Wednesday, April 4, 2018

The Most Extraordinary Landscape on Planet Earth: Geotripping on the Colorado Plateau, June 2-17, 2018

North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park

There is no place on this planet like the Colorado Plateau. It's hard to find anyplace else on Earth where the crust remained relatively stable for upwards of a billion years, accumulating several miles of horizontal sediments, only to be lifted up rapidly in the last few million. The Colorado River and her tributaries then stripped away much of the sedimentary cover, and cut deep into the underlying metamorphic rocks. Those metamorphic rocks record a violent geologic history of colliding landmasses and mountain-building. The resulting landscape is one of the most beautiful places imaginable.
Angels Landing Trail in Zion National Park, Utah
The plateau country is a training ground for geologists and earth scientists, and has been since the days of John Wesley Powell and Joseph Ives, who were the first to lead research parties into the region (they didn't "discover" the plateau, of course; Native Americans have known the region for thousands of years). If you are curious about learning geology in this incredible region, you might consider joining us as a student (of any age) on our geology field studies course Geology 191, offered under the auspices of Modesto Junior College in Modesto, California. The course is designed to fulfil the curiosity of lay geologists and archaeologists, but also to build the skills of geology and archaeologists as well.
Goosenecks of the San Juan River, Utah
Our field course will be a grand loop through the plateau country, with investigations of the Mojave National Scenic Preserve, Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Mesa Verde and Great Basin National Parks, as well as many monuments, including Bear's Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante, Natural Bridges, Navajo, Hovenweep, and Colorado National Monuments. It will be an unforgettable two week trip from June 2-17, 2018, beginning and ending in Modesto, California. Information can be found soon at my school website at .
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park in Colorado
It's not a comfortable trip...we travel in school vans (which of course are known for their luxuriousness!), we camp every night, and the days can be hot, windy, cold, or stormy, and we are out in the middle of anything that happens. But we are staying in beautiful places each night, and there are even showers and laundry available every third day or so! Extensive hiking is not required, but there will be many chances to explore the trails in each park and monument.
Double Arch in Arches National Park in Utah
Geology 191 is a 3 semester unit course which will be taught as a dyad with Anthropology 191 (also 3 units). By end of the course, you will be able to see the landscape the way geologists do: by identifying rocks, minerals and fossils, and interpreting the geological history of an area by working out the sequence of events as exposed in outcrops. If you are a science teacher, you will come home with a collection of photographs that illustrate most of the important principles of geology, and a selection of rocks, minerals and fossils that will make a great classroom teaching tool (legally collected, of course; there are many localities outside of protected parks from which to collect samples). The dual nature of the course means that you will also have a mastery of the archaeology of the plateau region, the home of the Ancestral Puebloans, the Fremont people, the Navajo, the Utes, and others.
Canyonlands National Park, Utah
The cost of the trip will be $850.00 plus the cost of tuition (Currently $46 per unit for California residents, and $222 per unit for out-of-state residents). The cost includes transportation, food, camp fees, and entrance fees. Participants would want to bring a few dollars along for showers, laundry, and souvenirs.  The food is tasty and plentiful (everyone helps cook and clean!), and the school vans...are vans.

For those of you who live in the Modesto region, we are having an organizational meeting on Monday, April 16 in Room 326 of the Science Community Center on the west campus of Modesto Junior College from 6:30-7:30 PM. If you are unable to make it to the meeting, you can contact me for details and handouts.

If you are not in the area, we will be glad to arrange for transportation from nearby airports and train stations (we actually have an Amtrak station in town). Enrollment can be completed online once you are registered with the college ( Please contact me through the class website if you have any questions.
Bryce Canyon National Park
Hope to see you out there, back of beyond!

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