Notice of Online Archive

  • This page is no longer being updated and remains online for informational and historical purposes only. The information is accurate as of the last page update.

    For questions about page contents, contact the Communications Division.

Lauren Menges ’08 (Vestal, N.Y.) is an English major. She spent three weeks this summer in the Western United States taking the interim-session course Geology from A (Arches) to Z (Zion) taught by Larry Malinconico, associate professor of geology and environmental geosciences, and David Sunderlin, assistant professor of geology and environmental geosciences. Below is a first-person account of her experiences. Many students share their experience and images of interim-abroad courses in “Through My Eyes, In My Words.”

For as long as I can remember I have always been drawn to the great outdoors. Naturally attracted to adventure, I knew right from the start that an interim trip to the national parks out west would be a great fit for me. Many people use the interim courses to visit other countries, but since the United States is such a huge place and there is so much to do and see here, I was just as thrilled at the opportunity to visit and experience new parts of my own country as I would have been to travel overseas.

The class began at Lafayette where we spent a couple of days familiarizing ourselves with the study of geology. We got an overview of the basic concepts of rock formation, erosion, plate tectonics, geological ages, depositional environments, and we spent time sharpening our rock identification skills. After taking an exam on what we had learned thus far, we left Lafayette and headed for hot and sunny Las Vegas, Nev.

The next day, we began making our way to the Grand Canyon. On the way, we made a stop at the Hoover Dam and had a fun group lunch at an historic Route 66 diner. After arriving at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, we visited one of the overlooks and had a great time watching the sunset.

The following day, we departed early to hike the South Kaibab Trail. Slowly but surely we made our descent into the canyon, stopping periodically to discuss the characteristics of the different rock formations we were passing through. After reaching the Cedar Ridge overlook, we stopped and ate lunch, taking a short break before beginning the hike back out of the canyon. Hiking three miles round trip and climbing over 1,000 feet in elevation, this was a hike that tested us physically and mentally.

The next day we left Arizona and made our way to Zion National Park in southwestern Utah. We stopped at the famous Checkerboard Mesa and discussed the processes involved in the formation of such a unique structure. During our stay at Zion, we had two main hikes planned. The first day we hiked the Narrows, a spectacular gorge through which the Virgin River flows.

The second day we hiked to Angel’s Landing. This was my favorite hike of the whole trip. Climbing 1,500 feet in elevation through switchback after switchback, and the last half mile consisting of more scrambling than hiking, we finally reached the summit. Awaiting us was one of the most breathtaking views I’ve ever seen. Though the hike was quite strenuous, we were all filled with a great sense of accomplishment after reaching the top, and the incredible view made all the hard work worth it.

The next park we visited was Bryce Canyon. Here we learned about the process of headward erosion, which is almost entirely responsible for the creation of the canyon and the distinct formations called Hoodoos that Bryce is known for. We hiked several trails throughout Bryce, down into and through the canyon, and then back out again. We covered about eight miles that day, putting our endurance to the test.

Next we made our way to Torrey, Utah, making several stops en-route. We visited Escalante State Park and hiked through a petrified forest. Later, after driving 30 miles into the desert on a dirt road, dodging cattle and navigating by means of a GPS, we arrived at the aptly named Spooky and Peek-a-Boo Slot Canyons. These were very narrow tunnels that were cut out of the rock by water flow from the occasional rainfall the area receives. The canyons were often narrower than single file, and required some tricky maneuvering to make our way through. Later that day we arrived in Capitol Reef National Park and spent the following day hiking through a wash in the park, and determining the different contact points from one rock formation to another.

From Capitol Reef we moved on to Moab, Utah, passing through the striking Painted Desert along the way. Moab is located close to both Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, and is also home to many outdoor excursion companies, making for an interesting and exciting town to visit. First we visited Arches and went to three particularly hot spots in the park: Delicate Arch, Landscape Arch, and the Windows Section. In Canyonlands, we visited the Island in the Sky overlook and learned about the stratigraphy in the park.

From Moab, we departed for a three-day white-water rafting trip on the Green and Colorado rivers. The trip was great fun and a nice change of pace after spending many days hiking and traveling. We camped out two nights on the river’s edge, having delicious cookouts and sleeping under the stars. The rapids were a lot of fun to raft through and everyone really enjoyed themselves.

The last place we stopped at was the Havasu Canyon, where we were helicoptered into the Havasupai Indian Reservation. We hiked along the river to the bottom of the canyon to the first of three beautiful waterfalls, which were really interesting to see in the middle of the desert. We stopped at each waterfall to swim, with some of us jumping off ledges 25 feet high into the water below. We spent the night at the lodge in the reservation and then hiked a challenging eight miles with a 2,000-foot gain in elevation out of the canyon.

From there we drove back to Las Vegas where we had a final exam with a comprehensive overview of everything we had learned throughout the course of the trip. That night we walked up and down the Las Vegas Strip, stopping at such places as Mandalay Bay and the Bellagio, where we watched the famous and incredible fountain show.

Sadly, the next day marked the end of our adventure and our return home. This trip was one of the best experiences I’ve had, and challenged me both mentally and physically. I learned a lot about geology, the landscapes of the parks, and also had a great time getting to know the other people on the trip. I had a blast sharing this valuable and unique experience with such cool people and passionate professors. This has been a time that will stick with me for many years to come.

Categorized in: Academic News