June 19, 2017

Dispatches from field camp: Wrapping up

Posted by Lauren Lipuma

By Brian Balta

I’m the last of the Aggies. Seriously, two days ago there were 85 students, professors, and TAs from our university staying in the dorms here at Montana Western. Today I’m the last one. I stayed behind in the dorms in case any students had major issues or cancellations on their flights out, so right now I’m the only remaining member of the Texas A&M field camp still at this university.

Credit: Brian Balta.

We spent the last week on a large-scale mapping project covering several miles in distance. Just before that started, I took 35 students on a 1-day trip through Yellowstone National Park, and I’m told that people in the park were asking if I was an official tour guide since I was walking the students through the geology at various stops. Herding 35 students through a national park is an adventure in itself… and Yellowstone seriously needs more parking at the Artists Point stop.

This was a fascinating week. We had our first real major weather – a lightning storm that sent me scurrying off a hill on Monday, followed by extremely muddy roads. Once the vehicles were coated in mud, we did the only logical thing – write in the mud. Also…one of our vehicles may have hit a deer.

Credit: Brian Balta.

We also visited the spectacular outcrop seen in this photo, which is so useful that my field camp drove 2+ hours to come here when I was a student a decade ago. The Permian formation here has been bent into two visible, spectacular fault bend folds, with anticline/syncline pairs above them.

Credit: Brian Balta.

On Thursday, we climbed up to the top of “Block Mountain,” an Eocene aged basalt flow that caps an 800-foot-high slope. The students in this shot were students who had me both for field camp and for Petrology classes this year – the poor souls had to suffer through me twice in a year, or more for some of them.

Anyway, that’s the last of my tour of Montana Field camp this year. On the way out I stopped at one last overview look of the Berkeley Pit at the Butte, Montana mine –a superfund site filled with acid mine water.

Credit: Brian Balta.

Credit: Brian Balta.

Something tells me I’ll be able to write these another year. Until then, this is Dr. Balta from Texas A&M’s Field Camp, signing off.

— Brian Balta is a a visiting professor of petrology at Texas A&M University. Follow his twitter feed at https://twitter.com/theearthstory for more content.