Friday, April 3, 2009

Geology 101 Field Trip

This past Saturday Tracy drove and helped supervise a field trip for his Geology 101 students. I decided to go so I could spend more time with him, learn more about the geology of the area, and do something fun outside (I don’t get out much).

I was surprised because of the locations where we stopped. They weren’t spectacular in terms of magnificent rest stops where you have a mini Grand Canyon. We stopped by what at first looked like a dirt pile, road side rocks, sandy hills, and a waterfall. Little did I know what cool things we would find.

Obviously, there are highly technical and complicated explanations for all these things. I'll just comment on a few that I remember and that I find especially interesting.

Tracy was the first one to race up the hill to take a closer look.

Note the rippled sediment.

Tracy with Dr. Wilke.

This is pillow basalt. But don't be fooled by its name. It is not soft. Do not sleep on the rocks.
This is Brian, one of Tracy's fellow TAs, pointing at pillow basalt.
The white streak is ash from Mount St. Helen's. This ash traveled about 350 miles. I wanted to take some home but didn't.
Untouched sand.

From the moment Dr. Wilke finished his little discussion about sand dunes, students and TAs began jumping and flipping off the steepest parts. Some of them were really steep—much steeper than the pictures make them look. Among these dune jumpers, Tracy decided to jump so he’d roll down (we’ll call it a double axle). He momentarily regained footing but kept running and ran right into the neighboring dune—landing with a beautiful biff. Everyone cheered for the bravest jumper. I laughed and cheered, feeling silently proud of my sandy husband. Luckily a student caught his graceful jump on her camera. Here is a link to the video on Youtube.

Walk it off.

During Tracy's flight down the hill, he lost the van key. We went back and luckily found it on the surface of the sand dune. Whew!

Tracy is sandy but relieved that we found the keys.
The elusive keys.
Us at Palouse Falls.

Once we got to Palouse Falls, it was raining fairly hard. The falls are huge!!

The bowl shape (called a plunge bowl) was formed by the ancient lake the size of all the Great Lakes combined when it was drained in a few weeks. That is not a long time to get that much water drained.

Note the bowl shape.

You probably can't see it, but the crack on the other side of the river matches up perfectly with the crack on this side. They are called joints--not doobies. This geological feature cannot be smoked, even though it shares drug-related terms. :)
As we were taking this picture, a student said we should use it for our engagement pictures. A little late for that, honey!
We had fun and learned a lot.


  1. WOW, geology is pretty awesome.
    Beautiful pics..

  2. Your post reminds me of my BYU geology hiking class. Good times! Looks like you are having some fun these days. I hope your hubby is feeling ok! Hope you are doing well too! :)


  3. Looks like you guys had a fun time together. I want to go see all that now. It was pretty interesting. So much for that geology 101 class I didn't take. . . .