Teacher’s spirit, love of geology lives on with new trail
The fashion and spirit of the late Fruita Monument High School geology teacher Mike Williams lives on thanks to the soon-to-be-completed Mike’s Geology Trail.
For the past seven years, his widow, Felicie Williams, has sought approval from the Bureau of Land Management and the city of Fruita to erect nearly two dozen interpretive signs on Opal Hill and in nearby Devils Canyon in McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area that detail the area’s geological sights and history.
Although the process to finish the trail took longer than she expected, Williams said she is pleased that the signs will be posted in time for school to start this fall when the trail can be used for geological lessons for all ages.
Her husband died of a heart attack in May 2007 while leading a class field trip in a remote part of Arches National Park, Williams said.
His love of teaching and geology, mixed with his penchant for Hawaiian-print shirts and his straw pith helmet, inspired the idea for Mike’s Geology Trail and the cartoon of Mike that appears on signs, Williams said.
Bruce Manchee and his graphic design students at Western Colorado Community College, who include former students of Williams’, helped design the signs, along with input from School District 51 staff, the John McConnell Math & Science Center and members of the Grand Junction Geological Society. Felicie Williams also is a geologist.
The idea to establish Mike’s Geology Trail on existing trails near Fruita was because of his tie to the community, and Williams is excited that her husband’s memorial trail, with its educational component, will be near the Fruita Paleo Area, Dinosaur Journey Museum, Grand Valley Zoological Quest and the future new home of the John McConnell Math & Science Center.
“It will be a very useful addition to this zone of cool science museums and trails,” Williams said.
As of last week, volunteers had just a few signs left to install, giving Felicie confidence the trail will be completed soon.
The signs will contain everything from simple concepts to more complicated, thought-provoking ones, depending on the age level and geologic interest.
“We hope teachers use it,” Williams said.
Both Opal Hill and Devils Canyon can be accessed off Colorado Highway 340 outside Fruita and near the west entrance to Colorado National Monument. The signs are almost evenly split between Opal Hill and the D1, D3 and D4 trails in Devils Canyon between the main parking lot and the Black Ridge Canyons Wilderness Area boundary.