Thursday, October 22, 2009
Today, a friend and I Walk around weird, grass and moss-covered hillocks in southwest Washington.
One of Earth's strangest landscapes can be found in the humble pastures near Littlerock, Washington, 12 miles south of Olympia. The Mima Mounds, at Mima Prairie, look like a sea of giant, half-buried bowling balls 8 feet tall and 30 feet across.
"There's no obvious reason why they should be there," says University of Washington geology professor Bernard Hallet. Indeed, after two centuries of speculation, scientists are still baffled by the mounds' origin and magnitude before agriculture and development encroached, the mounds extended a remarkable 20 square miles.
You can ponder the Mima Mounds' quirky mystery as well as Mima Prairie's unusual ecosystem at a 450-acre preserve set aside by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources. This native prairie is one of the rarest ecosystems in Washington.
From the kiosk, a network of easy hiking trails wend their way through the mounds. As you explore, consider the two most viable current theories for the mounds' formation: Some geologists believe that violent earthquakes shook the loose prairie soils into neat heaps. Zoologists have also studied this area extensively; some believe that ancient potato-size pocket gophers created the mounds over generations of frenzied territorial construction. Most other theories that these are Native American burial mounds, for example have been refuted.
Perhaps, after a visit, you'll come up with your own theory for these strange mounds.