November 22, 2016
We fly down the dry riverbed in the back seat of a Suburban belting out Gipsy Kings; the “oh oohs” of the chorus are amplified as we bounce up and down over the rocks. We have just finished the final field day in Anza Borrego State Park, Southern California. We are slightly dehydrated, moderately exhausted, and extremely content. We’ve spent the past four days measuring the stratigraphy preserved in the Fish Canyon-Vallecito Basin, which preserves a beautiful sequence of sediments deposited during late Miocene basin rifting associated with the opening of the Gulf of California, and subsequent Mio-Pliocene basin filling.
With twenty-one students and three instructors (Dr. Ron Steel, Dr. Cornel Olariu, and PhD student, Logan West), this was one of the largest field trips I’ve ever been on. The range of backgrounds at the onset was huge; engineers, stratigraphers, tectonists, and geochemists, from first year master’s students, to late career PhD’s. But by day four everyone was on the same page; each group confidently presented their measured sections with thoughtful arguments for their interpretations, and an appreciation of the larger tectonic context.
During our time in California, we stayed at Anza Borrego Desert Research Center; a 1950’s minimalistic country club now turned research center. The research center was the ideal place to stay with such a large group, with grills to cook dinner on, and a large deck to hang out on after the sun went down. After team power cleaning on the last morning (and some debate as to who had to clean the bathrooms), we headed to the beach for a quick view of the ocean and Miocene slope channel outcrops before rushing to LAX.
We land in Austin at 11:30 PM Sunday night. At 3 PM the next day, we all stumble into class sleep deprived. It’s time for class presentations. Taylor gets up to give his PowerPoint: “Well, at least I’m not nervous to present now that I know you all.”