Thursday, July 24, 2008

Accretionary Wedge #11: Field Camp

This post is a submission to the July Accretionary Wedge, being hosted by Ron Schott at his Geology Home Companion Blog.

Field camp for me was a long time ago and far, far away (well, it was far away at the time, a lot closer now). The year was 1973. I was in a slump due to various personal events, and was taking two quarters off from what was supposed to be my junior year in undergrad school. It being my junior year, I was scheduled to take field camp that summer, somewhere amongst the roadcuts, stream beds, and kudzu of southern Virginia. Having never much liked the east coast (well, sometimes, but I was getting impatient to get back into the west by this late date in my young life), I really wasn't looking forward to the experience.

My dad had a great idea: go to field camp somewhere in the west. So that's what I ended up doing, with field camp becoming my first step to moving back to the west that I loved. He flew out with me, after giving me his Brunton, and we spent a couple days going here and there around Tucson, including the Desert Museum and the Kitt Peak Observatory. We found what to this day remains my favorite Mexican restaurant, La Fuente, although I haven't eaten there now in more than 15 years.

During field camp, we traversed the entire state of Arizona, from the north at Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon, to the east somewhere near Window Rock and possibly Kayenta, to some tiny place in central Arizona somewhere south of Winslow - ah, that was Young, Arizona - with a brief stop at San Manuel or Baghdad, a recoup day in Tucson, then down to southeastern Arizona, where we spent some time around Tombstone and Bisbee, and then spent most of our latter days mapping in the Chiricahua Mountains.

Lots of memories from field camp, but no photos. The first days we spent around the Grand Canyon, including an excruciating hike (for sea-level acclimated people like me) down to the Redwall Limestone - and back up. That was the tough part. Then, we did some stratigraphy and mapping at Wupatki, and a bit of mapping near Sunset Crater, and rode the lift to the top of San Francisco Mountain.

At field camp, I drank more Coors beer than I ever have since, finding out later that it was only favored by people from the east coast who couldn't buy it at the time, and was looked down on by most of the locals; I got stuck in the sand for the first time, and although I wasn't driving the Carryall, it wouldn't have helped at all if I had been; I learned how to pee exceptionally fast so no one would come over a cliff or around an outcrop and see me (we had 40 students, 10 of them women, and 10 professors, although not all the professors were there all at the same time, thankfully); I watched as poor Toya got a name for sitting on a cholla one hot afternoon somewhere in northern Arizona; I saw my first and last cock fight in that tiny place known as Young; and I helped fight a fire on our final mapping project in the Chiricahua Mountains - the cholla burned, but didn't disappear, and many outcrops were red from then on and difficult to distinguish from one another. We got fed by local ranchers that evening, and on the last day of mapping, G. Davis brought in a few cases of beer by helicopter. Later, we had an award night, with most awards being silly to hilarious (including the cholla incident), and all T.A.'s got thrown into the the local pond.

And I learned to sing: the Redwall's connected to the Supai, the Supai's connected to the Hermit, the Hermit's connected to the Coconino, the Coconino's connected to the Toroweap, the Toroweap's connected to the Kaibab, the Kaibab's connected to the Moenkopi, the Moenkopi's connected to the Shinarump, the Shinarump's connected to the Chinle, the Chinle's connected to the Moenave, the Moenave's connected to the Kayenta, the Kayenta's connected to the Navajo... it was at about this juncture that we gave up, having not spent too much time in anything above the Navajo Sandstone.

UPDATE: This Wedge was not published.

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