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Field Camp 1975
Steve Mellon's thoughts on the Teton Wilderness trip and his succeeding career

Steve Mellon - Field Camp 1975I was on the death march. We mapped the Wapati Formation, as I remember it. Actually, I would not refer to it as a "death march." I rather enjoyed it and have done a similar hike many times since. I thought we had a nice tight team, got some mapping done, and everyone made it back safe and sound! It is a very pleasurable memory and something I will never forget!

Tell Barry I said Hi! Ask him about tequila behind the rocks! He thought I was crazy for packing it in and the empty out--oh yeah we told everyone it was powdered tequila!

The fella with the boy scout back pack in Jim’s description went with me after the 10-day trip to work at Johns Manville, the Stillwater company, at Brass Monkey Camp. He left Brass Monkey before I did. I stayed until I had to go back to make the fall classes. Another field camp member, Randy Scott, worked on a sampling crew with me. And Bob Fullerton made four field campers working at Brass Monkey.

I remember all the events Jim describes, and I enjoyed it all. The horse thing was on the trail, and Randy Wood, my tent partner, and I could tell they were following us. They came right at us, and we jumped 40 feet when they broke onto the trail. I was more in the middle to front of the line as I remember it.

Randy and I in one photo are clowning around on a log we had to walk over a creek (big, cold and fast-moving). Yeah we were wet, and my tent partner twisted his ankle on the first day, but we stayed up with the pack. Jim must have been without mule skin?? I remember the fish fry and I remember mapping and looking from a ridge during lunch (PB&J) down on a thick huckleberry patch -- and then the berries moved! A grizzly bear! We ended lunch, moved down a scree slope and back to camp early!

Randy Wood was also the main guy who ran down scree slopes on White Mountain [on the Heart Mountain project] at the end of each day. He never fell, and we called it scree skiing. See who remembers that deal! I remember crossing the Yellowstone; one guy slipped and almost lost his pack. I remember that two folks were staged downstream to grab any packs or folks. I remember sponge baths in creeks and the river that were very cold; we splashed, lathered up and jumped back in. Rough duty, but we had fun too!

Does anyone remember asking Barry what the large hunks of meat were on the sharpened pine limbs? After we were in more than a day, we saw 5-6 of them along our trail. Barry says -- Bear traps to keep bears in here because they put the distempered bears from Yellowstone here. Course he was testing our metal!

What a team we were after that trip. In 1975 we worked hard, played hard, and had the experience of a lifetime! I think it prepared me for life as a field geologist, that and my opportunity to work at Stillwater. One opportunity lead to another etc. Not sure you know the Stillwater story... Duff offered everyone an opportunity to go to Stillwater after field camp. Only three accepted. Everyone wanted to get back to finish out the summer before it was over. Some of us were in love with the mountains, however, and saw an opportunity beyond comparison -- a chance to do geology, walk in the mountains every day, get paid, and fed all you could eat. I think I lasted the longest and really did not want to leave. I could tell you many stories that happened while I was at Brass Monkey Camp! Pink snow, stranded OVN by chopper, folks almost cut by chopper blades for dumb moves, down drafts and see you in AM, walking blasting caps off the skid of the chopper onto shear rock ledge, tying the 3rd cap on, blasting outcrop, fishing in isolated ponds, off days-camp parties, etc. I got to do a lot of neat projects -- adit mapping (Fog Pond), adit sampling, winky drilling and core logging, outcrop mapping and sample blasting.

This experience led to my next opportunity with Phelps Dodge as an exploration geologist. My curriculum at PSU and field camp/Stillwater experience impressed PD, so I advanced ahead of folks with MS degrees. I impressed them with my interpretation and classification of saprolite in the Piedmont. I could actually see through sap and classify rock type etc. which had a 90% hit ratio when petro reports came back. Duff and Charlie Thornton had lot to do with this! That then got me into grad school [South Dakota School of Mines] even though I was a "marginal" student.

In grad school I had a paid mapping thesis, with Union Carbide, on a skarn. I had lots of money for geochem, petro, maps, printing, photos, etc. Union Carbide wanted a deposit, and I wanted a thesis.

Then that lead to AMAX and exploration work. I worked for them at 3 mines for another 6 years. Then the industry took a downturn, and I switched to environmental work, building tailings and construction dams.  Then in 1994/5 I permitted the only stand-alone in-situ copper mine operational in both the US and the world, to this point, for BHP (Magma Copper). We permitted what was said not to be do-able! I think Barry's determination and rock mechanics courses had something to do with that.

Without Field Camp, Barry's toughening course, and Duff's opportunity for me to work at Stillwater, I would definitely have been behind the eight ball. Duff and Barry opened doors that would have been closed for me!

PS.. the rigorous curriculum at PSU paid off many times over... make folks take the calculus, physics, and chem load that we had to take in the 1970's – it really helped me in grad school and in industry!