Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A Convergence of Wonders: A Compilation

The trip I called the Convergence of Wonders was a combined geology and archaeology course that we conducted on June 15-30, 2011, in which we explored the Pacific Northwest and Northern Rocky Mountains. Our students and volunteers traveled more than 4,500 miles through regions that have been influenced by convergence along the Cascadia and related subduction zones, as well as a hot spot and continental divergence. Each day revealed stunning geological features and insights into the human occupation of the region over the last 13,000 years or more. This is a compilation of all of the blog entries I posted about the trip.

"Journeys in the Pacific Northwest" was the introductory post about the series, and provided some background about why we did the trip we did, and what our goals were. 

"Journeys in the Pacific Northwest, Day 1" was the story of the trip from home to our first camp at Lava Beds National Monument on the night of the full moon. En route, we explored the flanks of Mt. Shasta, the largest stratovolcano in the Cascades, and found out that a record snowpack and late spring was going to be a problem on this trip.
"Day 2, Lava Beds and Newberry Caldera" includes our exploration of Lava Beds National Monument, including the extensive lava tube system, an incredible panel of petroglyphs, and the site of the last war between the federal government and Native Americans in California. Late in the day, we visited an obsidian dome in Newberry caldera.
"Day 3, Crossing the Subduction Zone" chronicled our passage across the Cascades to the Washington coast at the mouth of the Columbia River at Cape Disappointment State Park. Smith Rock State Park in Oregon was an incredibly scenic view into the heart of a rhyolite caldera eruption, and our day ended looking pillow basalts from the floor of the Pacific Ocean floor. In between, we checked out an excavation taking place at Fort Vancouver.
"Day 4: Cape Disappointment and Real Disappointments" was the story of weather-related disappointments. The skies opened up throughout the day, including along the flanks of Mt. St. Helens, which was to be the centerpiece of our exploration. The mountain remained invisible in the clouds. The sun emerged, of course, but not until we were far beyond the crest of the Cascades and almost to our camp in Yakima.
"Day 5: In the Land of the Great Flood" was a narrative of our passage across the wastelands produced by a series of catastrophic floods that defy human imagination. At Dry Falls, we looked at canyons (the coulees) that were carved in a few days or weeks of remarkable "river" flows hundreds of feet deep. We also had a chance to see the Wenas Creek Mammoth at Central Washington University.
"Day 6: In the Land of the Great Draining" was an exploration of the lands where the floodwaters originated: glacial Lake Missoula. We traversed a barren valley (the Camas Prairie) where ripplemarks thirty feet high convinced many geologists of the occurrence of the Spokane Floods. We arrived in beautiful Glacier National Park at the end of the day, and were greeted with an incredible rainbow.
"Day 7: Of Time and Pressure in Glacier National Park" found us at the Canadian border where we started an exploration of Glacier National Park, at least the parts that were not still snowbound. We checked out the Lewis Overthrust, and examined the Proterozoic sedimentary rocks that make up much of the park.
"Day 8: Of Time, Pressure, and the Plain Truth" found us out on the Great Plains east of Glacier. We toured the Museum of the Plains Indians in Browning, and worked our way past numerous thrust sheets in Sun Canyon, where convergence pushed numerous fault slices over one another. We also checked out some exhibits on some of the most famous discoveries concerning dinosaurs at Choteau, Montana.
"Day 9: Into the Depths of the Crust, and of Time" discusses one of the most spectacular roads in America, the Beartooth Highway from Red Lodge to Yellowstone National Park. We also checked out the Stillwater Mine, where platinum and other rare minerals are produced. The outcrops we were traversing including some of the most ancient rocks on the continent.
"Day 10: Explorations of a Real Hot Spot" was just that...a tour of Yellowstone National Park, one of the crown jewels of the National Park System. We explored Yellowstone Falls, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Mammoth Hot Springs, and Norris Geyser Basin. The highlight for many of us was the witnessing of a wolf competing with a raven at a kill site.
"Day 11: The Orange Steam is OK, but the Blue Stuff Will Kill You" was a further exploration of Yellowstone, with visits to Grand Prismatic Hot Spring, and the famous geysers in Upper Basin (yeah, Old Faithful was spouting off, but I was watching Beehive). We ended the day in Grand Teton National Park.
"Day 12: A Richness of Geological Drama at Grand Teton (and Pelicans)" was a beautiful day of exploration in the Grand Tetons. We also checked out the Gros Ventre Slide, one of the most famous slope failures in the United States.
"Day 13: Hidden Treasures and Hazards on the Road in Western Wyoming" saw us beginning the long journey home. We checked out the Game Creek Archaeological Site and Fossil Butte National Monument, and saw a lot of sagebrush as we made our way south into Utah...
"Day 14: Treasures Discovered and Lost in Nine Mile Canyon" chronicles an expedition through seventy-mile long Nine Mile Canyon, a showcase of Fremont Culture artwork and archaeological sites. The canyon is also a site of controversy, as heavy industry is mining natural gas in the area, with profound effects in the canyon itself. Later in the day, we saw the Dinosaur Museum in Price, and ended the day searching for Topaz crystals in the western Utah desert.
"Day 15: We Go Underground in Great Basin" saw us making a 500 mile journey across the Basin and Range Province, with a stop at Great Basin National Park for a tour of Lehman Cave, and a stop at Garnet Hill, for, eh, garnets. A motorcycle accident caused us to arrive in a spooky camp at 11:00 PM.
"Day 16: Our Home Mountains, Giant Swimming Reptiles, and a Bunny" was our last day on the road. We checked out the bizarre Mesozoic creatures at Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park in Nevada, Mono Lake in eastern California, and Yosemite National Park in our backyard before arriving at the end our journey.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wanted to go this summer! Had to work instead.