Monday, September 20, 2010

Seeking Exposure

USGS Photo: Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona. Sunset on Cedar Ridge on South Kaibab Trail. July 12, 1957, by E.D. McKee.

Field camp had been planned to be a rather usual affair, to be located somewhere in the overgrown, fault-erratic littered, carbonates of the greater Blue Ridge Mountains of the Appalachians. It was an upcoming event that I really hadn't give much though to, other than to think things like, "Well, maybe we'll map even more faults down valley drainages for lack of good exposure." It wasn't that I wasn't looking forward to field camp, which would theoretically make me a geologist, at least more of one than those who hadn't yet attended, but I was thinking it would simply be more of the same thing: a few more trilobites and ever more limestones. I'd tell you that they were all Ordovician limestones, but you probably wouldn't believe that, and I'd only be exaggerating. I had, however, long since discovered that guessing Ordovician as an age on an invertebrate Palaeontology test gave better than even odds of guessing right, and Silurian and Devonian weren't far behind for good guesses in case you thought you'd overused Ordovician. (Always know how to play the odds.)

Also, serving a sentence term in an overgrown, kudzu-infested, hot and humid field camp wouldn't be getting me any closer to my ultimate goal, that of returning to the west coast as soon as possible. I was, after all, already six years past the unrealistic deadline I had set for myself when I was going on eleven years old.

Fortunately, due to unforeseen and overall unpleasant circumstances, I ended up taking two semesters off at the end of my junior year, and I ended up working downtown at the Smithsonian Institute (pushing papers, not rocks or fossils). It was my dad who suggested that I go to field camp somewhere in the west, a thoughtful suggestion made as a not-quite-desperate attempt to pull me out of the gray, cloudy and smoggy doldrums I had fallen into.

USGS Photo: Coconino Sandstone at O'Neill Butte,
viewed from Kaibab Trail, July 1957, by E.D. McKee

And so, the application process — of which I remember very little — began, and I applied to several field camps, finally deciding on a camp that would begin by hiking part way into and then out of the Grand Canyon, and would end up at a mapping project in the Swisshelms.

USGS Photo: Sunset Crater, by E.D. McKee. A real volcano!

Yes! Bright, brilliant geology everywhere, just the way I had always — after growing up near the Sierra Nevada — thought it should be. And rocks besides limestones! And volcanic rocks that weren't old and decrepit greenstones of nearly unimaginable age!

My geologic imagination was reignited at field camp in Arizona, and my goal to return west hardened. I came to Nevada a mere two years after my western, bright sunshiney, wide open field camp experience.

The story still makes me smile.

The first rendition of this story for an unpublished Accretionary Wedge, Accretionary Wedge #11: Field Camp, includes a few stories.

This post is an entry to Accretionary Wedge #27, hosted this month by Lockwood at his favorite coffee shop (and blog of that name) Outside the Interzone. Go there to read about more significant geological experiences.


Tony Edger said...

Fathers do have their wise moments.

Silver Fox said...

Yes, they do - for sure! :)

Gaelyn said...

We plan to hike down the S Kaibab and back up Bright Angel with a few days at the bottom this winter. I look forward to the limestone, sandstone and shales.

Silver Fox said...

Looking forward to your hike pics, Gaelyn. Have never been down the S Kaibab, never been down in winter, either. Should be beautiful!

NJ said...

>>Also, serving a sentence term in an overgrown, >>kudzu-infested, hot and humid field camp

Which wouldn't happen to be the focus of an alumni gathering in the near future would it?

Silver Fox said...

NJ, I'm not aware of any kudzu-infected alumni gatherings. I do have contact info listed here, otherwise I'm not sure what you're getting at.

NJ said...

Sorry for the confusion...

There is an alumni gathering in the coming weeks celebrating one particular kudzu-infested, hot and humid field camp. Since I have an indirect connection to this one, I thought you might have been referring to it. But my attempt at being elliptical was clearly too obscure.

Silver Fox said...

It's just that I am not using my name here, and I imagine that there are several alum celebs going on around Homecoming time (fall) at various kudzu related places, more years than not. I've never gone to one, though. If you think we know each other, email is more appropriate, imo. :)

Cian said...

An undergrad field trip to AZ to the grand canyon & sunset crater (plus meteor crater) was part of what hooked me on geo, too. Great memories!

Silver Fox said...

It seems like I must have gone to Meteor Crater sometime during travels through the area, but I don't remember it clearly - so maybe not!

Silver Fox said...

UPDATE: Accretionary Wedge #27: Important Geological Experiences published here.