I go in anticipation of what that experience will bring. So today when I went for hike #16, I decided that this would be a perfect spot for an Earthcache, given all the obvious geology around.
The geology and things you may want to know about Rock Dunder:
Rock Dunder is shown on some geological maps as a pluton. On others it is part of a much larger igneous feature termed Lyndhurst granite. But beyond definition, Rock Dunder is a remarkable formation of beautiful pink granite. It took form deep in the roots of the Grenville Mountains that a billion years ago towered over this part of Laurentia. We can call this core of our continent the Canadian Shield. These massive snow-capped ranges and deep unforested valleys once extended north-east to present-day Labrador and south-west to Kansas. In fiery ovens deep beneath those mountains, plutons such as Westport Mountain and Rock Dunder were formed, their mineral recipes were baked. Earthquakes in Indonesia remind us that mountains are still being heaved up when and where the plates of our planet’s thin crust jostle and collide. Volcanoes erupt on land and beneath sea. Plutons are forming within the crust as they did a billion years ago.
Conversely wind, water and ice eternally wear mountains down even to their very cores. The Ice Ages of the Pleistocene Epoch occurred within the last mere million years of our planet’s history. That choreography of ice did much to sculpt Rock Dunder’s ancient and hard pink granite into its present shape on the Rideau Cataraqui landscape. Indeed, several great advances of continental and alpine glaciers occurred during the Pleistocene across the higher latitudes and altitudes of North America and all other continents. These advances were interspersed with interglacial phases; millennia of climate much like the present. Our most recent Ice Age (the Wisconsin) seems to have begun about 100 000 years ago. Shorter summers failed to melt all the winter snow that fell on the highlands of Quebec and Labrador. Delicate snow flakes packed into layers of bluish ice along with bubbles of air, grains of pollen from distant flora, particles of ash from volcanoes and forest fires half-the-world away. When annual layers of ice accumulate to a depth of about 50 metres, a glacier is born. It starts to flow under its own weight like icing on a cake; oozing and sliding outward and/or southward a few metres to several kilometres per year. From Northern Quebec and Labrador, the Laurentide Ice Sheet crept south into the St. Lawrence Valley, across eastern Ontario and as far south as New York City.
To the west, the Laurentide teamed up with the continental ice sheet that was spawned on the highlands of Keewatin. Together, they bulldozed as far south as Wisconsin. Like Caesar’s army, the Wisconsin Ice Age came. It conquered. It melted away. It melted from its gravels and boulders piled on New York’s Long Island about 12 000 years ago. About the same time it melted from the bouldery moraines it had bulldozed onto Wisconsin. It finished face-lifting Rideau country roughly 10 000 years ago. It melted out of Hudson Bay about 5 to 3 millennia ago. You and I are helping its disappearance from the Arctic now.
The Wisconsin Ice Sheet was not only composed of layers of ice. It carried in its sole fragments of rocks picked up as it slid southward; fragments as tiny as clay platelets; boulders as big as your house. Some fragments were very hard, like pebbles and boulders of quartzite that could survive hundreds of kilometres of transport and grinding. Some diamonds from Inuit lands of the present were exported to the northern U.S.A. Soft soapstone did not survive the trip.
Here in Rideau country, glacial flow was from north-east to south-west. Coincidentally this was the same orientation as the ranges, valleys and roots of the Grenville Mountains of a billion years ago. The Wisconsin Ice Sheet was 2 to 5 kilometres thick. It oozed across the countryside, flowing around and even up and over mere rocky obstacles like the hard granite of Rock Dunder. Conversely, the soft skarn beneath nearby Morton Bay was gouged and deepened. Murphy Bay on the Big Rideau and most local bays and lakes were gouged and deepened, north-east to south-west. Canoe Lake and Loughborough Lake are fine examples of long, narrow lakes sculpted by the ice sheet. The fabled Finger Lakes of New York State became the ancestral waters and shores of the Iroquois. If such deep and narrow basins were adjacent to a sea or an ocean, they would be filled with salt water rather than fresh water. They would be called fjords like you would see along the coasts of Norway, Labrador and the west coast of Newfoundland.
The Wisconsin Ice sheet oozed over the hard granite of Rock Dunder like a massive sheet of sandpaper. It polished the north-east (stoss) end and its flanks. In some places, hard rocks in the sole of the ice sheet chipped half-moon shapes in the granite, crescents called chatter marks, notes in the “sole music” of the Ice Age. At Dunder’s south-west end something quite different happened. Even the hardest of granite has cracks called joints, some very visible, some microscopic. As the ice sheet made its way over the lee end of Dunder, it tugged and pulled on these lines of weakness much the same as you might fan a deck of cards with your thumb. Blocks of Dunder’s hard pink granite were pulled away by the oozing ice and were then used to gouge and polish more southerly lands. This left the south-west end as a very sheer cliff many metres high.
Cliffed at the lee end, gently polished at the stoss end; these are features of a glacial landform called a roche moutonnée; a “stone sheep” in French. Rock Dunder is one heck of a big sheep! And a pink sheep at that! Maybe the term came about because flocks and shepherds found refuge from cold winds and blizzards sweeping down Alpine valleys. Maybe the cliffed lees of roche moutonnées were giant motherly ewes of stone. Indeed, at the base of the shear south-west end of Rock Dunder we discovered, not sheep but an amazing ecosystem. Here trees and smaller plants typically found far to the south are protected from cold north winds and nurtured with extra warmth by sun’s energy re-radiated from its granite backdrop. In this tiny Garden of Eden we found American Linden trees at the very northern limit of their habitat. On the opposite or north-east end of Dunder, more exposed to wintry north winds and more oblique to the sun’s rays, we found trees and mosses typical of more northern latitudes. This tells of the incredible biodiversity to be found on every hill, every island in Rideau country.
The Earthcache, the hike and what you have to tell CZ to get a smiley:
So you've made your way to Morton, found the entrance to the parking area and are ready to go for a hike. There are a few things you should know before committing yourself to the task. The distance from the trailhead sign to Rock Dunder is about 1.5 kilometers as the crow flies, however as the trail goes, it's going to be a little further. There are maps and a trailguide at the trailhead sign that will assist you, but the north trail is very well worn and marked. There are two trails to take you to the top, but I'd suggest staying to the right and taking the north trail. It's very scenic, offering great views of the water on the way up. There are also multiple benches for resting and two cabins on the way up to take a break as well.
The trail starts out fairly flat and becomes a little more rolling the closer you get to the water. I would suggest parents with young children monitor their young ones along this route as there are spots that have steep drop offs if you get off the trail too far, however, I have taken my children here since they were 7 and 9 and we've never had any problems. You will find the trail becomes somewhat more rolling when you get past the first cabin, but again, my 65 year old father has done this trail with me several times and has done fine. The trail starts to go "up" significantly after the second cabin, but again, nothing that requires special equipment and for the most part you will remain on two feet and not require the use of your hands to pull you up a rock. After this brief, but energizing section is completed, you need only walk through some scrub brush and you'll be at the one of the most amazing views in this part of Ontario. You'll be close to 300 feet over Morton Bay with a view that will take your breath away. You'll see Turkey Vultures flying overhead and boats traversing the water (if you do it it summer) way down below. Again, my suggestion is for people that have little ones is to keep an eye on them around here. There are plenty of spots to sit and enjoy the view far from the edge and safe for curious little ones.
Now just take a deep breath and enjoy the total awesomeness of this spot, it's truly awe inspiring and I promise, you'll love this spot forever as I do.
Now that you've made it up here, what will I have you do? Well if you look around, you'll see a variety of different glacial formations here, but I'm only going to ask about a few, here's what I want. Please send send me these answers to my geocaching.com address and please don't post them or any spoiler pics in your cache log or your log will be deleted. Now, on to your tasks:
#1: At N 44 31.669 W 076 13.118 or Glacial Feature #1, please tell me what you're seeing in the rock. It's bigger than a wheel, but smaller than a car.
#2: At N 44 31.612 W 076 13.139 or Glacial Feature #2, please tell me what those marks at your feet are called.
#3: At N 44 31.921 W 076 12.190 or The Trailhead Sign, take a measurement of your elevation above sea level, this can be in meters or feet, then when you get to N 31.577 W 076 13.191 or The Million Dollar View, take another measurement of your elevation and tell me the difference in meters or feet.
#4: Take a picture of yourself or your gpsr (if you're shy) at the top of Rock Dunder and either send it to me via e-mail or include it in your log entry.
I hope that this Earthcache will have taught you something about our local geology and given you some positive memories that you'll have forever. As with all CZ caches, the most important thing is to have fun and be safe, please do both here.
(No hints available.)
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Coordinates are in the WGS84 datum