Geology trip takes students to Death Valley

By Austin Block

Eighteen Geology students and one Geology Honors student spent their semester break hiking, running and tumbling down sand dunes, observing and learning about their surroundings and camping out in Death Valley as a part of the first Geology trip of the year.

Each Geology student is required to go on one of the three Geology trips that happen during the year, and the recently completed trip lasted from Jan. 25 to Jan. 27. The remaining two trips will take place from March 7 to March 9 and from March 21 to March 23.

The trip was led by Geology teacher Wendy Van Norden and Director of Studies Deborah Dowling. Van Norden also conducts a Geology Honors trip, though Geology Honors students can go on the Geology trips and vice versa if necessary.

The group traveled by bus and stopped at Vasquez Rocks, the San Andreas Fault, Fossil Falls and Red Rock Canyon on the way to Death Valley. They arrived in Death Valley by the end of the first day, spent the second day there and returned home on the third day, stopping at a ghost town and sand dunes and hiking up a canyon.

Van Norden said that at each stop she gave a “rock talk,” where the students would learn about “the geological processes responsible for forming the area.”

After the lectures, “we just get a chance to play,” Van Norden said.

“For example, I will discuss the formation and migration of sand dunes, but then we climb up and roll down sand dunes, just because it is fun,” Van Norden said.

At night the group camped out and cooked with a campfire.

The students had to stay in tents due to rain and observe the Red Rock Canyon area from inside the bus due to strong winds on the first day.

“I definitely enjoyed the hike to the giant sand dune, but the best part was running down it on the way back to the bus,” Emilia Louy ’11 said.

Van Norden said these trips are important for Geology students because “geology is so much more real and interesting if you are there in person…students can take what they have learned in class and see it in the real world.”