🏜️ Death Valley - Week One! 🏜️

LA to Owens Valley

This week I started my final field work trip with the University of Plymouth, Dr Matthew Watkinson and Dr Mark Anderson, travelling to the sunny state of California! We are looking at the tectonics of the East California Shear Zone and are staying in the Los Angeles Basin for a few nights before moving up into the Owens Valley towards Lone Pine.

Landing in LA we got right into the shuttle bus and were whisked straight off to the hotel which had huge rooms - sounds like classic America to me! Straight after arriving we took a cab over to Santa Monica and saw the pier, unfortunately it was too late and everything was closed but the lights were still on and it was amazing finally getting out of England and seeing a new place!


In the morning we travelled for about 45 minutes south to Signal Hill in order to look at the active oil derricks and discuss the underlying geology and why there was so much oil there, interesting stuff! After this short visit, we drove another 20mins to Crescent Bay along Laguna Beach to look at the actual exposed geology which was incredible. We had lunch on the beach in 28 degree geat which was heaven coming from Plymouth and our standard springtime 10 degrees! After this we drove to Dana point to look at some amazing faults before heading off to Doheny State Beach where we camped for the night. Sunset was amazing on the beach and we were able to swim in the lovely, albeit cold, Pacific Ocean (definitely one off the bucket list!).

The next day we drove into the Western Transverse Ranges, some amazing mountains with brilliant wildlife (we even found a rattlesnake!) and also the presence of natural oil seeps. It was amazing to see what so much of the worlds’ money is tied up in, just slowly bubbling out of the ground, it really makes you think! That night we stayed at a local motel and I had my first experience in a Walmart (huge!) before we knew it we were off to Owens Valley, which is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. Walking out of the motel room seeing Mt Witney and the Sierra Nevada mountains towering over you really put you in awe of the place.


Some of the smaller mountains were higher than Ben Nevis which puts the UK in perspective to the size of this place! The Owens Valley was real cowboy country, with vast scrublands and lots of livestock. We saw loads of different features in this area but one of the highlights for me was walking up a volcanic cinder cone and being able to bring back an Olivine Basalt!

During our final day in Owens valley we drove up into the mountains towards the Long Valley Caldera, a super volcano which could have catastrophic climatic impacts if it was to erupt. But you wouldn’t have thought it! Going from 30 degrees in the valley up into 4 degrees with snow drifts bigger than what we had had earlier in Plymouth was a real experience, and a cold one at that. Seeing natural hot springs that were too hot to go in was both a blessing and a curse!


I will sign off for now and catch up with you all when I get out of Death Valley where there is both no bacterial life and no phone signal (85 metres below sea level!).

Until then, I wish you all the best!