Sierras met with smiles as Saddleback students head out

Julia McCloskey/Lariat

Julia McCloskey/Lariat

In a three-day expedition to the Northwestern region of the Sierra Mountains, Saddleback students are invited to participate in learning, identifying and understanding the origins of various minerals and geographic structures that lie in the California, as led by the geology department’s chair, Instructor Jim Repka.

After students pay the meager $50 dollar enrollment fee, which covers both food and transportation, an informational brief is held the week before students depart, providing an itinerary for the weekend outing. The itinerary, while outlining the Friday-Saturday-Sunday activities, also lists items for the enrollees to bring. This list includes standard camping equipment such as backpacks, self and personal-care products, hiking boots, bug spray, layered clothes, sunscreen and a journal for note taking. Other items, such as tents, sleeping bags or water are requested, but not required for students to bring and can be supplied by the department upon request.

In the trip towards the Sierra mountains, stops such as a roadside view of Mount McKinley mountain range and a walk around the bone-dry Fossil Falls provides a much-needed stretch for all.

After a grueling six hour drive in a van up to the mountainous Inyo National Park, the warm Friday afternoon sunset welcomes students to the quiet campground alongside a nearby stream and crisp pine forests. That evening is spent deploying most of the camp materials, with dinner prepared by the time the sun sets. After dinner, s’mores and the warm aura of a campfire awaits.

Julia McCloskey/Lariat

Julia McCloskey/Lariat

Saturday morning, only the sounds of scrambled eggs on a propane grill and the howling air are present. At 8 a.m. sharp, students and instructors head towards Owen’s Valley, with a 30-mile drive and a two-mile hike to reach the lake summit. As a result of the roughly 9,500 foot elevation of the valley, students are strongly suggested to pace themselves. Lunch is eaten alongside the shore of the lake, and the return time is 2 p.m. to head back to camp.

A two-hour rest and relax time is offered until the departure of 4 p.m., where after an hour drive, the group reaches their second destination, an obsidian caldera known as the Obsidian Dome. The group arrives back at camp around 6 p.m., where meals such as chicken fajitas served with fresh cut veggies and meat are prepared

Sunday, the day begins with students having to pack up their tents and baggage, serve and eat breakfast and leave the campgrounds spotless all before 8 a.m., at which the group departs toward Mammoth Mountain, and eventually Devil’s Postpile. There is no easy way to describe Devil’s Postpile, other than an anomaly; a freak of nature. Massive 120-foot near-perfect hexagonal pillars are hidden under the ground as only the top 20 feet are exposed to the elements. Much of the landscape has been carved by the previous Ice Age’s glaciers, making the top of Devil’s Postpile a smooth surface, perfect for visitors to glimpse down at this freakishly beautiful landscape.

Lunch is met with smiles, as students and instructors alike are glad to be heading home, despite being met with the now seven hour drive back home due to the Sunday afternoon Greater Los Angeles traffic.

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