Posing together in the picturesque Redwall Cavern are (front, left) Suzanne Budge, Sara Schaefer and Elena Schaefer, all of Boise, ID; Kata McCarville, Fayette, IA; Gail Moorman Behrens and Heather Behrens, Arlington, IA; J. Lucy Jordan, Salt Lake City, UT; Daryl Grove, Fayette, IA; and (back, left) Tim Burrack, Arlingto, IA; Jordan Burrack, Palm Desert, CA; Don Gerlits, Arlington, IA; Stu Dunkel, Jefferson City, MO; Fred Koch, Buckingham, IA; Sharon Orr, Fayette, IA; Carol Berg, Marshalltown, IA; Joyce Graf, Rockville, MD; Carol Langerman-Aten, Fayette, IA; Brian Retke, Iowa City, IA; Judy Joyce, Iowa City, IA; Jameson Taylor, Fayette, IA.
For seven days, 20 intrepid adventurers let go of modern technology and connected with their environment and each other in a way that has left its mark. The trip included Upper Iowa University faculty, alumni and students; friends of the university from the local area; and members and friends of the Association for Women Geoscientists.
Carol Langerman-Aten, custodian and student at UIU, said the trip was an opportunity of a lifetime. She had not intended the trip to change her, but the experience exceeded her expectations in every way. "When I walked away from this trip, I felt so fulfilled in so many ways," she said. "There is a great deal of satisfaction when you've lived a dream. I've always wanted to raft down the Grand Canyon, and now I have. If there is something that you've wanted to do, whatever it might be, find a way to do it. You won't regret it!"
According to Dr. Katherine McCarville, associate professor of geosciences and organizer of the Grand Canyon excursion, she quite often hears from travelers that they wished they would have gone sooner. "People make connections that are profound and they often make friendships they probably would not have without this trip. Social structures are relaxed or just become irrelevant during the wilderness experience," she said.
The trip was cooperative venture involving Upper Iowa University and the Association for Women Geoscientists, with which McCarville is affiliated.
Langerman-Aten said, "There were so many unexpected surprises along the way including Dr. McCarville's enthusiasm about geology. I had no idea that rocks could be so interesting, I think I learned a few things that I had no intention of doing when I signed up to go rafting down the Colorado River. I was just going to have fun, but history is unavoidable in the Grand Canyon. You are completely surrounded by it at all times."
Aside from each other, the group had very little human interaction on the rafting trip. Traveling on two 35-foot boats, they spent each day on the river covering a grand total of 188 river miles in seven days.
Dr. Gail Moorman Behrens, dean of the Andres School of Education, said she has an even greater respect for Dr. McCarville following the expedition. "Her passion and knowledge of geology and love for everything about the Canyon provided me with many, many learning opportunities," she said.
While most of the morning and early afternoon hours were spent in the rafts, the group stopped periodically to hike along the way and take in the sights. They learned about formation of the Canyon and its human history. Abandoned dam test sites could be seen, as well as former mines. At night, most of the crew took advantage of the perfect weather conditions to sleep under the stars.
This was the fifth Grand Canyon trip that Dr. McCarville has organized, although she has participated in several more as a co-leader since her first trip there in1987. Each trip, she makes a deal with the guides – if they can show her something she's never seen before, she will explain something geological that they've seen, but aren't sure what it is. This year, guides from Hatch River Expeditions of Marble Canyon, Ariz., couldn't exactly stump Dr. McCarville, but they needed her help in identifying a boulder at the mouth of one of the side canyons. After one look, she knew exactly what it was. It was from the Supai Group, and embedded within the rock were fossilized plant roots from the Pennsylvanian Period.
The three guides from Hatch River Expeditions helped foster a sense of reverence for the Grand Canyon in the UIU group. "They, indeed, are the keepers of the canyon," said Moorman-Behrens. "In the Canyon there is no trash, no commercialism marked by lit signs enticing you to buy, no cell phones, no wi-fi and no television. There is nature's beauty beyond compare, excitement of rides through the rapids, the touching of the oldest rocks known to humans, showers under waterfalls, fresh spring water and sleeping on the sand with stars overhead."
The group also had the opportunity to float on the beautiful turquoise waters of the Little Colorado River where calcium carbonate deposited on the river bottom gleams white beneath the surreal blue of the water. Just above the area where rafters are allowed access is a sacred spring that is revered by the native Hopi people and important in several of their rituals and rites of passage. At this culturally significant location, trip participants had the opportunity to safely view (with a special darkened lens) the Transit of Venus across the disk of the Sun. This astronomical event will not occur again until the year 2117.
From big rapids to the huge waterfall at Deer Creek, the scenery and adventure was breathtaking. Daryl Grove, assistant dean of students and director of student leadership and adventure, said, "All of the credit goes to Dr. McCarville for leading this geological wonder of a trip. (There were) educational and adventure opportunities around every bend."
Langerman-Aten said the most challenging part of the trip was knowing that it had to come to an end. "Fortunately, the helicopter ride out of the Canyon helped smooth that over just a little."
Dr. McCarville said she is looking to add more trips to the schedule for Upper Iowa University students, faculty and alumni, fostering a culture of lifelong learning within the UIU community. Upcoming destinations may include the Rio Grande River and Big Bend National Park, Black Hills, S.D., Yellowstone National Park, and the upper Mississippi River. For more information on these trips, contact Dr. McCarville at 563-425-5233 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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