Sunday, May 3, 2009

Ode to Field Trip Season: Out on the Coconino

I've been doing field trips to the southwestern United States for darn near a quarter century, enough that there are places out there where I know individual boulders and how they've changed over the's a wonderful, and wondrous place. Regular readers will recall my nearly year-long review of the geology of the region, for instance (and yes, I intend to finish; I only have 65 million years to go out of the original 2 billion).

I'm not going there this year. I'm headed overseas to our 50th state with 25 students instead. When I started considering a trip that involved flights and hotels and vehicle rentals, I thought of letting a travel company make the arrangements, but from experience I knew the expenses pile up rapidly and the profit margin demanded by the tour companies makes the cost prohibitive. So I made all the arrangements myself. I have found that holding and spending tens of thousands of dollars of student's money, knowing that if I screw up the trip won't work, well, it's intimidating. You can't really commit to hotel and flight reservations until you know you'll have enough people, but people like to wait to the last minute to commit because they don't know if they'll have the money or the time off, so there is a delicate balancing act. But it is working out well so far. Thank heavens for the wonderful folks who are helping me out!

In the meantime, for those of you who will be headed out to the open range this summer, especially the southwest that I love so much, I offer another bit of poetry from the archives. In honor of the Beach Boys, it can be set to the tune of "Kokomo" (thanks to our department poet laureate Vicki)

Out on the old plateau
Far away from Modesto
We're camped out on the Navajo
With no place to go
Out on the Coconino

Arches had the wind
Lovely was the Grand Canyon
Cedar Mesa was the best there'd been
It felt like Heaven
Out on the Coconino

Zoraster, disaster, drive a little faster
Chinle, please hurry, we're all a little weary
Jurassic, Triassic, we say it's just fantastic
Colorado Plateau
Out on the Coconino

Just when we start to snooze
CB crackles with Garry's news,
"Hey guys? Can you name that rock,
back there at six o'clock?"
Out on the Coconino

Her Garry! It's scary!
Those cliffs were really hairy
Arches and bridges, volcanoes, faults and itches
Surprises, moonrises, this trip has had some hitches,
but best of all, we're still all
out on the Coconino!

The photo of the day takes in the view from Cedar Mesa in the Four Corners region. The Cedar Mesa Sandstone is sort of correlative to the Coconino Sandstone that is most famously exposed as the white cliff near the top of the Grand Canyon. Both units date from the late Permian, and represent coastal and desert sand dune environments. The deep canyon in the distance contains the San Juan River. The encised meanders are the famous Goosenecks of the San Juan.

1 comment:

Lockwood said...

I despise that song (it's a horrid little brain-worm that won't leave), but this version is wonderful! I've never done as elaborate a trip as one to Hawaii or involving air flight, but you're right: the responsibility for logistics, fianances, even weather, can be daunting and stressful... but somehow (and disregarding minor incidents), every trip I've led has worked out well when all was said and done. Fun and learning have been had by all, and no panicky trips to the emergency room.