Hiking Snowy Range - Stromatolites
Updated: Apr 14, 2022
When I hike, I like to study the geology, identify wildflowers, watch for birds, and hunt for my favorite mushrooms. Needless to say, I'm a slow hiker. In my book on Wyoming Geology, I had read that I would find a stromatolite outcropping along the road into Lewis Lake. By the time I arrived at the road junction, I was in a hurry to start my hike and forgot about the formation. A few summers ago, two of my grandchildren went with me to the Snowy Range to locate the formation. My grandson spotted it shortly after we made the turn. It was so obvious I was amazed I'd never noticed.
The stromatolites are thought to be the earliest form of life on earth. Wow! My imagination ran wild. They started out as slime or scum and blue-green, hair thin threads, cyanobacteria, that covered the rocks at the bottom of shallow warm water seas that covered much of the earth 3.5 billion years ago. Sand covered the slime periodically. The slime reappeared and moved over the sand gradually building the cabbage appearing formation in front of us. Instead of inhaling oxygen, the slime expelled it. Probably a wise reaction since the oxygen at that time was much different than what we breathe today. In fact, the Free Oxygen as it was named, burned. Of Course, the stromatolite mounds climbing up the hill in front of me, may have been younger.
Each time one of the ice ages covered our planet, they would die out. The first ice age lasted 300,00 years and covered the entire planet. As the earth warned, back came the stromatolites. Today, stromatolites still live in some places on earth - off the coasts of Florida, Australia, and parts of Brition. How I'd love to see them.
For now, I'm satisfied with the fossil formations. As I hike in the subalpine and alpine zones of the Snowys, I find stromatolite outcroppings in several places and sometimes step over one on a trail and try to picture what the earth must have looked like.