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
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.