Editor’s Note: In the summer of 2013, Teresa Avila spent six weeks as both a geology student and a science journalist at the University of Missouri’s Branson Field Laboratory, a geology field camp in Wyoming. Avila is pursuing a double major at MU — in Geology and in Science and Agricultural Journalism. She successfully completed the geology field class. She also reported and wrote the following piece of literary journalism as part of a journalism independent study class.
By Teresa Avila
A rusty red wall of rock sits at a tilted angle in central Wyoming. The highway next to it, U.S. 287, is a relatively quiet one. Especially so at 8:00 in the morning, when the wind rattling past green-silver sagebrush is still chilly enough for a jacket.
The low whooshing sound of an approaching vehicle echoes in the distance. Soon enough, a caravan of six white vans rushes into view. Leading the caravan is a navy blue truck, driven by a woman in her thirties with a tomboyish figure and a cloud of dark, curly hair above a tanned face. In the back of the truck, Miriam Barquero-Molina has a bicycle for when she makes her way back to the University of Missouri’s Branson Field Laboratory, about 22 miles and two hours away.
The truck and vans speed past the red rock, only to pull into a small gravel parking lot a few minutes later. From the vehicles clamber 43 undergraduate geology students, seven teaching assistants, one geology professor and one Australian shepherd/border collie mix.
The only thing in sight besides the fenced-in lot, the highway and a faded blue Porta Potty is a landscape of geology. Massive layers of rock rise up from the earth, their reds, pinks, oranges and tans dominating the landscape’s color palette far more than the ragged vegetation.
The students keep up a low chatter of conversation as they slather on sunscreen and adjust packs. Yesterday, the first official day of field camp, was all basic work done in the camp’s back yard. This will be the first real day in the field.
With a signal from Miriam, the crowd begins hiking toward the red tilted rock cut they passed earlier. Miriam’s dog — Kilah — prances through the students with her pink tongue hanging out at an angle.
They stop in front of the red rock and wait for the stragglers to catch up, observing the way the layers shoot upwards going from right to left.