Lone Peak Love Letter: My Favorite Christmas Tree Laccolith!

The first copy of my book! It’s so much bigger and heavier than I imagined! A proper coffee-table book!

Last September, the day the manuscript for my book was due to the publisher, I left my desk and hiked up my backyard peak, running over every memorized word on my way up the mountain. By 11,166 feet, I decided it was done and hit “send” on the summit. Almost a year later, when I got my hands on the very first physical copy, it felt right to hike it up Lone Peak.

The cover features an aerial shot of the Grand Canyon

I love the inside cover… a blue-scale rendering of an aerial photo of the Wave, on the Utah/ Arizona border.

The book features 100 geological wonders including this winter aerial shot of Lone Peak by local legend Ryan Turner.

Each entry offers aerial or satellite photos of a geological feature and explains the natural history of the site on a grand scale.

Lone Peak is featured in the book:

If you were to design the ideal mountain for a world-class ski resort, you might come up with something like Lone Peak, the centerpiece of Big Sky Resort in Big Sky, Montana. Big Sky’s oft-quoted tagline is “The Biggest Skiing in America” and even if that’s no longer strictly true in terms of acreage, the hair-raising double black diamond runs off Lone Peak’s 11,166 foot summit certainly set the bar in terms of sheer grandeur.

Lone Peak lies at the edge of the Madison Range and while it looks like a volcano, it’s actually a failed volcano. Lone Peak was formed by volcanism but it never erupted at the surface. Instead, the magma rose up through a vertical conduit but then then spread out sideways, running out between layers of sedimentary rock, forming lateral arms of dacite and andesite. This type of eruption produces what geologists call a Christmas tree laccolith: a central trunk with radiating lateral arms that intrude into existing sedimentary rock.

Yikes! Stripes! These older sedimentary rock layers were invaded by the younger volcanic intrusion that created Lone Peak. Shell fossils are found in similar sedimentary layers elsewhere on the mountain.

The same ridge – the A to Z Ridge – in winter, one of Lone Peak’s many radiating arms. The chutes down the arms make for some of the most extreme in-bounds skiing in North America. This mountain was made for skiing!

Everybody has a favorite geologic term. Mine has been “Christmas tree laccolith” for years, since I learned the term in college. My first summer in Big Sky, after the snow melted, I hiked to the top of Andesite Mountain, next to Lone Peak, and found a plaque on the summit that had been buried under snow all winter. The faded plaque told the geologic story of the area and informed me that “Lone Peak is a Christmas-tree Laccolith”. That’s when I knew I had found Home.

Aerial Geology will be available in print and ebook October 2017 from Timber Press. Get your signed author’s copy now for $27 plus $5 shipping per book through 

Also available for pre-order through AmazonBarnes & Noble or Indie Bound.

*** Pre-ordered books from Amazon etc. will ship in early October. I have signed copies ready to ship now!

About theblondecoyote

Mary Caperton Morton is a freelance science and travel writer with degrees in biology and geology and a master’s in science writing. A regular contributor to EARTH magazine, where her favorite beat is the Travels in Geology column, she has also written for the anthologies Best Women's Travel Writing 2010 and Best Travel Writing 2011. Mary is currently based in western Colorado. When she’s not at the computer she can usually be found outside -- hiking, skiing, climbing mountains and taking photographs. Visit her website at www.marycapertonmorton.com.
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2 Responses to Lone Peak Love Letter: My Favorite Christmas Tree Laccolith!

  1. furrygnome says:

    Congratulations Mary!!! Looks fabulous. I look forward to my copy. Having written a book (not as nice looking), I can imagine the work. Great accomplishment!

  2. Eeeep! How exciting! Congratulations!!


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