Geology, Geography Classes Brave the Wild

El Vaquero Staff Writer

“Being in the city all the time is not truly living,” said geography student Peter Braganca. “We need to appreciate natural beauty – to take the time.” And that is exactly what Darren Leaver and Katie Gerber’s geography lab classes did on the weekend of Oct. 25 as they combined to take a field trip into the wild of Mammoth Lakes.

Like the geology classes who had been up to Bishop just two weekends before, the trip proved that some things are best learned outside the classroom

The group of around 40 adventurous students – some of whom had never before left the comfort of their homes in Los Angles – piled into four vans and headed into what was to them, the great unknown of California’s nature.

They were a group with a mission, and the mission was, according to Leaver, “to have students grasp the major elements of the physical geographical elements of various sites in eastern California.”

Specifically, they were to examine the geology, plants, animal, climate and river and stream networks and to determine the patterns that exist – why and where – and later compare that to local (Glendale) geographical patterns.

Based in Mammoth, the only “roughing it” for this brave group was sharing a condo with five or eight other people. However, a small group led by Ed Timko chose to camp out at Twin Lakes – where it snowed overnight.

On Saturday, the class spent 10 hours “in the field,” exploring Mammoth Mountain, the Inyo craters, Mono Lake, Convict Lake and Earthquake Fault, which is not an earthquake fault at all but rather a hole in the ground where two pieces of earth fail to meet.

The trip back on Sunday included stops at Hot Creek, McGee Creek and Fossil Falls.

Braganca found Hot Creek especially fascinating. “The layer between magma level and the surface is thin and the water is hot, seriously hot to unbearable,” said Braganca.

The class requires a minimum of 16 hours field work (or a 16-20 page research paper). The trip was a fun and easy way to meet that requirement. “It makes the lecture make sense,” said Leaver, “and there is someone on hand to answer any questions.”

On Oct. 4, John Leland led the more intrepid of his GCC geology 101 and 102 students on a weekend excursion into the geological wilds of Southern California.

Their five-hour drive to Bishop included three stops along the way: Red Rock, Lake Sabrina and Fossil Falls. At Lake Sabrina two brave students, Rosa Navas and Josh Brow, rolled up their pant legs and waded into the blistering cold water.

At Fossil Falls there was a close encounter with a geology class from Ventura Community College. Leland along with his classes exchanged geological information about the hidden treasures of Fossil Falls and soaked in the learning experience with VCC professors and students.

On Saturday, Devil’s Postpile, Rainbow Falls, the Obsidian Dome and Hot Springs were the designated destinations. Leland pointed out calderas, moraines and faults among the various features of the Sierra Nevadas.

On Sunday, the class headed back home to GCC.

“It was a wonderful, really fun group,” said Leland of the class. “They very engaged in the whole thing.”
All in all, both trips proved to students that hands on learning can be the best educational tool.