Thursday, December 31, 2015

Dreams of Summer and Southwest Travels: A Canyon Grander than All

It's winter, and it's cold outside. I won't be in the field for another six weeks, so for now I'm reveling in the memories of this last summer, a journey through the Southwest states. We started our field studies trip at Hole in the Wall in the Mojave National Preserve, and after spending the morning hiking in Banshee Canyon, we hit the road and moved on to the state border with Arizona. We were on our way to the grandest of all canyons: Grand Canyon.
The canyon is more than 200 miles long, and averages a mile (1.6 km) in depth. It cuts through 1.7 billion years of Earth history. There really is no place in the world like it. It's a spectacle, but it's also one of the world's greatest outdoor laboratories. We arrived late in the day, and strangely enough we had to drive through ice to get there. A fierce hailstorm had dumped inches of ice granules along the highway. We reached the rim as the storm cleared.
As the sun reached the horizon, it peeked out from under the clouds, and the upper canyon walls lit up with soft warm orange light. This wasn't a moment for learning, it was a moment for awe. Most of our students had never been to the Grand Canyon, and they seemed stunned. It's one of the times I love as a teacher, because after the awe comes the questions, and with questions comes true learning. But the learning could wait until tomorrow.

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