Palmer Buzz

It was a big and furious rumble. A major rockslide, traveled nearly 1000 feet down the north face of Pioneer Peak. Palmer and Butte folks heard it before they saw it. Apparently it crashed down rapidly but for many minutes afterwards you could hear the settling and pinging of various rocks finding their new spot on the mountainside. In the wake of the landslide, a new mountain mark is made on Palmer’s Pioneer Peak.

Mysterious Mountain Message— It’s just a pile of rocks. But it appears to be a mark. Or a brand. Or ink. A new geologic tattoo. It looks like a backwards J. Or maybe a fishing hook. Or a fancy L. Or some suggested—an upside down candy cane. The Palmer Alaska Buzz wants to know what it means.

No doubt there are all sorts of theories out there. It is just a part of our mountain’s changing complexion. Is it a sign from God? Or perhaps a cosmic warning? If it means L, then it stands for 50 in the Roman Numeral System. Perhaps it’s the ghost of Governor Jay Hammond, reaching out and telling us to watch our ways.

Sciencey Explanations—Thanks to some bright folks who are smarter than I, we have some likely scenarios. (Thanks Andrew, Hilary, Amanda Anne and Kendra) These folks seem to know their geology and earth sciences, and this is what they shared:

When soils become over-saturated (like from that torrential rain we had Friday night) they become unstable. Rocky slopes become even more unstable when they’ve been over-saturated, and then have gone through a freeze overnight. The water that fills the pore space between rocks freezes and expands, popping crevices apart and freeing rocks. The slope failure usually occurs along an arc called a mohr circle (engineering term). Geologists call it mass wasting.


It was likely released as precipitation made its way into the rock and the expansion of the freezing water broke the section off. It’s a pretty common occurrence in the fall and spring where there are fairly quick freeze thaw cycles.


Basically freeze, thaw and earthquakes makes bits of rock loose and then suddenly everything goes the way gravity says it should go.

Palmer Book Signings all Week—It is Alaska Book Week and our Palmer bookstore, Fireside Books, has lined up local authors for your pleasure. Here is the schedule: Wednesday, October 9; Nancy Pfeiffer 11a.m.-2p.m.; Tom Walker 4p.m.-7p.m.; Thursday, October 10; Linda Haas-Melchert 11a.m.-2p.m.; Friday, October 11 Eowyn Ivey noon-2p.m.; Barbara Hunt 5p.m.-7p.m.; Saturday, October 12 James Misko 11a.m.-5p.m.; Toni Truesdell 11a.m.-2p.m.; Sunday, October 13 Shawn Lyons 2p.m.-5p.m.

Plus, hopefully the Laughing Raven Food Truck will be outside the bookstore offering up delicious snacks.

Mat-Su Concert Band at the Massey—This Saturday will be some fine music for your seasonal pleasure. The show is called, “Frightfully Delightful” and it is conducted by Gleo Huyck. Featured music will include “The Complete Harry Potter,” March of the Trolls and “Night on the Bare Mountain.” Guests are invited to wear costumes to this production at the Glenn Massay Theater at the College on Trunk Road.

Our Palmer Harvest Moon is Sunday—And it should be a good one. Between storms, landslides, earthquakes, thunder, hail and lightning, plus some stars and northern lights, I expect our full harvest moon to not disappoint.

Barbara Hunt is both Palmer writer and artist. She works hard to keep the robust pulse of Palmer, Alaska. She shares the good stuff in the weekly Palmer Alaska Buzz Column in the Mat Su Valley Frontiersman and daily on the Palmer Alaska Buzz Facebook Group. Her “Palmer Buzz Community Calendar” is available at Palmer shops and museum. Contact at or text 907.315.3222.

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