Ge 1: A Journey Along the Eastern Sierras

Ge 1: A Journey Along the Eastern Sierras

At Caltech it is a graduation requirement to take a “menu” class, courses which introduce you to areas of study outside of your major. This year, there were three courses offered in the third term: ESE 1, Ay 1, and Ge 1. I took Ge 1: Earth and Environment for two reasons. First, ever since the first term I have been interested in the idea of minoring in geology (I might major in it instead!) and the class piqued my interest. Second, the class has an awesome multi-day field trip. While I’m not usually a fan of the outdoors, preferring to stay inside and read books or watch anime, this trip was the highlight of my term. As we went up the 395 along the Eastern Sierra’s, the geological makeup of California was revealed before my eyes. So come on a journey across California with me through my Ge 1 field trip photo gallery.

This is a picture I took of Red Rock Canyon. It was extremely hot while I was there but the staggering view of the rock cliffs combined with the beautiful sedimentary layers was a sight to behold.

Here we have my friend George Ore (EE ‘25) picking up a huge chunk of the bishop tuff (it’s really porous and light!) at the edge of Owens River Gorge.

The Owens River Gorge is a breathtaking outlook, the peacefulness of looking out on miles of canyon makes it feel like the whole world has stopped for just a moment and you can finally relax and enjoy the wind on your face.

At Convict Lake we have a beautiful view of the sierra mountains. We stopped here to eat lunch and the water was super clear and extremely cold. Standing in it was not my best decision but it was fun nonetheless.

This is Hot Creek! The water is extremely hot so while you may have been able to swim in it in the past, temperatures since then have risen too high to be safe. The strikingly blue pools are beautiful but are also the hottest there, so make sure to not fall in them!

Here we have a formation of obsidian at Punam Crater. As you can see in the picture, the obsidian has all sorts of different twists and turns in it. Some of this is caused by stretching of the obsidian as it cooled, making way for lava to flow in and push it further apart, resulting in a sort of blood sausage pattern.

Next we have Mono Lake. Mono Lake is super salty due to several factors: there are no rivers running out of the lake, the rivers running into the lake were diverted for several years, and California has had numerous and persistent drought periods. As a result the water in the lake has evaporated and the salt concentration has increased greatly over the years. The super saturated green color of the lake is due to the algae that lives there and the strange pillars by the shore are calcium carbonate deposits named tufa. In a way that completely contrasts Convict Lake, the greenness and pillars of Mono Lake are almost haunting in the most beautiful way.

One of our last stops on this trip was Alabama Hills, a rock formation that is a popular movie location as well as a recreational area to explore. It’s a fun challenge to explore the rocks and climb up as high as you can (safely). We stopped to eat lunch here, the view from the top of the rocks makes it all worth the effort.

Here we have a picture of fossil falls, it’s named this because it is the “fossil” of an old waterfall. It is the remnants of a lava flow that was sculpted into its present form by wind and water. If you go far enough down fossil falls you will see large drop off where the falls were a long long time ago.

Picture of the night sky (you can see orion!) from the research center we stayed at.

Sunset at the research center (ft. my friend Jessie Gan, Chem ‘25)

Overall, I thought this class was really fun and would recommend it to anyone not only for the interesting content of the class (from rocks and minerals to the composition of planets) but also for the chance to go on this field trip. Maybe you’ll find a new interest in geology, or maybe you’ll just see some cool rocks. Either way it’s a great way to spend a weekend during third term away from the stresses of Caltech.