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Geology Trips Rock! (Pun Intended)

Hannah shares a couple moments from her midterm break trip.

Hannah shares a couple moments from her midterm break trip.

After 5th week at Carleton, we get one day off the following Monday of 6th week. This lovely time is known as “midterm break” (pretty self-explanatory hence the name). During that time, Carls do a variety of activities, and this year I went on a Geology department road trip to South Dakota!

I have been on previous geo day trips went I took an intro geology class last term, but this time the trip was five days long and more in-depth than anything I have done before (for reference, this trip was optional as opposed to the previous trips). We left Saturday morning and came back Wednesday night, driving in 12-person vans across the South Dakota plains. We spent one day checking out Badlands National Park, and the rest of the time we spent in the Black Hills, looking at various outcrops.

Rock climbing!
Climbing an outcrop!

The group consisted of about thirty or so students, 3 professors, and one staff member. Anyone who has taken at least one geology class at Carleton has the ability to go on the midterm break trips, so we had a fun mix of intro students, plate tectonic students (the class I am currently in), and geomorphology students.

A view from one of our explorations!

We stayed at a summer camp location that rented out its facilities to us, and I stayed in a tent with two other people. Unfortunately, I got a bit too chilly to keep sleeping in the tent, so I ended up staying in the bunkhouse for the last night.

a fossil
A shell fossil I found inside a rock

Each day we would get up at about 7 am and get ready for the day before heading to breakfast at 7:30. Once we finished breakfast, we would pack our sandwich lunches and head out to the field. Dinner consisted of home-cooked meals from our professors, which were fantastic. We drove to about 3-5 locations each day, looking at different time periods of rocks, and different formations. Luckily there were lots of shale and metamorphosed shale like slate, phyllite, and schist (my favorite rock types!).

studying in the field
Liza and I talk about the field drawing we made

I spent a lot of time with the people who were in my van, and it was amazing to get to know people who I will probably take classes with in the future, and build stronger friendships with the people I had met before. By the end of the trip, we were filled with inside jokes, goofy photos, and plans to hang out after the trip.

mud balls
Some of the armored mud balls we found in riverbeds!

On the trip, I was able to see a lot of rock formations I have never seen before. We spent a lot of time drawing in our field notebooks and making observations. On top of learning within our groups, we would get an hour here and there to explore and make our own observations and just check things out. We even saw bison and various other wildlife!

mud cracks
Crazy cool mud cracks

Though I am not sure that I want to pursue geology as a profession or as a major, it was really interesting to see what being “in the field” could consist of. We looked at how topographic and geological maps are made by hand, and what different formations can tell you about what happened millions or even billions of years ago.

Overall I had a great time on the trip! I would definitely recommend taking a geo class (and even going on a trip) during your time at Carleton.

Bonus Photos:

My classmates and I slide down a small mountain of sedimentary rock
smiling in South Dakota
We pose for a silly photo (a minute after taking this I dropped my phone down 8 feet of rock)
The incredible badlands!


Hannah is a sophomore interested in Geology, Political Science and Classics. Still unsure what she will major in, she likes to spend her time learning as much as she can about whatever she can. Born and raised in Minnesota, she considers herself somewhat of an expert on MN winters. At Carleton, she fills her schedule with writing for the Admissions blog, working as a CCCE Communications Fellow, taking flute lessons, and increasing voter engagement on campus. When Hannah isn’t in class, she can be found tossing a frisbee, thrifting, running for fun, looking at rocks, reading, walking and skiing in the Arb, and hanging out with her besties. Meet the other bloggers!