The Faultline Journal of Paul Doherty
October 14+, day 5+

To Hollister and beyond.

Parkfield was a wonderful town. We never locked the door to our room at the Parkfield Inn. Deer roamed the parking lot. But in the morning we were on the road again. There were no webcasts scheduled today so the team split up. Sabrina and Jason headed north to San Francisco to get a new cable for the satellite antenna and to take pictures along the way. Ellen and I headed to Hollister to get pictures.

In my geology books I had seen pictures of the Almaden winery in Hollister, the Calaveras fault, a branch of the San Andreas system, ran right through the winery building offsetting a drainage culvert and bulging out the winery wall. I wanted to take new pictures of the culvert and winery.

The culvert was so offset that it was no longer in use and was choked with weeds. The wall of the winery had an amazing bulge. This section of the fault had obviously been creeping along since the earlier photos were taken.

The wall of the drainage ditch is so completely offset that any water that flows down the ditch leaks out.

The wall of the winery has a dramatic bulge. The creeping Calaveras fault passes through the winery in the center of the bulge.

While I was photographing the winery I met a man who was raising shrimp in the old vats of the winery. I mentioned to him that the fault ran right through his building. I sure hope his vats are well anchored to withstand earthquakes. Although this section of the fault seems to be creeping along not storing up energy for a big quake. The San Andreas itself is nearby. The creeping reminds us all that this is earthquake country.

We went on into Hollister itself. A town famous for its offset curbs and retaining walls. But the city is now a suburb of silicon valley and so road repairs are made quickly enough that the town is erasing the traces of the fault quicker than they are being made.

We continued on our way north following the San Andreas and another branch the Hayward fault. Visiting the UC Berkeley campus and ending up in Tomales Bay, bidding the fault goodbye as it cut out to sea. The fault returns again to land further north, but our journey with it was now done. In many ways, the land of the Point Reyes Peninsula had made the same trip we had. It was made of granite from southern California. Granite that had been carried hundreds of miles north by the motion of the Pacific Plate relative to the North American plate along the San Andreas fault system. Out journey had taken 10 days, the granite had been traveling for tens of millions of years. Our journey was at an end. Its journey was still continuing, in fits and starts, the last of which had been a 20 foot long jump during the San Francisco quake of 1906!

What a great trip! The San Andreas runs through beautiful country. Across deserts, through mountains, beneath cities, under the ocean. On the last day my boss Rob said half in jest that he wanted us to turn around and do the trip again. I thought about his comment for a few seconds, I was tired and happy at having completed our drive along the fault. But I realized I was ready to go back again soon. I knew a lot more about the fault now than I did when I started. I knew where to photograph it, and at what times of day. I remembered glorious sunrise and sunset lighting on rolling brown grassy hills of California with just the hint of a linear depression brought out by the dramatic lighting. A depression that was the fault.

It reminded me of the end of the movie Smoky and the Bandit. Burt Reynolds as the bandit has just won his bet driving a truckload of Coors beer across the southern United States in a day. He immediately accepts another bet to drive to Boston and back to get some clam chowder. Just like the Bandit, I was ready to go on another faultline trip.

Visit the Exploratorium web pages for more information on faults:

Scientific Explorations with Paul Doherty

© 1999

11 Oct 99