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Experiential learning in Utah

Corey Glenn
A Clemson geology field trip explores the twisting sandstone of Ding and Dang Slot Canyon in southern Utah.

While we often set out into the world beyond civilization to seek fun, adventure and renewal, we also learn a great deal from the world beyond, and not just about ourselves. It was this desire to learn about the science behind the world around us that saw me get on a plane to Utah for spring break with Clemson’s geology department.

Southern Utah presented sights alien to us from the southeast, a world where the clear blocks of rock play out their dramatic stories of fracturing, faulting and folding, unobscured by soil and vegetation. The landscapes of Utah demonstrate the theoretical concepts learned in the classroom at a grand, obvious scale.

When we weren’t tracing the changes in rock units during drives across vast stretches of desert, we set out with professor Scott Brame on epic hikes to unique features.

We walked through narrow rock fractures and across clear graben valleys to 2,000-foot offset faults and vistas of salt dome collapses, things which back east might have to be interpreted from just a handful of rocks found in the forest.

But plenty of adventure was to be found in the strange world south of Interstate 70, containing walks along rock fins just a few feet wide and through canyons too narrow to fit down without turning sideways. Arches, spires and ancient rock carvings decorated this barren landscape, with trees no taller than our party members and seas of sand rivaling those of the Outer Banks, North Carolina.

Virga, rain that evaporates before hitting the ground, decorated the background of much of our journey, completing the picture of this otherworldly place just a few thousand miles west of our home. 

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Corey Glenn
Corey Glenn, Asst. News Editor
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