Aerial Geology Teacher Giveaway!

Carrying my book up my home mountain. Lone Peak in Big Sky, MT appears in Aerial Geology on page 200.

A long-time reader recently bought three copies of my book Aerial Geology: A High Altitude Tour of North America’s Spectacular Volcanoes, Canyons, Glaciers, Lakes, Craters and Peaks with instructions to donate them to three teachers/ educators/ classrooms/ libraries. “I hope your book sparks some exploratory desires in future travelers,” he said.

Aerial Geology is a coffee-table style book that takes a bird’s eye view of 100 geologic features all over North America through NASA satellite photos, aerial photos from airplanes and my own shots and explains their geology on a grand scale. 

The book features 100 geological wonders including this winter aerial shot of Lone Peak by Ryan Turner.

The book is written for a general audience and while kids might gloss over some of the geologic terms, they really seem to connect with the aerial images and the big picture explanations of how the Earth changes over very long time scales. I once presented my book to a classroom of kindergarteners and they knew all about satellites and loved the concept of looking down on the Earth from above. With 100 sites all over North America, there’s sure to be somewhere they’ve been, somewhere they want to go, and somewhere they’ve never heard of that ignites their curiosity.

Each entry offers aerial or satellite photos of a geological feature and explains the natural history of the site.

The first three teachers/ educators/ librarians to email me at will get a signed copy for their students! If you love this idea and want to pay it forward, please send me an email. The Paypal link to order signed copies is below. Thanks again to Kenneth for the inspiration! Cheers, M

Aerial Geology

One hardcover copy of Aerial Geology, signed by the author Mary Caperton Morton aka the Blonde Coyote. Price includes shipping.


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Living in Geologic Time: Backpacking through the past, present, and future of fire on the John Muir Trail

I’ve been writing a lot for Eos magazine and last year, I started a new feature column called Living in Geologic Time, “a series of personal accounts that highlight the past, present, and future of famous landmarks on geologic timescales.

The latest feature—Traversing the High Sierra on the People’s Paths—was inspired by my 27 day backpacking trip on the John Muir Trail in August:

Mile for mile, the John Muir Trail is one of the most scenic hikes on Earth. The footpath—never actually hiked by John Muir—starts in Ahwahnee (Yosemite Valley) and follows a series of lush meadows, granite lake basins, and high alpine mountain passes for over 200 miles along the spine of the Sierra Nevada to the top of Tumanguya (Mount Whitney), the highest peak in the lower 48 states.

Construction of the John Muir Trail began in 1915, the year after the conservationist’s death. But Indigenous people had already been traveling throughout the Sierra for thousands of years on a network of trails known as Nüümü Poyo, or People’s Paths. Long before the National Park Service began blasting out trails with dynamite, the Paiute and other tribes etched them out of the wilderness with bare feet and kept them open by setting fires.

Go to to read the rest of the JMT story. I’m delighted that the Living in Geologic Time series was named part of “The Best of Eos in 2020”! Links to my other Living in Geologic Time columns on places like the Grand Canyon, the Cascade Volcanoes and Arches National Park can be found here. Stay tuned for more in 2021!

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New Feature Column in Eos: Climbing the Occasionally Cataclysmic Cascades

On the summit of Mount Saint Helens with “The Breach” and Mount Rainier in the background.

I’ve been writing a lot for Eos magazine and last fall, I talked my editors into starting a new feature column called Living in Geologic Time, “a series of personal accounts that highlight the past, present, and future of famous landmarks on geologic timescales.

The first installment, on the past, present and future of the Grand Canyon: Will Earth’s Grandest Canyon Keep Getting Grander? was published in November. The story was based on my experience on a 20-day rafting trip on the Colorado that I took in September and October, as well as discussions with USGS geologists about the future of the Grand Canyon.

The second installment—Climbing the Occasionally Cataclysmic Cascades—is out today:

So far, I’ve stood on top of about half of the major high points of the Cascades, and I intend to keep climbing. This spring I’m aiming to ski Mount Shasta! After all, there’s no telling how long the Cascade volcanoes will be gracious hosts. “The eight volcanoes that are considered to be the highest threat have all erupted in the [past] 7,000 years, and we would expect them all to erupt again within that kind of time frame,” says Cascades Volcano Observatory researcher Seth Moran.

The author stands on South Sister (3,158 meters), the tallest and youngest of the Three Sisters volcanoes in central Oregon. From the summit, Middle Sister, North Sister, and Mount Washington appear in a line to the north, with Mount Jefferson and Mount Hood also visible on clear days. 

Stay tuned for the next installment in April! Any guesses where it might be? Any requests for future columns?

Miss EARTH magazine? Me too! RIP. I’ve been writing for Eos since EARTH shuttered last winter. Here are link to some of my recent Eos stories on the Fluid Pressure Changes Grease Cascadia’s Slow Aseismic Earthquakes and Tracking the Grand Canyon’s Mysterious Springs. You can also search for Mary Caperton Morton at to see all my stories from 2019 to the present. Thanks for reading!

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Adventure Rigs Should Go On Adventures!

Ultimate Adventure Rig? Or Lawn Ornament?

For the past three years I’ve been traveling spring, summer and fall in a 1990 Toyota camper truck named Jerry Odyssey Americano. This whole time, with a few weekend camping trip exceptions, my beloved Teardrop trailer “The Rattler” has been hanging out in a storage unit in Bozeman, Montana.

I’m happy to tell you, the Teardrop is free of the storage unit and once again outside, where it belongs, basking in sunshine and starlight. But it’s currently more of a lawn ornament than an adventure rig and that just doesn’t sit right with me.

I moved almost everything out of the trailer and gave it a very thorough cleaning. I left the vintage National Park postcards across the front. On the left is the charge controller for the roof top solar panel. See the link below for more info on that system.

I’ve always said I’ll never sell the Teadrop and part of me wants to keep it in the yard just so I can keep falling in love with it every time I look at it. But adventure rigs should go on adventures and if I’m being completely honest with myself, I just really don’t want to tow anymore. I much prefer the Toyota, which can go much deeper into the landscape than the Rattler.

It’s been a long, emotional road getting to this point. After I bought the Teardrop for my 30th birthday I lived and worked in it for three years and saw a lot of North America while getting to sleep in my own bed every night. I towed the Rattler all the way to Alaska and back with a Subaru Impreza and all over the mountain west with a Land Rover Discovery and then a Honda Element. And beyond. In fact, the Rattler has been to over 30 states. It’s actually a dream to tow, as far as towing goes. I just like to explore rough forest roads too much.

The craftsman’s stamp on one of the handmade drawers. The table against the far wall folds up and down. Lots of storage room under the bed. Parquet wood laminate flooring.

As much as I love having it as a lawn ornament, it’s a rolling work of Art, and it’s most beautiful in motion, in the rearview of somebody with dreams to see more of the World. The time has come to hand the Rattler off to somebody else.

The kitchen lives under the bed and slides out the back. It has one propane burner (a green gas canister screws into the left hand cabinet), a few feet of counter space, storage and LED lights. On the right is a rock climbing crash pad that I used as a couch.

The Rattler is a one of kind, homemade Teardrop trailer made by a master craftsman from his own design and specifications. It is used but loved. I’ve made a series of upgrades and repairs to it over the years, the nuts and bolts of which I’m happy to discuss. It just recently journeyed 1,000 miles from Montana to California and is road worthy. You’ll need a new deep cycle battery for the solar power system, a new memory foam mattress and a car with at least a 1,000 pound towing capacity (It weighs well under that probably 600-700 pounds empty but I haven’t weighed it since I put the solar panel on or the upgraded springs).

The Rattler is 5 feet wide and 13 feet long. With the top open you have 69 inches of standing room, with it closed 58 inches. The bed is 75 inches long and 55 inches wide. I lived in it very comfortably with two large dogs. I have shared it with another person and it’s doable but cozy for two.

The roof popped open. I’m just over 5 feet tall and it’s perfect for me. Much over 5′ 8″ and you’ll be ducking. You can see the screen door rolled up to the right of the door here too.

I’ve fielded a lot of emails over the years from people interested in the Rattler. Here’s your chance! Who wants it? Make me an offer! It’s not free… it has been appraised in the low five digits… but I want it to go to the right person, not necessarily the highest bidder.

If you’re interested, send me an email at and tell me what the Rattler is worth to you and how you plan to use it. I’ve added a bunch of hot links here to posts with background on the Rattler and our story. Please do some research and soul searching before you email me. I’m not in a rush. I’m not selling it first come, first served. This is a rolling work of art that deserves to go to the best possible home!

Of course, Home is where you park it! Kicking it on the Lost Coast of California.
Home sweet home on the edge of the Salmon Glacier near the border of British Columbia and Alaska

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Win A Copy of Aerial Geology!

My fabulous publisher is giving away a copy of Aerial Geology today! To enter, go here:

With its stunning photos, accessible geology and widespread reach all over North America, Aerial Geology makes a great gift for everybody on your Christmas list from kids to grandparents to geologists! You can pick up a copy from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, your local independent bookseller. As of yesterday, I am currently sold out of copies and won’t be fulfilling orders for signed books until the New Year! Happy Holidays!

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Aerial Geology: The Wave!

Wave 1-Panorama

In a landscape littered with bizarre sandstone formations, the Wave on the border between Utah and Arizona stands out as downright psychedelic. Here colorful petrified sand dunes have been sculpted into undulating waves, photographs of which are so coveted that the park service has imposed a unique permit lottery system to keep the delicate site from being overrun with snap-happy tourists.

My book Aerial Geology:A High Altitude Tour of North America’s Spectacular Volcanoes, Canyons, Glaciers, Lakes, Craters and Peaks highlights 100 geologic features across Canada, the U.S. and Mexico. As of this spring, I had visited 89 out of 100 but after my lucky lotto ball came up on Memorial Day weekend, I’ve now been to 90!

Shadow wave

The Wave is located within the Coyote Buttes area of Pariah Canyon– Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness, near the bottom of the Grand Staircase that descends through canyon country from Brian Head down to the Grand Canyon. Hidden in the backcountry several miles from the nearest rough dirt road, the Wave was virtually unknown until the 1990’s when it was featured in German travel brochures of the American Southwest and in the 1996 German nature documentary, Fascination Natur. Popularity among Europeans soared and the site soon became one of the most sought-after photos for foreign travelers visiting the U.S.

Money shot

To visit the Wave, you must win the lottery. Only 20 people per day are allowed to visit the site. Ten permits are awarded through an online lottery, months ahead of time and ten permits are given out the day prior at the Grand Staircase-Escalante Visitor Center in Kanab, Utah. During the summer, over a hundred people a day vie for these ten permits.

Wave 2

We happened through Kanab, Utah on Memorial Day weekend and played the Wave permit lottery two days in a row. The first day about 150 people were vying for the 10 permits. The first lottery ball pulled was for a group of 6 and the second went to a group of 4 and it was all over in two minutes. On day two, we arrived at 8:58 local time, just in time to submit a permit application. When Ranger Ron read off everybody’s lottery ball number, he called “Morton number 47” and I knew I was going to the Wave… 47 is one of my luckiest numbers! Sure enough, the third ball he pulled was #47!


That night we camped down House Rock Road and set off before dawn the next morning for the Wave. The park service provides a photo map of the route to the formation; the trail is not marked and much of it flows over slickrock that doesn’t save footprints. I was surprised by the highly difficult routefinding! Dan and I are very experienced off-trail desert hikers and even we got a little sidetracked on our way to the Wave. In the photo below, we are almost there; the Wave is tucked behind the cones of rock in the middle ground.

Hike out

We were the first to arrive and had the place to ourselves for about an hour. Then we left to scramble up the rocks behind the Wave to overlook the formation. As I say in my book: Geology is best appreciated from above! The Wave appears just above the tips of my boots in the photo below.

Overlook feet

From Aerial Geology: During the Jurassic period, when dinosaurs ruled the Earth, this part of Arizona was buried under a massive sand dune field. Periodic changes in the direction of the prevailing winds led to cross bedding of the layers of sand as the dunes migrated across the landscape. Over time, these layers were lithified into bright orange Navajo sandstone more than 1,200 feet thick.


The thin ridges and ripples preserved at the Wave are evidence of millions of years of shifting wind patterns. Technically called wind ripple laminae, these lines are part of what make the Wave so photogenic. From the air, these lines highlight the now frozen movement of these ancient dunes. The nearby checkerboard patterns are created by freeze and thaw weathering of the petrified dunes, resulting in crosshatching of the sandstone. Dinosaur footprints have also been identified in the rocks near the Wave, relics from ancient travels across the dunes.

Ice cream


As amazing as the Wave itself is, the surrounding sandstone wonderland of North Coyote Buttes calls me back. Within a 1-mile radius of the Wave we found a field of Moki Marbles: tiny iron balls that form when iron-rich sandstone is leeched by groundwater over geologic time. The iron balls are very heavy and tend to roll downhill and collect in pockets.



Moki 2

…As well as several sandy coves that have been carved out of the rock by swirling wind and flying grit….

Sand cove 1Sand cove

…Arches and Windows…



….And a slickrock slot canyon!


May the Southwest wonders never cease!

Cottonwood rdHeading north from the Wave via Cottonwood Road through Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

To See More of the World, including the Wave and 99 other geologic formations, you can order a signed copy of Aerial Geology direct from me for $34.99 plus $5.00 shipping via Paypal:


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Never Say Never Bridger


Living and skiing in Big Sky, Montana, we often see a bumper sticker that says “Never Bridger”, a cheeky dig at Bridger Bowl ski area north of Bozeman. Bridger is less than a two-hour drive from Big Sky, but it’s amazing how many Big Sky skiers have stubbornly never skied Bridger. In fairness, it’s pretty hard to drive away from Lone Peak and many of us don’t leave our mountain town bubble for weeks or months at a time in the winter. When you have the “Biggest Skiing in America” in your backyard, topped off with world-class backcountry skiing in Beehive Basin, why go anywhere else?

As much as I love our mountain home, I make a point to leave Big Sky at least a few times a winter to explore other ski mountains. Earlier this winter we skied Lost Trail Powder Mountain south of Missoula and a few weeks ago we made the trek up to Whitefish Mountain Resort, outside of Glacier National Park. This winter, I really wanted to make it to Bridger because our friend and former roommate Al joined the ski patrol squad there this winter and he was offering to show us the classics, including the Bridger Ridge: a 2.5 mile long ridgeline hike across the top of the Bridger Mountain Range. I also wanted to put an end to my partner Dan’s 8-year “Never Bridger” streak.

Yesterday after a warmup lap on the “Fingers”, we followed Al onto the Bridger lift and then strapped our skis to our backpacks and bootpacked straight up about 500 feet onto the ridge. From there we hiked north along the windy, corniced ridge to an area called the Apron, where we clicked into our skis and dropped into Hidden Gully, a steep, narrow and snowy chute on the east side of the ridge. And then we did it again. Never Say Never Bridger Mission Accomplished!






We have about three weeks left of skiing in Big Sky before the lifts stop spinning April 22. Then we’ll be taking our skis to Iceland! In the meantime, Aerial Geology is back in stock! Signed copies direct from me are $30 plus $5 shipping. Read more about my book here.



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Aerial Geology is (almost) Sold Out!

Aerial Geology in stock at the Country Bookshelf on Main Street in Bozeman, MT

Well this is an interesting development! I tried to order more Aerial Geology books from the warehouse and I was informed they are sold out! The next printing will be ready by the end of February. You can still buy the book from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and your local independent booksellers, but orders for signed books direct from me will now be filled at the end of February/ early March. Thanks again for all your support!

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My First Official Book Signing!

Since Aerial Geology was published in October, I’ve personally signed and mailed about 300 copies. The book is also a best seller on Amazon and the first edition is almost sold out! On Sunday, I’ll be hosting my very first official book signing at the Country Bookshelf, an independent bookseller on Main Street in Bozeman, Montana! My talk starts at 2pm, following by a Q&A and a book signing. If anybody is in the area, I hope to see you there! Please help spread the word! Thanks everybody!


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Win A Copy of Aerial Geology!

My fabulous publisher is giving away a copy of Aerial Geology today! To enter, visit the Timber Press Facebook page and leave a comment about your favorite geologic site on their post.

The holidays just keep on giving this year: Aerial Geology has been featured in the New York Times Book Review, Smithsonian Magazine and Colorado Public Radio as one of the best travel books of the year!

With its stunning photos, accessible geology and widespread reach all over North America, Aerial Geology makes a great gift for everybody on your Christmas list from kids to grandparents to geologists! You can pick up a copy from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, your local independent bookseller or get a signed copy direct from me for $27 plus $5 shipping per book:


Thanks everybody and Happy Holidays! M

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