There's no doubt many of you have been to the Grand Canyon, given its closeness to us here in the West. You may even have hiked portions of the Bright Angel or Kaibab trails, perhaps as far as the bottom, Phantom Ranch.
You might also be aware of the opportunity to see the canyon up-close on a five-day, rim-to-rim hike offered through Colorado Mountain College. Veteran geologist and CMC Professor Emeritus Garry Zabel leads his 19th excursion this May.
In all, the Geology Field Trip course is 12 days, from May 13-24. The trip begins with stops in neighboring parks Bryce, Zion and Capitol Reef, whose strata are the upper- and mid-level, younger treads on what's known as the geologic "Grand Staircase." The trip culminates with the Grand Canyon hike, where participants will further descend on the Grand Staircase through the lower-level treads all the way to its oldest strata and to the basement crystalline rocks, which are some 1.7 billion years old.
This cross-section of the Earth's history, and its beauty, is something Zabel says is "unmatched anywhere else in the world." As such, it is one of the planet's most sought-out meccas, though few explore it beyond its South Rim photo opps.
I have one of such photo from my first visit - a mostly rim-view-only look into the canyon, going only a few switchbacks in. The rim photo from the second trip, however, shows me after having finished the complete trek from the North Rim to the South Rim. Yes, I am one of Zabel's lucky alumni, and that hike was one of my proudest accomplishments - not only for the physical feat, but also because I never could have imagined the surprising gems inside the canyon - like the lush Ribbon Falls waterfall - that few tourists will ever get to see.
People often say to me, "I have always wanted to do Garry's course." It is a locally popular bucket list item.
These reasons people want to do it are varied, as are their ages (past participants have ranged in age from 17 to 70). Some participants want to study geology in a hands-on way, earning three credits to apply to their college degree. Others want to meet the physical challenge of the rim-to-rim hike. And many are interested in the "grand" story behind the scenery.
For Zabel, the fascination and passion he has for teaching this course never wears out. "I like being able to share the excitement of learning with the students in this world-renowned geologic area and to see them get excited," he says.
Has this field trip been on your bucket list? Maybe 2013 is your year to seize the opportunity.