Friends ask me, “So, what were you guys doing in Arizona?” and it is hard to come up with a concise answer that summarizes our five days there. I guess it's better to pinpoint the lessons and ideas I picked up that tied the canyons and craters together in my mind. I have never studied geology, but our trip was a wonderful crash course. It was great learning from trip leaders and fellow interns about things like cross-bedding and basic nomenclature, and I came away with a new appreciation for geomorphology and geology that I hope I can keep working on. Our trip leaders were truly amazing in sharing their knowledge and making sure we had a safe but exciting trip.
After we got home to College Park, a few of us were trying to think of our 3 top favorite sights of the trip and it was pretty tough, but here are mine!
1. The Grand Canyon
Dr. Ann, Jillian, Hayley, Missy and I formed the Lunar Llamas and hiked the first 1.5 miles of the Bright Angel Trail, which is supposedly a 1,131 foot elevation drop! We had a lot of fun going through the layers of the Grand Canyon and took pictures when the path changed suddenly from a tan color to the deep red (the Mars Level, of course), which we hope will still make sense to us when we open a photobook in a few years and wonder to ourselves why Missy is standing grinning in the middle of a pathway for no apparent reason. Along the trail we spotted: a mule deer, a mountain goat and several fearless Abert squirrels. Going back up was hard work and took lots of water breaks, but when we reached the top we were so full of energy and ran around the trail entrance cheering. Go Lunar Llamas!
1. Lowell Observatory
I looked through 3 telescopes and saw Saturn, the M5 cluster and the Moon. The view of Saturn wasn't as close as I was hoping for, and furthermore, Saturn showed up pure white! But it was still very exciting to see its entire form with its very distinct rings. The M5 cluster is a cluster about 25000 light years away, and we only saw the brightest of the stars through the telescope. The cluster filled the entire viewfinder area and looked like a light blue snowflake made of pinpricks of light – very pretty. The telescope focused on the Moon let you see it right up close and you could pick out the very distinctly outlined craters in its surface. I also enjoyed Lowell Observatory's Children's Exhibit, which is quite fantastic and is definitely not just for kids. I just wish I could have looked at all of them for a little while longer!
1. Colton Crater
I hiked down into the bowl of the crater with Rachel, Adarsh, Zach and Sebastian. It was incredible standing from the bottom of the crater looking up and around at the steep walls. You could see outcroppings of rock jutting down into the crater from up around the rim, which we were told is how the cinder volcano builds itself up. It is very humbling and wonderful to realize how tiny you are in comparison to a relatively tiny crater on a tiny planet!