Utah rocks: GEOL&215 spring break trip exploration

From March 25-April 3, students from the Geology of National Parks class traveled to Utah and went to the national parks including Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park, exploring and learning about geologic features, hiking and creating memories along the way.

Grace Amsden, Editor-in-Chief

Tents, blankets, pillows, headlamps, maps and rock hammers were among some of the items packed into the rented vans which would travel approximately 1,080 miles from Pierce College Puyallup to their first destination.

These items belonged to Pierce students and Tom Bush, professor and department coordinator in earth and space sciences, who were embarking on a geological exploration in Utah.

Formally called the Canyon County Field Excursion, this trip was for GEOL&115: The Geology of National Parks. Leading up to the trip was six weeks of online work.

The trip served as a way for students to learn about geology and the scenery, but also experience hardships, Bush said.

“The weather can play a role as far as hardships,” Bush said. “(There were also) long days of travel, sometimes long hikes where we’re pretty tired by the end of the hike. All of those things combined really help form a bond between the students.”

On March 25, the vehicles left campus. About 22 hours later on March 26, the group arrived to the Archview RV Resort & Campground near their first destination: Arches National Park.

The Double Arch, Devil’s Garden and Fiery Furnace are all features at Arches National Park. There’s also Delicate Arch, which happened to be in a windy location, student lab assistant Brandon Voelker said.

“We saw a couple of baseball caps on the trail, and we didn’t really know why they were there,” Voelker said. “We thought someone just left them behind. It wasn’t until we got to the top of the trail when we realized the wind blew their hats, like, 200 feet farther down the trail right off their heads.”

Besides wind, low temperatures were also experienced. On the last two days upon waking up, temperatures were about 28 and 29 degrees, Earth Science Student Lab Tech Jessica Kelsey, Bush’s assistant on the trip, said.

“I would turn on my headlamp (when I woke up) and you could see it just shimmering because the ice crystals (were) all over the inside of my tent,” Kelsey said. “I would put my clothes in my sleeping bag to get them warm so I wouldn’t have to put freezing cold clothes on in the morning.”

At about 8 a.m. each day, Bush and his students departed from the campsite for a day of taking notes, driving to various locations, learning about geological features and hiking.

The second campsite the group stayed at was the Needles Outpost near their second destination, Canyonlands National Park.

Preserved dinosaur tracks were found outside of Canyonlands National Park.

“Just to think that there was a little dinosaur walking in that same spot – and this is (the) Triassic (period), so probably like over 200 million years ago – in the mud somewhere, and then it got preserved and you can still see that, is amazing,” Voelker said.

From a store in Moab, Utah called Triassic, Kelsey purchased a dinosaur bone necklace which she plans to keep as a collectible.

“I knew that they would have rocks and stuff like that, and that’s what I was looking in (the store) for,” Kelsey said, “But they had dinosaur bones. (I was) really impressed.”

The group also went to the Newspaper Rock State Historic Monument, which contains hundreds of petroglyphs that were carved by cultures including the Navajo, Fremont, Anasazi and Anglo people, according to desertusa.com.

During the trip, students had to give a presentation about the Upheaval Dome, a structure in Canyonlands National Park.

On April 3, the group arrived back at campus. The students who took this class for credit submitted a report which included information regarding learned material.


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Grace Amsden
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Utah rocks: GEOL&215 spring break trip exploration

by Grace Amsden time to read: 2 min