Which cities are most similar to Prescott AZ

Excursion Southwest USA 2013

In the 2012/13 winter semester, the students prepared intensively for the excursion in a seminar in the form of presentations and by compiling a collection of materials. One or two experts were responsible for each day's topics and locations on site. Since the group was driving a total of six rental vehicles, those responsible for the day also had to take over the navigation with maps.

The excursion, organized as a round trip, began in Phoenix, the fastest growing city in the USA. The urban area, which is characterized by never-ending single-family housing estates, has meanwhile reached a south-north extension of over 50 kilometers. The water supply of the semi-desert city is guaranteed by a canal to the Colorado River and by fossil groundwater. The natural vegetation in the Sonoran Desert in the south of Phoenix is ​​characterized by numerous cacti. The most prominent representative is the saguaro cactus (candelabra cactus), to which a national park in the west and east of Tucson is dedicated. The various forms of adaptation of the cacti to the drought could be examined in detail there.

The journey to the Sonora Desert and the Red Rock Country led from Sedona to the Colorado Plateau, which is an average of 2,000 meters high, via a spectacular serpentine drive at the head of the Oak Creek Canyon. The vegetation on the plateau is characterized by the alternation of grasslands and juniper / pine forests. In the Flagstaff area, the focus was on volcanism. In addition to the almost 4,000 meter high stratovolcano of Mount San Francisco, a few hundred slag volcanoes and extensive lava layers dominate the landscape.

On the way to New Mexico, the best-preserved meteorite crater in the world was first visited. The formation of this impact crater corresponds to that of the Steinheim basin and the Nördlinger Ries in southwest Germany. In the Painted Dessert, which appears in the evening light, analogies can also be made to the local “colorful marls” in Keuper. The most important tectonic structure in New Mexico is a rift valley similar to the Upper Rhine Rift, in the southern part of which the Rio Grande flows. Roughly in the middle of this US state with the dimensions of Germany but a population of just under 3 million is the largest city of Albuquerque with a million inhabitants, which is growing almost as fast as Phoenix, but with the will to be more sustainable. The correspondingly ambitious urban development project “Mesa del Sol” in the south of the city is primarily characterized by short distances between living, working and leisure time, but has not yet really gained momentum due to the real estate crisis in the USA. The uplift of the Sandia Mountains in the west of the city, connected with the rift valley, gave the excursion group a very special experience. The ride on the cable car up the mountain ridge showed the students the change in landscape from the desert steppe with cacti to the snow-covered coniferous forest zone in just 15 minutes.

During a tour through the Jemez Mountains north of Albuquerque, volcanism was once again the focus. Several layers of ash and lava on top of each other suggested powerful eruptions. In the further course of the day the more than 10 kilometers wide crater (caldera) of an exploded magma chamber was passed. As in various locations before, a settlement of the indigenous people was visited in this volcanic area. The Pueblo Indians lived as sedentary farmers in solid stone or mud houses, and - as a specialty in Frijoles Canyon - in cave dwellings in the soft volcanic tuff. Part of the excursion group dared the steep climb over ladders to a rock niche with a kiva, a ritual meeting room of the Pueblo Indians.

In addition to volcanism, the surface forms in dry areas formed a focus on the Colorado Plateau. The most impressive ensemble of table mountains (mesas), witness mountains (buttes) and rock needles (pinnacles) was presented to the excursion group in Monument Valley. Only half an hour's drive south, the Goosenecks provided a textbook example for the formation of river bends and the prelude to dealing with the formation of canyons. Not far from the town of Page on Lake Powell, the group crossed the gorge of the Antelope Canyon, at the narrowest points of which hardly two people can pass each other. The filigree layers of sandstone, shimmering in different shades of red, made possible by the rays of the sun made a particularly aesthetic experience of the landscape possible. On the same day, the canyon of all canyons, the Grand Canyon, followed as a contrast. Its thickness can best be measured from various vantage points on the southern edge. The sunset at Hopi Point marked the atmospheric end to this canyon day.

As a contrast to the natural wonder of the Grand Canyon, the following stay in the artificial adventure world of Las Vegas presented itself. Without the Hoover Dam, which dams the Colorado River to Lake Mead and thus ensures the water supply of the desert city, the development would be from Las Vegas unthinkable. In addition to the participant observation, an exploration of the theme hotels and a tourist survey were on the agenda. Just like Phoenix, Las Vegas is also a destination for retirees who settle in Sun Cities specially tailored for this clientele.

For the greatest challenge of the excursion, an early departure from Las Ve-gas at five o'clock in the morning was necessary. A four-hour drive had to be covered before the descent into Havasu Canyon, a side canyon of the Grand Canyon. The cars were left behind 150 km from the next settlement and with the daypack the descent began over a steep serpentine path to an Indian village on the canyon floor, which can only be reached on foot, by mules or by helicopter. After a 13-kilometer walk through the canyon with textbook-like examples of all forms of weathering and along hundreds of meters high vertical rock walls, a simple lodge was moved into the Indian village for the overnight stay. After a short break, there was another 7 kilometers to the spectacular Havasu and Mooney waterfalls. The lime-saturated karst water has covered the high slopes with mighty travertine curtains.

Via Prescott, the first capital of Arizona with its historic western-style town center and its Victorian town houses, the journey led back to Phoenix in the Sonora Desert.

In conclusion, it can be stated that in the physical geography, many of the basic structures and processes learned from examples from southwest Germany could be transferred to the excursion locations. The many encounters with locals who were particularly open to a group of Germans and prospective teachers should remain a special memory.

The three-part project large-scale excursion "Southwest of the USA" will come to an end after preparation and implementation in the 2013 summer semester with comprehensive documentation in the form of a written report on the results, a CD-ROM with didactic images and film documentation.

You can find the film about the excursion here.