Geology Lessons along the Virginia Creeper Trail

Galax Middle School students braved a very cold day in order to be enlightened about the geology of the Blue Ridge. Dr. Arthur Merschat with the USGS joined us at Green Cove station to begin the hike along the Virginia Creeper trail towards Creek Junction. He came equipped with rock hammers, topographic maps of the area, and colored pencils. The rest of us were bundled up and excited to learn about the geology and how to create a geologic map.

Stopping at outcrops along the way, we would determine the rock type found there, observe the changes in the rocks from previous stops and then decide the color we wanted to use for that rock type. Brown was selected for sedimentary conglomerates; yellow for sedimentary sandstone; purple for sedimentary rock showing foliation; and finally green for igneous rock, a mafic basalt with "pillows". The end result was a beautifully colored map along the section of trail we covered.

We found a sunny location to warm up and have lunch. Thermoses of tomato soup and hot chocolate filled our bellies and kept us going for a little longer. In the shady locations, the stream alongside the trail was iced over and icicles hung from the rock outcrops. It was a beautiful, crisp winter day that ended too soon. We will need to return to finish the rest of the trail and our colorful map. Thank you, Arthur, for braving the cold and sharing the wonderful activity.