Beyond the Classroom; Geology at Dinosaur National Monument

Studying Geology at Dinosaur National Monument


by Aspen Gau, Colorado Mountain College Leadville Outdoor student

Startled awake by the sound of someone in the back of the bus, I came out of the thirtieth light nap that I had taken on the six-hour ride to Dinosaur National Monument. Confused as to why I was awoken so suddenly, I sat up and looked out the window. Our bus was slowly passing through a seemingly endless sea of sheep. This was the first truly shocking thing that happened on the Geology field trip, and an experience that I wouldn’t have had if it weren’t for the amazing opportunities that Colorado Mountain College has offered.

img_6821The trip was an overnight camping trip in Dinosaur National Monument just on the other side of the Colorado border in Utah, for our Geology class. Over that weekend we would hike and study the different geological formations of the park; formations of which we had only seen in photos during our lectures. Professor Kato Dee and a small team of helpers guided us through the trails, stopping here and there to teach us about the various formations we came across. Often times he would ask us questions and encourage us to come up with the answers even when no clear answer was available. In hindsight, this style of teaching really helped grow our understanding of what we were seeing.

As we came up to a high vista, the immense landscape spread out below us. This trip, though educational, was also filled with never before seen sights for much of the group, including me. The towering sandstone mountain in front of us and a large ridge that rolled along the horizon, paralleled by a winding river bed that stretched into the distance along a flat plain gave off a feeling of insignificance, yet, it also gave a drive to conquer. Perched on top of the highest point I could find, the group waited at as the stragglers continued to come up the trail. I took this opportunity to take in the scenery.

Kato called us back down and explained how we could decipher the land in a macro view as well as micro view, showing us how the earth had moved around and showing us artists projections of how the landscape may have looked way back when, before the desert that surrounded us existed. We snapped a quick group pic and headed on down the trial, which wound closely along the ridge and dumped us into a dried river bed that would take us back to the busses.

IMG: Dinosaur National Monument for Geology Class Field Trip After climbing back in the bus, I passed out almost immediately, assuming that we were headed back on our way to campus. I was wrong. About 2 hours after we left dinosaur, I woke up to us still driving around dinosaur. We drove along a rolling mountain top road that went seemingly nowhere till we stopped at a trailhead, to which Kato said that we had another 2 miles to hike. There were grumblings on the bus, however, Kato handled the situation amazingly, ushering us out of the bus and heading us down the trail. This trail was beautiful, with vistas overlooking hundreds of miles of mutilated rock and after a couple of stops along the way to enjoy the views, we ended up at the end of a ridge with thousand foot drops on either side overlooking the confluence of the Green and Yampa rivers. From this point, Kato could point out much larger geologic activities in the valleys surrounding us, and the hike was well worth it in the end.

At Colorado Mountain College we have the unique ability to experience college in a way that no one else can. With the smaller class sizes, you get to know your professors on a personal level as well as learn directly from them in more ways than you could sitting in a lecture hall, and that I think, is pretty awesome.

1 Comment

  1. Kelly says: Reply

    What a fun experience! Thanks Colorado Mountain College for showing my son the world and letting him tell us all about it!

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