Geologic Mysteries and Poetic License Part 1

On April 10th 2018, 23 students from Ms. Elphic’s 5th grade class from Kinsey Inquiry and Discovery School made a visit to Red Mountain in the San Francisco Volcanic field north west of the San Francisco Peaks Passage of the Arizona Trail. It was an absolutely magical day of learning, hiking and bonding.


On our 4 mile round trip hike students had the chance to contemplate one of the great mysteries of Northern Arizona Geology. How did the anomaly of Red Mountain form? It is a cinder cone, and yet has many qualities not typical of cinder cones at all. It formed in a horseshoe shape rather than a perfect cone. The only one of its kind in the area. But even more mysterious is the mesmerizing, erosion created hoodoo formations that have been carved by water out of the more cylindrical side of the volcano. Cinder cones don’t erode like this as water can run right through cinders. And cinders certainly don’t fuse together and cool slowly enough to form beautiful plagioclase crystals of olivine, horn blend, and augite!


Geologists agree that trapped water likely played a part in the unusual way Red Mountain formed and the erosion of the hoodoos after the lava came to rest. But did it happen during the initial eruption? After? Does the unusual shape have anything to do with the red aggregate on the other side or is it just a coincidence? However it came to be, the results are stunning and awe inspiring.


Nestled in the amphitheatre at the end of the Red Mountain Trail, students used their 5 senses to come up with words to describe the scene around them. These words were then crafted into short poems which they recorded in their journals and were invited to share with classmates if they wished.


After lunch students played team building games to cement the partnerships and cooperation they had been working all year to build. On the return hike we played ‘Peggy Sue” a game in which hikers try to clip a clothes peg onto a fellow hiker’s clothing, hair or body without being detected. Every so often, team leaders will call “Peggy Sue!” and anyone in possession of the peg must do the Chicken Dance or Hokey Pokey. The students strategize, bond, and do a whole lot of laughing along the way.


Geologic mystery, endemic plants, crystal formations, games, writing, feeling, and sensing with our whole selves.This was as good as outings get.