Salt Lake City
After 20 days of living nomad in a tent, I was becoming more used to the change of environment. After spending most of our time in the north western states, it was time to move back south. Today, we were set to leave Idaho and continued our expedition in Nevada from the fold and thrust belt to the basin and range. It was quite relaxing, since the journey from Paris to Angel Lake of East Humboldt Range was quite long. It felt like another rest day for me.
However, I could not hide my eagerness to return home. Another 10 days to go and I would be sleeping in my nice bed. Furthermore, doing anymore assignments would be a burden. Being able to hike and experience the nature was awesome but the results of the assignments were demotivating. Nonetheless, I need to be resilient and focus until the end.
We took a detour and went to Fossil Butte National Monument. At this park we were able to see the collection of fossils that was displayed at the gallery. Most of them are fish fossils which inhibited the Green River System which consists of Fossil Lake, Uinta Lake and Lake Gosiute during Eocene.
The most interesting part was witnessing a paleontologist excavating a fish fossil within the clay layers. I love paleontology and I did plan to focus on the subject but after seeing her doing the work quietly at one location in the hot scorching sun, I had second thoughts.
It was quite interesting. I had never seen a fossil with soft tissues that remained intact in the field before. I had seen hard shell fossils many times and also trace fossils like an ammonoid shape from the field but it was not impressive like this one. Unfortunately, I could not take any of the fossils because the area was gazetted as a national park. After a lot of knowledge gain from the visit we left just before lunch.
On the radio, Pete informed that we would be stopping at Great Salt Lake for lunch. I immediately felt the excitement. I had heard about the lake many times before. To finally have the opportunity to be there would be exciting! However, along the way, our car caught with flat tire. Not too long ago before we transferred into this car, it went through the same problem. We had to move all of our stuff from the boot to retrieve the spare tire. After a long and hard work of replacing the tire, we resumed the journey and arrived at Salt Lake City and moved our stuff again to retrieve the flat tire for a fix. What a hard work.
When we arrived at Salt Lake City, I could already feel the different vibe. There were temples with pointy roofs indicating Gothic influence in the architecture. The city looked nice too. I wish I could stay longer and explore.
When we arrived at the Great Salt Lake, I was amazed by how huge the lake was. The opposite shore was barely seen by naked eyes. The lake was a remnant of a paleo lake called Lake Bonnaville. Lake Bonneville was so huge it spun 10 times larger than Great Salk Lake today. The paleo shore and wave cut platforms are preserved and could be seen at Antelope Island. We had lunch after a short briefing on the geology by Jay Quade.
As we drove along I-80, I could imagine myself at the lake bed 32000 years ago. Just nerdy things to do. Today, the lake dried up and what is left is salt flat which turns to playa during wet season. About 32000 years ago, some tectonic events caused the drainage pathway to the open sea blocked naturally and the water that was left in the pre historic lake became too salty. Eventually, it dried up and small portion of the lake became Great Salt Lake.
After few hours of road trip, we arrived at Angel Lake Camp Site in Nevada. Angel Lake is a small glacial lake situated on a hill slope. We were officially at basin and range region. For the next 6 days, we would be camping near the lake. Thankfully, the campground was established and well maintained. At least there were portable toilets. I was quite relieved.
East Humboldt Range
Today we would be hiking all the way up to Grey’s Peak. At that time, I was not informed about the elevation. I felt it was too long but relatively easy to scale. When I am writing this, I discovered that the elevation of Grey’s Peak is 4352m. That is 300 meters taller than Mount Kinabalu and I find Kinabalu was more challenging. However, the view was breath taking all the way up. We did stop to look at outcrops but there were no outcrops with bedding, so taking measurements was not easy. But I believe the ultimate goal was to reach the peak to see the wide view of basin and range region.
It was great to reach the peak and the view was amazing. Most importantly, I did not pass out like I did at Green River Lake. I knew my limit and stamina. No matter how difficult it is, I should not be having problem like I had at Green River Lake.
At times, we would be hiking at the slope and I was quite scared because with simple mishap, I could slip and fall. Fortunately there was no incident throughout the hike. We had to be aware of mountain lions too. We were told to go in a group to avoid any unwanted incidents.
We reached the camp site quite late but the sun was still up because the day is long in the summer. Even though it was hot during the day, the night was cool. This was probably due to the elevation. The lake was also in the mountain shadow most of the afternoon.
The mapping and geology continued. It was hot today, and I got lazier. Most of the time, I would just chill out on the rocks and enjoying the view. Bad geologist.
Even though it was already very hot in the summer, there were significant ice layers still laid on the slope. Most of the time, we had to hike on the ice and it could be slippery.
That night, we were served with fresh pesto pasta. It was delicious and definitely a hit. I wished we had this earlier but it was nice to eat something decent in the field. The cook made a lot of it and stored it in the ice box. The camp site was also busier than usual. More people were now flocking the camp site and it was noisier at night.
Finally, a day of our independent mapping. With pasta from last night leftover, I packed in the zip lock for my lunch. Initially, I started out with Wani, Sarah and Xen. Today, we would be exploring the other side of Angel Lake. Eventually, Wani and me got separated from the rest. I wonder what kind of adventure we would go through this time around. I was certain it would be another crazy adventure with.
It did get crazier at one point. After reaching a pristine glacial lake bounded with vertical slopes, we decided that we need to climb the slope to reach higher ground. In my opinion, there was not much to to map because the outcrops were still massive. There were mostly granitic indicating the active orogeny from basin and range tectonic events. We could hardly get the dip orientation right. At first, I hesitated to go up higher but Wani insisted. I agreed and we made our way up higher. However, the path was very unusual.
Like mountain goats, we scaled a vertical slope and chose to walk across the slope to reach a flatter ground. We were extremely nervous because it was too high up and there was barely any space for our feet to move. When I saw other students chose another easier path in the distance, I regretted the decision. After about 100m of crossing the slope, we reached the platform. I sighed in relief and promised not to risk my life again for geology. Using common sense is important when making life decisions as important as this. Apparently, the area was not even in the mapping area.
I left Wani to continue with her mapping and went down hill thinking it was already enough for the day. While hiking down the slope using a better path, I heard noises coming from the end of the lake. Rocks (one of the TAs) were already jumping in the lake skinny dipping. It was hilarious but of course I didn’t intend to join, so I just continued my hike and stumbled upon Xen and Winston sitting at the huge boulders. I decided to follow them and we went all the way down hill outside of the original trail that we used to come here. We had to cross a thick bush of baby oak trees to reach the camp.
Surprisingly, there were not many people back at the camp ground. For the first time, I reached earlier than most of the students. I pat myself on the back. I was hungry and quietly scavenging the ice box kept in the van and found a huge zip lock bag of last night’s pasta. Hush. Don’t tell anyone.
I managed to finish and submitted the assignment early because I did not care anymore. After 23 days in the field, stressing out for an assignment for a long time was not an option anymore. I would rather submit the assignment and enjoying the freedom. Soon after that, I went to the car and called my mom back in Malaysia (there was a good signal) to inform her that I was okay. It was so relieved to be able to call her and shared about the hardships and how I did badly on the assignments. My mom was quiet most of the time probably giving me space to let it all out.
Only 6 days to go and I could not wait to go back home. There were only one more mapping which would be on the day after tomorrow. Today, we went to Ruby Valley area to learn about glacier. Since, it was just an additional knowledge, we did not have to do any mapping exercise.
During lunch time, we picnicked next to a glacial lake. The glacial lake still had ice around it and there was ice floating too. After lunch we went coo coo crazy. The guys started to jump in the lake and I dared myself to let loose and jump in the lake too from a 20m high boulder. Before field camp, I bet that would not do it for sure but field camp had taught me to just embrace the moment, be crazy and do extreme stuff that would test your fear. I glad I did it even though I struggled to swim back to the bank. It was so deep and icy cold.
We spent the rest day at Angel Lake area only because the nearest town was too far from here. Since I was fasting that day, I spent my time sleeping and reading in the tent. By afternoon time, the temperature rose significantly especially in the tent. I had to find a place somewhere shadier to cool down. Later, I decided to take a dip in the lake. It was so cold but I was used to it. Remember the time when I dipped myself in Fremont Lake and getting fever few days after? This time it was all good. Unfortunately the water was not clear and the water had some fishy smell. The water did not flow that well in the lake and there were probably too many fish in the lake too.
When I returned to the camp ground, the cook had already started cooking for dinner. About the same time, JD returned with a lot of trouts. I was not sure how many but I heard it was about 40 of them. JD told us Malaysians that he caught the fish for us because we have restrictions on the type of food that we could eat. It was very nice of him and I could not thank him more. Three of us were so happy and I ate 10 fish during breaking fast.
I woke up slightly late today. It felt like Monday Blues but I didn’t remember what day it was. I rushed to wipe myself with wet wipes and packed all my stuff and stored in the car. After 6 days here, we would move to Wheeler Peak Campsite. Right after that, we went for the final field work.
It was a relieve. There would not be anymore field mapping work. After the last one yesterday, one burden was lifted from my shoulder. However, there was another one that needed my full attention. The final map and correlation. We were given whole day to complete the work.
After 27 days, all the work done came to light. From Utah to Nevada, we had to come up with our own synthesis. Given the difficulties that I faced last time, the final assignment was definitely not an easy one. Thankfully with the help from my buddies, at least I could capture the geological big picture.
When I finally produced a long cross section, I felt nervous yet satisfied with the effort that I had put in it. From Nevada, the basin and range subtly change to fold and thrust belt at Little Muddy Creek until it became a huge system at Green River Lake. By mid night, I finally submitted the assignment and prayed hard that this final assignment would help to boost my grade. And finally a good night sleep.
2 more days to go and we were already completed the field camp. To commemorate our accomplishment, we hiked to Wheeler’s Peak all the way from the foot hill. By that time, my motivation to hike had diminished. I started to feel the cramps and the pain especially at my toes. My mind had definitely instructed my body to give up since field camp had ended.
Eventually, I gave up and hiked slowly to the edge of a cliff overlooking ice sheets hanging to the slope. At that point of time I did not regret not climbing all the way to the peak at 3982m. I was done. I just wanted to go home.
Last night was awesome. It was a fun night not to have to think about the assignments. The other students opened a barrel of Carlsberg to celebrate their triumph. In a surprising turn, they approached me to convince the professors to let them drink. I do not drink alcohol but I was willing to help them. It was oddly hilarious and of course I didn’t drink.
And then the morning of the final day was finally here. I was all ready and packed. We left the camp ground and headed back home. The cars convoyed together initially but got separated later.
We arrived at Gould Simpson at about 8pm and picked by our senior. Looking at the picture of three of us, I would not imagine surviving the 29 days of living like a nomad without showering. We only had the opportunity to have two proper showers only. However, I did learn the most valuable lessons in life. The field camp had become a starting point for me to explore the world and ready to face more challenges. Jay said, when we complete the course, we can call ourselves a geologist. Yes we are. Until now, I look at the precious experience and use it as cornerstone for me to improve myself and every time I have to face tough challenge, I know I can get through it because I had faced the challenges during field camp.
Looking back, I would do it all over again. I did not miss the assignments and gradings but I am sure, if I were to do it again, I would have more confidence and definitely strive harder to explore. Or at least conquer Wheeler Peak which I didn’t.