The mountains and valleys, plateaus, mesas, and canyons of the western United States are alive with giants. Not the giants of legend, but very real geological phenomena, the products of the gigantic forces that have generated and shaped the earth’s crust; former and ongoing magmatism, crustal deformation and metamorphism, weathering, erosion, and sedimentation. Every rock and fossil, every fold or rupture exposed in outcrop, and every feature etched into the landscape has a story to tell, if only it can be coaxed out into the open. Luckily, many of these stories have already been described by a group of natural historians known as geologists; unfortunately, much of this information lies buried in inaccessible, out-of-print “dusty tomes” and/or it is difficult to understand unless you too are a geologist. That is precisely were my website comes to the rescue; my goal is to inform. In these readily accessible internet pages, I have collected those disparate, complicated geological stories in one place, provided digestible descriptions of their details as much as is possible, and offered the tools necessary to enhance your own geological skills and arm you with the knowledge necessary to make your own interpretations of the wonders you will see. The primary intent of my website is to summarize in a single location as much of the available information on the geology of some of my favorite places as I have been able to uncover and interpret, and to provide accurate descriptions of how to reach many of the classical geological settings and features found there, either by car or by foot. But there is another purpose; as an avid outdoor enthusiast and practicing geologist, some of my fondest memories are of the camping, hiking, backpacking, and research experiences that I have had in the wilds of the western U.S. I felt that the profoundly beautiful scenery witnessed and the knowledge gleaned from my readings and my travels needed an outlet and the undergraduate, liberal arts college professor in me demanded a generalist’s approach; and thus, were these internet pages conceived and written. The intended audience is a general public interested in outdoor recreational activities and inquisitive about natural history, as well as students and teachers of earth science and ecology; and it should also serve as a useful reference for geologists and other natural science professionals.
Acknowledgements I am indebted to many people who have helped this project become reality. I would especially like to thank the love of my life, my wife Sharon, for her inspiration, support, and patience; and my wonderful and talented boys, Isaac and Owen, who are my primary motivation as a teacher. I’d also like to thank my father for his unbridled enthusiasm for doing field science; my mother for setting me on this course of discovery long ago with all of those amazing family trips to the national parks and monuments of the western U.S. and Canada; and the many enthusiastic students that I have taught and mentored over the years.