6 weeks of intensive geologic study have come and passed! The sea of experiences I have shared with 15 others over the last month and a half have changed my life forever. Not only have we been physically challenged by many miles of hiking each week, but our minds have been stretched and expanded in ways we could not have foreseen.
Our journey began in the Book Cliffs of south-central Utah where we studied the exquisitely preserved sequence stratigraphy of the region, or the deposition of marine and shoreline deposits over time. The next week was at Fossil Mountain in south-west Utah where we measured approximately 2000 feet of rock. These rocks are more than 450 million years old and contain fossils of species long extinct! Week 3 was more local, centered around the Warm River south-east of Island Park, only 45 min north of Rexburg. This study area is dominated by a major basalt lava flow associated with the passage of the Yellowstone hotspot through that area a couple million years ago. Stark Rhyolite cliffs lined the canyons and ridges of our mapping area. The grass was green, flowers were out, and the weather was perfect! Week 4 took us to the Beaverhead mountain range of east-central Idaho. There we studied major thrusting and faulting within tight, spring-fed valleys between rugged peaks. Expansive mountain and valley views spread before us and captivated our gaze many times over the 5 days we worked. Weeks 5 and 6 and this next week mark the capstone of our learning experience. For the last two weeks we mapped a 12 square mile area in west-central Montana near Melrose. Block Mountain and its surrounding ridges appear to have been scraped clean of the upper eroded material that would have covered the incredibly complex and beautiful geology below. Gently dipping hills and bold glaciated mountains surrounded our mapping area, seen perfectly at the tops of the many ridges we ascended as we mapped. A truly magnificent area to complete our field camp experience! This next week will be spent in the computer lab digitizing our professional geologic maps for presentation.
This has been one of those experiences that I will never forget for the rest of my life! The diversity of landscape and life, the difficult but rewarding experiences, the friendships developed, and the geology studied, have changed and improved my life forever! I highly recommend spending time in each of these regions, beyond the geology, these areas offer outdoor adventure experiences that the whole family can enjoy! We studied and stayed in areas famous for fishing, hunting, camping, climbing, off-roading, etc.
We encountered several dangerous species of animals on our excursions including rattlesnakes, black widow spiders, ticks, bull moose, bear, and more. The wilderness is raw and dangerous, but explored carefully can be highly rewarding!
The weather was remarkable this past month and a half! With rain on the weekends, then sunny skies and partial cloud cover during the week, we were incredibly fortunate to sleep dry and mostly warm! Spring-time in the Rockies is usually far more volatile and unpredictable, be prepared for anything from snow to 90 degrees and high winds when you plan your summer trips!
I'm so happy to share a small part of this experience with you, let me know if you want specific details or directions to any of our study areas!
Enjoy the pictures :)