14 April 2012

Students share their favorite parts of the eastern California trip

Posted by Callan Bentley

I did things a little differently in my latest field class, the Regional Field Geology of Eastern California. Instead of having a post-trip project (like I’ve traditionally done with my Montana/Wyoming Regional Field Geology course), I had the students complete a take-home test.

I’ve just finished grading those tests, and was pleased to see the main themes of the trip were readily assimilated and applied by my fine team of students. I added a “gimme” question as the final one on the exam, just looking for feedback about what struck home most acutely with each student. Here are their responses.

What was your favorite part of the trip, and why?

It would be hard to say. For one, I greatly enjoyed spending time getting to know everyone over dinner after the end of the day, and waking up next to the mountains in the morning. As far as geology goes, I was particularly interested in the formation of Mosaic Canyon. I liked going to Trona because it felt like being in a post-apocalyptic movie. I also enjoyed learning the difference between garnets and mouse poop. The entire trip in itself developed within me an appreciation for rocks that was definitely not there before March 3rd.

My favorite portion of the trip was the visit to Fossil Falls. This area was simply visually spectacular.  The basalt flows that were carved by the old drainage from the Sierra Nevada show incredible sculpting from fast moving water through the basalt flow.  The glassy smooth basalt filled with potholes was just so much fun to climb on!! I can’t remember the last time I was as happy as I was in that old waterfall.

I really enjoy almost every part of the trip. I learn a lot about faulting the Basin and Range province I did not know. But my favorite part was Mosaic Canyon. That was where I felt like I was able to put the pieces of the geological puzzle together and see what happened.

Every place was formidable in its own way. It is impossible to pick one. I like Fossil Falls because it seemed very strange to me that a canyon was formed cutting basalt a very heavy and power full rock. The Mosaic Canyon was also very impressive because of the geologic history it contains.

Hard to choose just the one, but the first day of Owens Valley, we observed relay ramps, fault scarps and many formations because it was so peaceful while we had hiking for hour so I could feel like I’m in the ancient world.

My favorite part of the trip was the out of the classroom experience. Geology is much different than many other subjects because it requires getting out and getting the hands dirty. The experience of taking what I learn via the lab manual and seeing it in real life was a high quality learning experience. As for a specific part of the itinerary, I enjoyed learning about the Bishop Tuff. Seeing the ash and pyroclastic flow (ignimbrite) and seeing where the Owens River once flowed was fascinating. There was one particular area where we were near the cattle along the road, and the various layers of the ash and flow were visible. I enjoy the history that was manifested in that instance.

I liked the debris flows off the Sierra Nevada. I’m not sure why. Perhaps just because they were there. Overall I enjoyed the phenomenological experience of it all. Just looking at objects and coming to agreement (or becoming completely baffled!) with what was being observed through different perspectives was enough.

Well… I’ll try to be brief.
Volcanic Tableland – Fish Slough Valley – Loved the en-echelon exposures. Prime quality fault scarps and relay ramps.
Fossil Falls- It’s just so beautiful and nothing I’d seen before in terms of lava flows.
Marble Canyon – So beautiful; exquisite folding and reflowing. Nice boudins.
Trona – It was fascinating. The smell and everything was from another world. What would be of us if we grew up in Trona… that was on my mind. But also. It showed one very very important aspect of geology-society interaction! And we got some really nice crystals that we can give to our friends to prove that we were doing geology.
And the jet flying over our heads.
I also think Poleta has the potential to make the best of list of your future students 🙂 The archaeocyathids were nice – the more in that we did not expect them!

My favorite part of the trip was Mosaic Canyon.  There was a lot going on with that spot and I can’t wait to go back one day.  It was cool how one area could record multiple geologic events so well. This place recorded not only the deposition of the limestone but then a lot of what happened since.  The folding this area underwent, I’m sure you would agree was well displayed.

The two places most frequently mentioned are Fossil Falls and Mosaic Canyon, though I find it interesting that the town of Trona was mentioned twice, and for the same reasons. What should you do with this information? I reckon you need to schedule yourself some time exploring Mosaic Canyon and Fossil Falls!