On August 10, 2013, fifteen students and three faculty members from Tennessee Tech University departed Nashville, TN for an eight-day trip to Seattle, WA. The group was part of a Spring 2013 course offered by the Biology and Earth Science Departments titled Geobiology of Northwestern Washington (BIOL 4991). The group visited several sites known for their spectacular geologic phenomena as well as unique flora and fauna. To view the trip route in Google Earth, click here.
Days 1-2: Mount Rainier (Mount Freemont and Sunrise Point)
After landing in Seattle, the group drove south to Fife and spent two days exploring Mount Rainier. Biology students departed early (5am!) to hike near Mount Freemont in search of the elusive white-tailed ptarmigan. The massive stratovolcano was obscured by clouds for a short time; however, the second day offered spectacular views and hiking around Sunrise Point.Day 3: Mount St. Helens
On Day 3, the group headed to the north side of Mount St. Helens. Evidence of the massive eruption in 1980 was profound as students hiked the route to Spirit Lake. In the distance, steam could be see coming from glacial bits in the active dome area. Ash deposits at the far end of the hike were kicked up by a herd of wild elk.
Day 4: Olympic National Park (Hoh and Quinault Rainforests and Coast)
Leaving the Cascade volcanoes behind, the group spent two days exploring the Olympic peninsula. Day 4 began with hiking in the Hoh Rainforest, where the biology students identified plants and trees native to the West Coast.Along the coast, the group stopped for lunch at a series of overturned sedimentary beds. Students identified sandstones and mudstones, part of a series of ancient turbidite (= deepwater) deposits and waded into cold-water tidal pools to observe starfish.
Day 5: Olympic National Park (Olympic Mountains) and Ferry Crossing
The group spent a night in Port Angeles and headed onward to the hike in the Olympic Mountains on Day 5. Temperatures were low and students bundled up to enjoy snow-filled vistas of the high peaks.From the park, the group descended to Port Townsend to catch a late afternoon ferry. Although the ride was short (< 30 minutes), it proved to be one of the most exciting wildlife watching opportunities of the trip. Days 6-7: Mount Baker and the Northern Cascades National Park
The last two days of the field course were spent in the northern Cascade mountains. At Mount Baker, students hiked over metamorphic and igneous terranes. Biology students were excited to get a glimpse of mountain goats in the distance as well as an American dipper.Day 8: Return Trip
After seven days of volcanoes, whales, lots of birds, and dinners at “The Poodle Dog”, TTU folks flew home to Nashville, TN. Special thanks to the Departments of Biology and Earth Science for sponsoring this memorable, informative course.
Are you interested in going on a similar trip? The TTU Biology and Earth Science Departments are teaming up again for a Costa Rica Expedition, May 2014. If interested, attend an informational meeting on Nov 21, 11-12 in Pennebaker 318 or contact Dr. Dan Combs at email@example.com.