Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Arizona Ramblings

Hayley Williamson

I am not a geologist. I will start by throwing that out there.  So only with many, many morning lectures, I have managed to absorb the order of rock layers (Hermit, Coconino, Toroweap, Kaibab, Moen-Kopi, Basalt! See, I got this). Despite that, Arizona was truly eye-opening for an East Coaster like myself.  I have rarely been somewhere quite so dry (which caused the oh-so-memorable episode of pink eye) and brown. I thought the lack of green would detract from the beauty, but the starkness of the desert made it all the more beautiful. The sites we went to were places of awing grandeur, from volcanic craters to the Grand Canyon. I can honestly say that every place we went to filled me with a sense of wonder… and made me feel very, very small.

For a brief summary of my perspective on the trip…  Even from the first day, I was awed. Like some others have said, we drove through what Dr. B called “the most beautiful stretch of highway in the country.” And boy, was it. Huge bluffs of sandstone towered over our caravan, making me want to stare out the window with my mouth open. Which I promptly did. It made the attitude of the Sedona residents seem quite silly. I’m still not sure how anyone could live under those massive rocks and think crystals and fairies are affecting their lives.  However, the beautiful scenery was far more interesting and certainly the highlight of the first day. Well, that and the sunset on the slope of Humphreys Peak.  I enjoyed that dinner immensely.
Day two was volcano day, and a close favorite for me. I don’t know if I’ve ever done that much hiking in one day, and I didn’t even do as much as others! While I didn’t make it to the interestingly named SP Crater, I enjoyed Colton Crater immensely. That was definitely my second favorite natural site, after the Grand Canyon. It was so massive! And to think, that and Meteor Crater are tiny compared to the planetary objects we are studying. Day three was Meteor(ite) Crater and the Painted Desert, neither of which we got to spend a lot of time at, but that didn’t matter. We still had a great time, and were able to finish the day off with a night trip to the incredible Lowell Observatory, a huge highlight for me. I can’t believe I saw where Pluto was discovered! While my school has a small observatory, it is nothing at all like Lowell.  I have to say thank you to Cynthia for organizing that, because it was spectacular. 

Day four was, of course, the Grand Canyon. Like Allison said, I went down with the spectacular Flying Lunar Llamas. I’ll be honest, that day started out pretty miserable because I woke up sick. But the awesome beauty of Nature quickly made up for that. Dr. Jim Rice told us to record our first reactions to the Grand Canyon, and I wrote mine down in my field journal. Briefly, my very first reaction was “It’s… huge.” But as I took in the size of it, I started to feel like I shouldn’t be there, like this was a place where I was an intruder, because it was too big, too… grand. This was a place where humans should have no power because we are simply too tiny, flies on its walls. That sounds silly, I know, but it induced a sense of reverence in me. Pictures don’t accurately capture that feeling, no matter how many shots I took. I could go on and on, but this post is already pretty long so I should wrap it up. While I enjoyed the last day as well, this was truly the highlight for me. Hiking down inside the maw of the canyon, I felt as though the Grand Canyon was some cohesive thing that I was getting to know. And I will never forget that.

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