Romantic Spots for Bay Area Geologists (and Those Who Love Them)

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Ring Mountain, in Marin County, is as beautiful as it is geological. Photos by Andrew Alden
Ring Mountain, in Marin County, is as beautiful as it is geological. Photos by Andrew Alden

Valentine's Day honors all ties of affection, from schoolchildren's innocent intimacies to the "likes" strewn on Facebook. But let's talk about romance and the occasions that nourish it. In the ideal date, one person takes another by the hand and leads him or her into a realm of wonder. And how does one recognize that wonder? Through the passion one senses in the other person and the answering passion in one's own heart.

Passion can be found in all things, even chess and mathematics. I'm not capable of being flirtatious with the Queen's Opening or making you giddy about l'Hôpital's Rule, but I can speak for geology lovers. "Heart" is an anagram of "Earth" for us. In the science devoted to landscape and rocks, the perception of color and form is not just an observational tool but an art. And the pursuit of meaning in geology begins with perceptions and intimations of beauty. So I heartily recommend dates with geologists, especially in this part of the world.

Ryan Brown, an undergrad studying meteorites at Portland State University, has fond memories of one such date in the Bay Area:

"My pseudo first date took place in San Francisco while I was down there over the holiday break. I met a guy through my friend that I was staying with and he offered to show me around the city. There was a mutual attraction between us, but I was heading back to Portland and he to Iowa City. For that reason I call it a pseudo first date.

"Had it been a first date, it would have been damned near perfect. I say that because he took me to all these geologically interesting spots and just listened to me ramble about the geology. And he was actually interested in what I was saying, too. He didn't get bored when I started to talk about the significance of the chert and pillow basalts at Twin Peaks. Nor did he zone out when I got excited over the possible Bouma sequences at Sutro Baths and the neighboring beach a bit further down. I think he was amused by my ramblings actually.


"Regardless if it was a date or not, the combination of spending the day with a handsome man and looking at some cool geology made for a very ideal day."

Ah yes, the Bouma sequence (pronounced with a "wow"). While still a young grad student, Arnold Bouma discovered the signature of underwater landslides in the rocks—a set of specific features, stacked one atop the other, found in sandstone beds. Almost immediately people named them after Bouma, and for the rest of his long career he was that rare kind of celebrity, an eponym. But it's one thing for me to tell you about Bouma sequences and another to clamber about the Sutro Baths with someone special, finding and sharing them like daisies in a field.

Maybe you don't believe me. Here's another example, from Erika Amir, who also recalls a good time in the Bay Area in this post on Twitter: "My ex-bf told me that he fell in love with me after seeing my enthusiasm the first time I took him to see coastal tafoni!" And how could he have resisted?

Tafoni at Pebble Beach, San Mateo County
Tafoni at Pebble Beach, San Mateo County

So if someone interesting proposes a day trip to a cool field site, why not open yourself up to the unexpected? In my two years here on KQED Quest Science Blogs, I've presented 24 different "Geological Outings Around the Bay" that would serve admirably:

Albany Hill
Alum Rock Park
The Cordelia and Green Valley faults
The Corona Heights slickenside
Fitzgerald Preserve
Fremont Peak
The Hayward fault in Hayward
Las Trampas Wilderness
Los Trancos and the San Andreas fault
Marin Headlands
Moraga volcanics in the East Bay Hills
Mount Vaca
Napa Glass Mountain
Natural Bridges
New Almaden
Pebble Beach
Point Año Nuevo
Point Pinole
Ring Mountain
Rodeo Beach
San Bruno Mountain
Shell Beach and the mammoth rubbing rocks
Stinson Beach
Sunol Wilderness