SANGZHI, HUNAN — OK, so I’m not really Johnny Storm, but it’s a cool photo, anyway. My friend snapped it as we were leaving Jiutian Cave here. After a long climb out of the cool, humid cave into the warm, drier surface air, I was sweating and my head was literally steaming.
The cave trip Thursday was my last excursion for the week-long National Holiday. Earlier in the week, I accompanied two friends (a young married couple) to a wedding in Huarong, a small city near Yueyang, Hunan. Then they drove me to Yueyang, where I met another friend and visited that city for two days. When I came back to Jishou on Wednesday, I literally turned right around and headed out again to Sangzhi with another friend, her cousin, aunt and uncle.
We also visited the reconstructed home of He Long, a revolutionary leader who was later purged during the Cultural Revolution. He was thrown into prison (where he died at age 74), his original home was razed, and his siblings were prevented from attending university. He didn’t get a formal state burial until 40 years after his death.
On our way back to Jishou, we stopped at a roadside marker for the Guzhang County “Golden Spike” — an international reference point for the sedimentary layer corresponding to stage 7* of the Cambrian Period beginning 503 million years ago. The rather elaborate marker includes relief images of Lejopyge laevigata trilobites, which made their first appearance at this time.
Interestingly enough, I live near another Golden Spike for the next stage of the Cambrian, about 499 million years ago, when Glyptagnostus reticulatus trilobotes first made their appearance. That Golden Spike is in Paibi, in Huayuan, the county just west of Jishou.
* Stage 7 apparently has two names: Guzhangian and Dresbachian (for a town in Minnesota). During the Cambrian Period, of course, such names had no meaning, since there was only one big continent (Gondwanaland) and a few smaller landmasses.