Objectives: Given information on the geological history as well as the main geologic processes that have occurred, and continue to occur, in Death Valley, you will be able to describe how Death Valley has been shaped it into what it is today.
Procedures: We will meet two times: 1) in class (Thursday, January 17th from 6-7:30 pm in SUG 115); and for the trip (Thursday through Sunday, January 31st-Feb. 3rd). The pre-trip meeting will cover information on what to bring, what to expect, and what to turn in for credit. You will also create a geocaching account for the trip. We will also cover some information on the geological background of Death Valley to prepare us for the trip. A trip itinerary will be given. THIS IS A MANDATORY MEETING - IF YOU ARE UNABLE TO ATTEND YOU MAY NOT BE ALLOWED TO GO ON THE TRIP.
A field trip fee is required to offset transportation costs. Additionally,
campground fees will be approximately $10 for the three nights and will be
collected before we leave Thursday morning. I will also check to see
that you are adequately prepared for the trip. If you are not
prepared, you may be have to be dropped from the course. Finally, with the
current government shutdown, there will be some uncertainties and
ambiguities along the way. We will make decisions that help the group be
safe and as comfortable as possible. Please be willing to adapt to
Tent camping only. Coyotes and Ravens frequent the area. All food and litter must be put away. Campers must have Entrance Permit before camping. Available at any contact station.
Pre-meeting Homework: Log onto www.geocaching.com and look at each of the 20 EarthCaches in Death Valley, near Furnace Creek. Read each EarthCache and be prepared to answer the questions posed for each before you come on the trip.
Thursday, Jan. 31st We will meet at the dorms on campus so that you may have a place to leave your vehicles for three days. Loading time will begin at 7:30 am and we will leave shortly thereafter, once all heads have been counted and gear loaded into the college vans. We should arrive in Furnace Creek Campground by dark. We will set up camp, then those interested may join me for an optional moonlight hike in the sand dunes by Stovepipe Wells.
Friday, Feb. 1st: After breakfast, we will load into the vans by 8am. We will head to Ubehebe Crater, our first stop for the day. There we will examine some of the recent volcanic processes that have helped to shape Death Valley. We will spend approximately an hour and a half at the crater. Next we will head to the mouth of Titus Canyon to observe evidence of erosional processes. We will take a short hike up into the canyon, so bring some sturdy shoes. We will eat lunch either at Titus Canyon or at Stovepipe Wells, before heading up into Mosaic Canyon to observe the cut and fill saga evident there. After exploring Mosaic Canyon we may spend some time roaming the Mesquite Sand Dunes, where wind is at play in natures sandbox. Our final stop for the day will be to observe the Salt Springs pup fish habitat. We will end the day at Furnace Creek at the campground.
Saturday, Feb. 2nd: We will head south from Furnace Creek to Dantes View, where we will have an overview of Death Valley National Park. We will then head to Zabriski Point to observe some of the geological features evident there. The following stop will take us to Gower Gulch to do to observe some human influenced changes in Death Valley. We will then stop at Ventifact Ridge to study how wind erosion shapes and influences the area. We will stop at the Devils Golf Course to see first hand examples of the high evaporation rates in the area. Finally we will make a stop at Badwater, the lowest spot in the U.S. Here we will see evidence of evaporation, another dominant process that is acting on Death Valley. If time permits, we will visit an exposure of a fault scarp along the east side of the valley. Here we will study active tectonic processes shaping the National Park today. We will return to the Furnace Creek Campground by dinner time. You may enjoy the restaurant, shower, pool, and other facilities there.
Sunday, Feb. 3rd: We will pack up and leave by 8:00 am Sunday morning. There will be two stops along the way back. We will tour the visitor center at Furnace Creek before we leave the area. There are quite a lot of interesting displays to look at as well as additional resources and information for your next trip to Death Valley. The second stop will be a brief one along the Garlock fault, outside of the park, on the way back toward Highway 395. We should arrive back in Sonora, on campus, by 8 or 9 pm.
What to Expect:
Expect cold nights and warm days. The weather is usually nice there this time of year, but it can range from very hot to very windy at times, to very cold at night. Click here to see the current weather conditions in Death Valley: http://www.death.valley.national-park.com/weather.htm Historically the temperature has gotten down to freezing this time of year and at the same time it has also been in the hundreds! Death Valley only averages around 1.71 inches of rainfall per year, so the chances of us getting rained upon are small. It has happened before though! Also expect a chunk of time to be spent driving. Death Valley is a bit far and its a big Park once we get there. We should also have access to the swimming pool and showers at night, so you'll be able to get some of the geology off of you . . . You will be camping, so expect whatever goes along with that . . . We haven't seen any snakes or scorpions on our trips yet, but they've probably seen us!! Also, you should keep your food locked up during the day since we've had problems with varmints while we're gone geologizing...
What to Turn in for Credit:
In order to assess your learning, I'll ask you to keep a learning log for the trip. You will be expected to turn this in to me at the end of the trip. This log should document the things you would like to learn before the trip as well as why you are taking the class. You should also enter into your log the things you learned about: 1) Death Valley National Parks Geological History; 2) volcanic processes; 3) evaporation; 4) erosion; and 5) tectonic processes (faulting and folding). Your notes will be used to answer each of the questions at the EarthCaches we visit in Death Valley. You will be asked to make an entry at each stop on the trip as well as add an additional entry at the end of each day, reflecting on what happened during the day. A final summary of what you learned on the trip will be required for full credit. All work will be due (in my mailbox) on Tuesday, February 19th, by 6:00 pm in my faculty mailbox in the Manzanita building. To summarize, the learning log should include:
Note: I have had to add these statements based on past student behaviors:
1) All campgrounds we stay in ask for quiet after dark. If you (individually or in a group at the campground) have to be asked to be quiet after 9 pm your grade will be dropped. If you have to be asked again your grade will turn to an "F" and you will fail the course;
2) NO SMOKING during field lectures and activities. If you cannot adhere to this requirement you should not sign up for - or drop - the course. I'm serious about this - you can't smoke in class, so don't smoke on my field trips.
That having been said, I hope we all have a good trip! Feel free to contact me at the phone number or email address above if you have any questions
before or after we leave.
Each student must turn in: 1) a field notebook; and 2) a summary paper to earn a passing grade in order to obtain credit for the course. Also, future field trips depend on us - our behavior and conduct should allow future geology students to enjoy what we get to. So please consider the rights of others, within our group as well as from other groups, on this trip (i.e. in terms of cleanliness, noise levels, seating, etc.). No alcohol or drugs are permitted on the trip. Please be ready to go each morning with a sack lunch in hand no later than 8:00 am. Our objective is to learn as much about Death Valley's geology as we can in the time permitted.
I hope we all have a good trip! Feel free to contact me at the number or email address above if you have any questions before or after we leave.
1) A Trip Through Death
Valley's Geologic Past (The Magnificent Rocks of Death Valley)
by Kenneth E. Lengner