December 14, 2014

Dr. G’s #AGU14 Spotlight – Field Trip to Muir Woods

Posted by Laura Guertin

“Walk the Sequoia woods at any time of the year and you will say they are the most beautiful and majestic on earth.”  —  John Muir

Saturday morning was the most interesting start to any AGU Meeting I have attended.  I boarded a flight in Philadelphia with my undergraduate researcher (her first AGU!), and we headed to San Francisco, keeping our fingers crossed that we would land in time to be able to join up with the half-day Field Trip to Muir Woods, Giant Redwoods, and Sausalito. The good news was that we had a non-eventful flight that even landed early!  We were then challenged to navigate the streets of San Francisco, around the protests and thousands of people dressed like Santa Claus (yes, SantaCon had come to town), but the tour operators were wonderful for slightly delaying our departure so our enthusiastic group of AGU attendees could get to the meeting point and head off on our adventure.

DSCN6369Our Gray Line bus, with Troy as our driver and tour guide, started our journey by bringing us to Marin Headlands in Golden Gate National Recreation Area.  We quickly jumped off the bus to snap some spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge before continuing on our journey.  This stop was unexpected but really special for me – it was the spot where I took my first GigaPan (and clearly forgot to level the tripod!) as part of the GSA 2011 Penrose Conference on Google Earth.  But we soon continued northbound on Highway 101 to make our way to Muir Woods.

I feel so fortunate that this trip was still able to happen!  With the recent rainstorms (and “storms” is an understatement) that occurred in California the past several days, Muir Woods had been closed.  Part of Highway 1 is in fact still closed and will not be repaired and reopened until March.  But Friday morning, the park started allowing visitors again, and we were not disappointed when we were able to start exploring Muir Woods National Monument.

I could fill this blog post with historical facts and figures about Muir Woods and this national monument, but I’ll let these images of the coastal redwoods do the reporting.  Alas, with trees that are on average 250 feet tall, I had a difficult time capturing entire trees in any of my photos!

What I thought was a really great component to this field trip was Troy’s narration while we were heading to and from Muir Woods.  Troy provided background information on everything from the Antiquities Act of 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt’s role in the establishment of national parks, and John Muir.  All of this information was a great way to set up and explain why William Kent wanted this land protected from destruction and named after Muir.  When we as faculty lead field trips, we always put the outcrops and locations we visit in a geologic/environmental context, but adding the historical background provided a fuller and richer meaning to what we were seeing and why this place is so special and important.

Our final stop was to the town of Sausalito.  I’m sorry to say that the sites and sounds of Sausalito did not impress me as much as Muir Woods (not surprising to hear a geologist say this, is it?), but now I can say that I have been to the location where Otis Redding wrote his famous song while on a rented houseboat, (Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay.

I applaud AGU for having this opportunity available as part of the fall meeting.  The group was a range of students and scientists at different stages of their careers.  It was great to have such a large number of international participants on the trip, wanting to take advantage of seeing one of our nation’s beautiful public lands.  My student, born and raised in Philadelphia, now has some “tall tales” to bring back to her family and friends, and I have some great images, information, and experiences to bring back to students in my courses, along with a helpful reminder not to forget to share the “human history” with any field sites we visit.

“I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.” — John Muir

To read additional quotes by John Muir, visit the Sierra Club website