As a undergraduate, my first extended field trip was to the Colorado Plateau. The trip was at the end of my freshman year, we left TMLAC in early May, and spent the next two weeks all over the Plateau. As you might imagine this was a watershed moment in my professional life, although my geoscience experience at the time was limited to one introductory course, but by halfway through the trip (camping in the snow on the north rim of the Grand Canyon), I knew I was going to be a geologist. I've returned to the Colorado Plateau a few more times, including a family trip (my graduate present from my parents), and my honeymoon (belated, but incredible).
In graduate school I either TA'd or hung out on a Death Valley/Owens Valley/White Mountains spring field trip many times. Depending on the course and professor this trip would change specifics, but at its base always involved a week in the desert. The timing of this trip is really perfect. It was usually smack dab between two academic quarters, a time when you were definitely ready for a break. More importantly, the weather this time of year is amazing. If you are lucky, your trip will coincide with the brief but colorful bursts of wildflowers. The high elevations are still cool (cold even, you can find snow fields once you get over a few thousand feet), and the low elevations are not yet absurdly hot. Most of the campsites cool off enough at night to allow for comfortable sleeping, but once the sun rises you can get away with shorts and Tevas. Plus, you beat most of the crowds. Win-win-win.
The desert is one of the things I've missed most since moving out here. In truth the region around ESRU is beautiful and scenic, especially this time of year, don't get me wrong. But it is not the same. Thoughts of these trips have inspired me to post some of my random pictures from the deserts, a sort of virtual field trip.
To fully put myself into the desert, I suppose I could wake up early, make coffee, and fry a bagel in butter (seriously, try this, fry the cut side of the bagel, then add cheese and guacamole, and make into a sandwich.....most amazing breakfast ever.)
So the pics
The end of Monarch Canyon in the Funeral Mountains, looking west into Death Valley.
Racetrack playa, Death Valley National Park
Mono Craters, Owens Valley California
Wildflower preserve east of Arvin, CA, California Golden Poppies in the foreground
Picture taken by moonlight (long exposure) in Arches National Park. Thanks to my brother for suggesting the technique.
Standard issue picture of Delicate Arch, Arches National Park
View looking into Death Valley
Ripples in sand dunes in Death Valley
The Boundary Canyon Detachment Fault, Funeral Mountains, Death Valley National Park. View is looking north, fault is at a low angle (it has actually been overturned) right at the break in color.