Local Walks: Tofoni at Larrabee

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

6.
7.

8.

9.

10. Dried eelgrass on the rocks.

11.

12. Roots and rocks look alike.

13.

These photos are a celebration of tafoni* and accompanying formations in the rock at Larrabee State Park, along with two vistas so you can see the context. And there are children enjoying their finds before returning them to the water, and two intertidal denizens called Purple sea stars.

14.

16.

Tafoni – in Sicilian it means windows (or so I read in Wikipedia). And in Corsica, taffoni (with two “f’s”) also means windows (says Wiki). The tafoni we’re talking about could be related to a Greek word for tomb, taphos but in any case, the window/tombs I’m thinking about are sensuously sculpted holes in rock. Tafoni is a term geologists use for certain the intricate patterns that occur in rocks from complex weathering processes.

This phenomenon can be found in the desert and at the shore, and the shore is where these photographs were made, at Larrabee State Park in northwestern Washington.

Larrabee was Washington’s first state park, thanks to a wealthy family who donated some beautiful waterfront acreage to the state over a hundred years ago. Primarily a rocky stretch of saltwater coast, the park also includes the west side of Chuckanut Mountain. The cliffs there are very steep: last year a man died in a fall from the rocks, and a couple was injured in another fall this year. The narrow, winding road that passes through Larrabee is full of blind curves and marvelous scenic views which you can enjoy as long as you remember to pay attention to where your tires are. After arriving at Larrabee I like to cross under the railroad tracks and follow the easier paths along the shoreline. The rocky beach is great to explore at low tide when tidepools reveal all sorts of creatures.

Maybe because they’re more dependable than sea life, the rock formations are the big draw for me. Whether the rocks are towering over the shoreline or defining it, the 57-million-year-old sandstone displays many fascinating forms. You can’t help but wonder how the tafoni and the smooth, svelte curves came about. The process of honeycomb weathering (those Swiss cheesy holes in the rocks) is fairly complex. It begins with the process of physical weathering, a loosening of the structure of the rock caused by a tree root, freeze and thaw cycles, the action of wind, acid rain…a myriad of forces that work on rocks to alter their shape. At Larrabee the rock is quite permeable. It’s subject to salt from ocean water, carried from many miles away by the tides and storms. Salt water splashes on the rocks, leaving salt crystals between grains of rock as it dries. The salt crystals grow, pushing grains of rock aside, a process that happens readily because sandstone here is quite porous. Certain minerals in the sandstone are more susceptible to salt crystallization than others and once a pit begins it can increase its size more quickly than the surrounding rock, so weathering can be very uneven.

Add to this the effect of algae growing on the surface of the rocks. Where algae grows, the rock absorbs water much more slowly so weathering is retarded. In places without algae the rock is eaten away faster, expanding into a hole. There is controversy about the exact science here and frankly, this is as much detail as I can absorb! If you’re interested, Dave Tucker at Northwest Geology Field Trips points to further discussions of tafoni in a blog entry here.

Better yet, visit this little stretch of shoreline and admire the rocks in person. Run your hand along the surface – it may look smooth but it’s not; the grains are large and rough, providing nice handholds if you want to scramble. Or locate a place close to you where honeycomb weathering can be found. Altdahn Castle in the Palatinate Forest of Germany, Mt. Wellington in Tamania, and Arches NP in the US are some examples, and here’s a map of the world with tafoni locations. Check it out. And bring your camera.


70 comments

    • I think the term has come into use only in recent years. Yes, the roaming is good… And we’re just now returning from a week’s road trip to northern CA, where we found even more wonderful scenery. Coming soon to a post near you! πŸ˜‰

      Liked by 1 person

    • What a pleasure to hear that, Paula. I enjoy doing abstracts, but I sped so much time in complex, dense landscapes that I don’t often have the chance to make “restrained” images. But I’m thinking about ways to get there, πŸ˜‰

      Like

    • Thanks Lenny, like I was saying to another person above, I don’t always find it easy to do more abstract work with the landscape where I live, because it’s so complex. This location is different. I loved doing these so I’m pleased that you like them.

      Like

  1. You’re Queen for a Dayβ€”Queen of Tafoni, that is. I can almost feel the the texture of the rocks in your pictures. Your second one in particular, with its light and dark areas, drew my attention.

    The map of tafoni locations doesn’t include Nevada’s Valley of Fire State Park, which has its share of formations and is where I think I learned the word tafoni three years ago.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Wow, Quenn of tafoni, I love it! And I think that map must be missing quite a few places where these formations exist, but I’m impressed that you knew the word! Glad you liked the post – I enjoyed doing these. Thanks, Steve!

      Like

  2. I didn’t catch that, and I just watched that movie a couple of days ago. Different side of the country so I guess I didn’t make the connection.
    This images are wonderful! What a neat subject.
    Have the sea stars recovered from their bizarre illness from a few years ago? It was heartbreaking to see them tearing off their own limbs.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It’s not that well known a park, Melissa! 😊 I don’t know about the sea stars tearng off their own limbs. I began hearing about the disease back in 2013 or 2014, and it has gotten somewhat better. The exact cause is still not known but unusually warm water for a few years played a part. A different species of sea star managed to increase their numbers when the purple one was declining, so as always, the story is complex.

      Like

  3. This is a great series, Lynn. The term tafoni is new to me. I find these closeup details of the colors and shapes of sandstones to be most beautiful. As I looked down through your images the first time, I mistook the first few for driftwood. Slowly as I went through them I realized what they truly were. Wonderful!

    Liked by 2 people

    • For the last few days I have been enjoying those wonderful sand patterns on the beach – we took a road trip down the Oregon coast to northern California. I know what you mean, it’s mesmerizing, being at the beach and observing patterns. May we all be able to do that for many more years!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s difficult to get the scale of these rock photos but it only adds to the interest. #5 has a wonderful 3D quality I really like so I’m picking that as a favorite. The Sicilians have always been very thrifty with their letters, so it’s understandable that they spell “tafoni” with one f.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hopefully, you can get an idea of the size from the landscape photos. But then I like to play with scale so it’s all good. Interesting about the Sicilians, maybe that balances the extravagance with expressiveness? Thank you!

      Like

  5. Terrific!! These shots of tafoni and honeycomb weathering flow naturally to the shot with the roots, some of the rocks have a very flesh-like aspect, I love the convergence of the organic and inorganic, lots of sinuous curves. #13 makes such a great frozen wave, like those Hokusai prints. #2 suggests the weathered remnants of an ancient cathedral, spooky-cool. And those grape-gummy starfish are a trip! No wonder the kids look so fascinated.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Convergence of the organic with the inorganic, once more I wish you’d been there when I was writing the post. πŸ˜‰ The cathedral quality spoke to me too. That one soars. The starfish, which since moving out here I’ve learned to call sea stars, are indeed a crazy color. I think there are lots of wild colors under the water, even up here. Oh those kids had so much fun! They found all kinds of critters. Thanks Robert, have a good weekend!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I simply love this kind of places and textures resulting from the erosion and “humours” of nature, its winds and tides and life.
    The photos are wonderful, as wonderful must be this place where your eyes and camera have traveled.
    Congratulations and thanks for sharing!
    I wish you a happy weekend!
    (one of these days I intend to publish in my blog some details of a place full of textures!)

    Liked by 2 people

    • Well, I simply love reading your comments. 😊 You always manage to add another dimension, or insight. I’m glad you enjoyed the post, which I enjoyed putting together. Yes, the weekend consists of driving back home from a week spent in Oregon and California. Amazing beaches in both states, very wild, and open, and free of people (this was northern California, far from any city). Maybe there will be some good photos. I do look forward to seeing what you will do with natural textures. Thank you!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. You do manage to see and make art in the most unexpected places. I loved every single intricate detail through #13, each and every one. So wonderful to see sea stars still surviving. The ones we had down in our neighborhood have all disappeared, though I understand there are some recovering farther to the north. That brilliant purple is extraordinary. What treasures. What a treat… my favorites were ALL of them.

    Liked by 2 people

    • The sea stars are recovering somewhat, and at least up in BC there is another species of sea star that increased because they had less competition in the last 5 years. Let’s hope they come back. I’m glad you liked the photos – you know we found great stuff like this at Beverly Beach the last time we were down here. Today we saw some tafoni-esque rocks on the beach at Perpetua. Got to see the sunset too, and had a nice dinner at Drift Inn, in Yachats, which you have probably been to. It was good to see you guys – happy packing!πŸ™ƒ

      Like

      • So good to hear sea stars are recovering. Bandon has tafoni-esque rocks at the far northern end. Too late now, but I would have pressed for a stop at Bandon if time hadn’t entered as a factor. E likes to scramble up and down tough rocky cliffs whereas Bandon has easy access with stairs in several places to get down amongst the sea stacks. Just for future ref. if you’re ever down this way again. As for packing… well, I’m sure you know how that goes!

        Liked by 2 people

    • The patterns in rocks are endlessly fascinating, aren’t they? Limestone and so many other kinds of rocks make amazing shapes. Last week we were at a beach in northern California and saw more interesting rocks – it never ends. Thanks, I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Beautiful abstractions and the textures…I feel I can touch the rocks…very beautiful Lynn and also the purple starfish…I remember seeing those this summer in White Rock…all so beautiful to be outside in fresh air and nature…compose a beautiful day ~ smiles hedy ☺️

    Liked by 2 people

    • The starfish, or sea stars as they’re called here, went through some bad years recently but are beginning to come back. It was great watching the kids getting excited about all their finds. I think they were from Alberta, a bit inland, yes? πŸ˜‰ Thanks, Hedy!

      Like

  9. Pingback: Jo’s Monday walk : Frolics at the Fair | restlessjo

    • Thank you, Steve, the seashore is a magic place to be, isn’t it? Even when it’s miles and miles from the ocean. An oxymoron, it would seem, but we have salty water way back here, with all the aspects of the ocean shore except really big waves. It would take over 5 hours and a ferry ride to drive to the ocean from Larrabee SP! πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yup, the shore is great. As far as driving, it will take us 6-7 hours depending on pit stops to get to Acadia N.P. I had a great time there last August aside from the crowds of inconsiderate people, mostly young, on Cadillac Mountain. We’re going a little later this year so it’ll just be us old folks and not nearly as crowded. No inland salt water here, but the Quabbin Reservoir can get some pretty good waves on a windy day, but nothing like the stormy Atlantic. πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

    • One of the interesting things about these rocks is that the texture is very rough – they give great traction if you’re scrambling over them. It’s a really wonderful place to do that, or just to sit and admire everything. πŸ™‚ Have a good weekend, Julie.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Just wonderful these sculptures from mother nature πŸ™‚ I think I could watch them forever and touch them of course. It would be nice to make mouldings from these structures! Honeycomb weathering, strange name, but it seems adequate, when you look at it. The sea stars are amazing, incredibly in their color!! Really nice, when kids are fascinated by nature, but I think they usually are. What a fascinating place! And now I know I can find it in Germany too. Not so far away, maybe one day…. πŸ™‚ Thank you Lynn!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, the color of the sea stars is wild – I think lots of things that live underwater have very bright colors. Sometimes they’re orange – the same species – I think because of what they eat. There was a “wasting disease” that killed many sea stars, especially this species, a few years ago. They’re recovering slowly now. The texture of the rocks is very rough, not as fine as you might think. But that makes them easier to climb on. πŸ™‚ I hope you do get to see these in person someday, and you can bring along materials to make a casting – that’s a cool idea. (As long as you’re not arrested for destroying the rocks). πŸ˜‰

      Liked by 1 person

      • Even in orange? I just rry to imagine what it looks like underwater πŸ™‚ They must look like a birthday decoration!! I am always happy to hear when nature is recovering and I hope they will come back forever! – It really looks rather soft this stone. Astonishing! In case I get arrested I will let you know πŸ˜‰

        Liked by 1 person

        • Peeling is when you have a burn, like a sunburn, or when you peel vegetables. I guess a scrape is a little deeper, so if you fall and the skin on your knee is bleeding it’s not peeling. You scraped your knee – these distinctions – they can be so hard! πŸ˜‰

          Liked by 1 person

        • In the commercials or the cosmetic industry they always talk about peelings for your skin πŸ™‚ I thought of that, to peel the skin on the surface of the stones πŸ˜‰ Don’t you say so too? Yes, the distinctions can be VERY hard πŸ™‚

          Liked by 1 person

        • True, for a cosmetically smoother skin you want to peel off a very thin layer, right? But if you’re injured in a way that takes the skin off but isn’t too severe, it’s usually called a scrape. I can’t think of a time when I’ve heard of someone’s skin being peeled on a rough surface like rocks, but maybe people do say that. Funny thing – more confusing – kids say “I peeled off” when they go really fast on a bike or in a car, usually from a stop – like a fast acceleration. I think the idea there is that you went so fast, you peeled the rubber off your tires.

          Liked by 1 person

  11. I’m sitting here looking at a thin piece of sandstone or sandstone/limestone I brought home from the beach recently. It’s about as thick as a piece of pita bread, and filled with holes. Some articles about tafoni suggest that it can be found on a small scale, as well as cave-sized, so I’m wondering if the holes permeating my stone have developed in the same way. The textures you’ve shown are compelling, and so different from one another. The honeycombing is interesting, but I really like the long, smooth sweeps of color and texture. I wish I could reach out and touch them — I’ll have to make do with my stone.

    I need to go back and look at my photos from Monument Rocks in western Kansas. Those are remnants of the Cretaceous sea, and there might have been some examples of Tafoni I didn’t notice.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love those long sweeps of color and texture too. Larrabee is such a great place to be with a camera. The texture is actually very rough, very coarse. That makes it less than nice to pass a hand across but great for getting a grip if you’re climbing around. πŸ™‚ It seemed to me as I read that people aren’t entirely sure what causes these formations – after all, some are in desert areas and some are obviously water-influenced. What I described was what someone thought is going on in that location but I think it happens differently in other locations. Your rock sounds cool. Nature just keeps on giving, right? πŸ˜‰

      Liked by 1 person


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s