Another great summer experience with Earth Camp in Wyoming. We just finished our week-long adventure and I’m incredibly proud of our group. They learned and accomplished more than I think any of them thought possible before this week. Here’s a recap!
Day 1 – Students headed down to the Hoback River area to take stream measurements to make stream profiles and calculate the discharge, took a dip in Granite Hot Springs (a natural warm spring that has been dammed to create a swimming pool in the mountains), then visited Camp Davis Field Station to hike Mt. Anne and learn about normal faulting in the region, as well as visit with faculty and current U-M students. Phew – busy Day 1!
Day 2 – We took off for Yellowstone National Park early in the morning to make it to Old Faithful before it got too crowded. Got to watch Old Faithful a few times, then toured the rest of the Geyer Basin while learning about past rhyolite flows and how hot springs and geysers are formed.
Day 3 – The whole group made it up Bunsen Peak – super proud of these guys. Saw the Huckleberry Ridge Tuff nonconformity along the hike, then lunched at the base of a cool outcrop of columnar basalt. Learned about the 3 different Yellowstone calderas at Tuff Cliff where they got to touch the tuff and feel the difference in its composition compared to the rhyolite they had been seeing around the rest of the time. A quick stop at Norris Geyser Basin and we called it a day!
Day 4 – Up early and in the vans at 4:30 am – off in search of wolves. We got unlucky this year – no wolves to be seen, but lots and lots of bison moms and their calves (we even got stuck on the road for 20+ minutes while one decided that would be a good place to nurse!), 4 coyotes, our first bear, and a fox. Ended the day at the “Grand Canyon” of Yellowstone, then back south to Jackson.
Day 5 – Drove to the Gros Ventre Slide area to look at the geology of aftermath of this landslide, as well as discuss the underlying causes behind it. Then into Grand Teton National Park for a hike to Phelps Lake – and a swim to cool off! Ended the day at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort – took the gondola up to a mountain-top restaurant where part of our group joined in with the live entertainment.
Day 6 – Saying goodbye to Wyoming. One group hiked up to Cascade Canyon and spent some time reflecting and starting college essays, while another decided to give it all they had an hike 16.1 miles round-trip to Lake Solitude where they were met with snow-covered ground and a chilly alpine lake. They pushed themselves hard and I’m so proud of them.
Our last day in Wyoming. The group has experienced so much – it has been a fantastic educational adventure. Today we split up into two hiking groups. The whole group started hiking from Jenny Lake with 3 volunteers from the Geologists of Jackson Hole (we were in good hands as two are volunteer backcountry rangers). Our first encounter was with a black bear and her cub – that got our attention!
After this, one group headed up to Inspiration Point and the other decided to tackle the 15.3 mile (roundtrip) hike to Lake Solitude – rated a 20.0 (strenuous) on the difficulty scale with a 2350 foot elevation gain, up to a glacial lake at 9048 feet! I’m not sure any of the students in the group thought they could accomplish this feat when Earth Camp started, but 10 of our 18 Earth Campers started and finished the hike! I was so incredibly impressed!!! The Lake Solitude Hike is rated one of the hardest in the park (and just was given the distinction as one of the top 10 most beautiful day hikes in the world)
It was an inspiring way to end the week for all of our students and staff. Thanks for a great Earth Camp Wyoming experience!
Today we were up EARLY! Earth campers had the choice of sleeping in until 8am, or getting up at 4:45 am to go look for wolves. Everyone voted “Wolves”! and we were not disappointed. We met up with NPS biologist Rick McIntyre at Hayden Valley and got to see the pack, including pups rolling around and playing. Rick captivated the group with stories of Yellowstone’s wolves for over an hour – many students (and instructors!) had tears rolling down their faces during many of his stories. It was a great way to start off the morning.
After this, the group split up – one group headed to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and the other hiked up Mt. Washburn. We all left Yellowstone in the evening to get back to the Tetons for the rest of Earth Camp.
How exciting to have all the Earth Campers out in The University of Michigan’s Earth and Environmental Science Department’s “home away from home” – Jackson, WY. They arrived last night to one of the most beautiful airports in the world and headed out for a day at our Camp Davis Field Station.
First part of the day was to introduce them to hiking with a trip up Mt. Ann for a geology lesson on the Hoback Normal Fault. The hike was steep in places and about 2 miles each way – it was a good “wake-up” for everyone to get used to the elevation, and in some cases, exposed to hiking for the first time ever. Everyone made it up – a great accomplishment for day one of Earth Camp!
They were rewarded with great views of the Teton Mountains and the Hoback Normal Fault. We were lucky to be accompanied by John Hebberger Jr. – a (very knowledgeable) member of the Geologists of Jackson Hole. He spent the hike up talking with the students and gave a great presentation at the top.
After Mt. Anne, we spent the rest of the day at Camp Davis launching a weather balloon, getting an introduction to Yellowstone and bear safety, as well as mingling with Michigan undergraduates and professors. The kitchen staff put on an outdoor cook-out for us before we headed back to Jackson, WY to prepare for our early departure for Yellowstone National Park.
Earth Camp students at the top of Mt. Anne
Jordan on top of Mt. Anne – the Hoback Normal Fault is visible along the red line in the background
Earth Camp students playing hacky sack with the Camp Davis profs and undergrads