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Geology major spends three weeks in distinctive interim-session course

Eric Ricci ’08 (Staten Island N.Y.) is majoring in geology. He 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 his experiences. Many students share their experience and images of interim-abroad courses in “Through My Eyes, In My Words.”

When a Lafayette student has to choose which interim trip they will want to be a part of, the first question that usually comes to mind is, “What country will I get to visit?” What are the new and exciting places I will get to see is a close second, followed by the thoughts of amazing once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

What I have found out this summer is that we don’t need to travel out of the borders of our very own country. On our trip to the many national parks in the Western United States, I have seen the beauty, experienced the wonders, and hiked into the wilderness on an educational journey I will never forget.

We started our trip by flying into Las Vegas, spending the night on the town. I was excited to be in such an amazing city to kick off the spectacular three-week course. We woke up the next morning for a nice drive through the Hoover Dam on the way to the Grand Canyon. After a tasty lunch at an old school diner we made it to the south rim of the Grand Canyon where we watched the sunset.

The next day was another early morning as we hiked down into the Grand Canyon, learning about the different geologic formations that were found there and looking out for any fossils that were hidden in the rocks. It was our first “big hike” but it was only a taste of some the amazing things we were about to do.

After spending a few days at the Grand Canyon, our next destination was Zion National Park. There were two hikes that we did at Zion that will probably remain on my top five list forever. First there was the Narrows hike through Virgin River, which was a hike up a river bed with cliffs towering over you on either side. The hike through the water was amazing and those who made it far enough got to enjoy a nice swim on a really hot day.

The second hike that we went on in Zion was at Angels Landing. This was by far the most breathtaking experience of the trip, climbing over 1,500 ft. through switchbacks and more. The last couple hundred feet we found ourselves climbing with the help of chains bolted into the sides of the mountain staring down at what would be the drop of a lifetime on either side of us. The only thing that was worth more then the beauty at the top of Angels Landing was the feeling of accomplishment for climbing such an amazing trail.

Bryce Canyon was our next destination where we went on our second longest hike of the trip. Hiking through eight miles of hoodoos, which were amazing sedimentary structures formed by differential erosion, was really a great experience.

With a visit to Escalante State Park, we observed what happens to wood when it is petrified. An insane drive into the middle of the desert came next for our hikes into Peek-a-boo and Spooky Slot canyons. These were very narrow canyons formed by water. In certain sections the only way to pass through was to climb the walls, crawl through holes, or turn sideways and hope to make it through. Our second hike came to an end here due to an encounter with our friend the rattle snake.

We studied the Monocline at Capital Reef, learning how to take strike and dip measurements in the field. With a ride through the Painted Desert we made it to Moab, which would be our lodging for Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. It was at Arches that I was able to take two separate hikes to a place called Delicate Arch. I went once in the morning with the entire class and once at night with only a few other students and the professors. One of the most amazing sights on the trip was the rise of a full moon through the Delicate Arch on what could have been one of the most perfect nights I have experienced.

A quick visit to Canyonlands followed by a test was the price we had to pay for a relaxing trip down the river. We spent two nights out on the Green and Colorado rivers in the Canyonlands riding down the rapids in style. With some of the coolest boat captains possible, we did everything from jump off the boats to going swimming to taking hikes to finding Native American Petroglyphs. We slept under the stars for two nights, enjoying some of the finest cooking we have ever had while we were out on the boats. It was the first time we really got to relax, as a nap floating down the Colorado never seemed it would feel that good.

After a run with the group where Forest Gump had ran at National Monument, we visited Meteor Crater, which formed in a vastly different way then the crater we visited in Sunset National Park in Flagstaff, Ariz. They were both really interesting but the place that we went to next proves that saving the best for last is simply worth it.

We took a helicopter ride down into the Havasupai Indian reservation where we were to hike out to find their famous waterfalls. I have never seen such blue water in my life as we went swimming under the crashing waters of several very large waterfalls. After leaving the amazing falls we got together that night to have a barbeque of epic proportions as there was no way we could finish all the food we had cooked.

We woke up super early the next morning to take the longest hike of the trip. The eight mile plus hike with a gain in over 2,000 ft. in elevation took us several hours and proved to be our greatest challenge of the trip. With another stop at the route 66 diner, we found ourselves back in Vegas to take our final. The rest of the night was ours, as we visited many of the famous casinos and made sure that we got as little sleep as possible.

I never thought I would be sad to remove power bars as my main source of dietary substance, but I was. I had such a great time on this trip and really enjoyed everyone who came on it. The professors were great, my classmates were awesome and the experiences we had were simply incredible. After this trip I have decided to attempt to make it to every one of America’s national parks, because I now know what I would be missing if I do not.

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