Death Valley, CAMar 3rd, 2018 to Mar 10th, 2018
Trip Logistics and Participant Requirements:
On Friday evening (March 2nd), we will gather at Katie’s apartment in Charlottesville for some pre-trip
dinner and bonding. Afterwards, we will make the two-hour drive to stay at her family’s house in
Northern Virginia, so that we can get an early start to an airport in DC on Saturday. We will arrive in Las
Vegas on Saturday afternoon, where we will rent a 12-passenger van and make the two-hour drive to
Death Valley, stopping to pick up groceries, camping gear, and lunch on the way. Upon arrival, we will
link up with our NPS contact and set up camp. While in Death Valley, we will be pitching our tents for
the week at Breakfast Canyon campground. At the end of the trip, we will drive back to Las Vegas early
in the morning on Saturday (March 10), fly to Nova, and be back in Cville later that night.
Get ready for an authentic desert camping experience! Our week will be filled with yummy s’mores,
scenic van rides, warm campfires, gorgeous sunrises, tiring hikes, starry nights, and plenty of
opportunities to make new friends. We will cook almost all of our meals on a camp stove and take turns
in pairs cooking dinner, giving everyone the opportunity to show off their master-chef skills (no worries
though, everything tastes good while camping!). Your site leads will be whipping up breakfast daily and
we will be packing lunches to take with us on hikes and service activities.
We are looking for participants who are willing to work hard and get dirty…and stay dirty because we
won’t be showering until the end of our trip! Participants should also be ready to become one with nature since we will be tackling some serious hikes and exploring the park all week. Most of all, we are looking for adaptable participants who are ready to maintain a positive attitude, keep an open mind, and dive into a week full of new faces, challenges, and adventures!
We will be volunteering with the National Park Service by helping with whatever they may need. Service
activities will possibly consist of removing invasive plants, such as palm seedlings, and erasing tracks
from vehicles that drove illegally into the desert. The National Park Service manages over 84 million
acres, preserving nature, looking out for visitor safety, protecting wildlife, and more. Historically, they are understaffed and struggle to get to everything they would like. This is where volunteers, like ASB groups, come in. Volunteers can make a significant impact on a ranger’s work, shortening a task that could take weeks to just a few days. Thus, we aim to do quality work for the Park Service in Death Valley by being attentive and tackling whatever tasks they may give us.
Nestled in the Great Basin of eastern California, Death Valley is an otherworldly geographical and
geological experience in the heart of the great American west. It is the product of over a billion years of
shifting rocks and molten earth. The park has rippling mountains, vast sandy plains and colorful valleys.
Additionally, it boasts some of the hottest temperatures in the world, one of the driest climates and also it
is home to one of the lowest points in the contiguous US at Badwater Basin. While perhaps not as iconic
or as much a part of popular culture as some other US National Parks, it offers an incredibly unique
ecosystem and psychedelic desert scenery with a rich history as well. Raw scenes like Artists Drive and
Mosaic Canyon are great places to appreciate some of what earth has to offer.
The ecosystem of Death Valley is truly incredible, so it’s important every effort is made to help conserve
it! Despite the harsh climate during the summer, many species have been able to adapt and flourish. For
instance, many small watering holes are scattered throughout and one even houses its own species of fish, the Death Valley Pupfish that can be found in no other body of water in the world. A huge variety of plant life can be found in the park. In the spring, when we will be there, wildflowers typically bloom and coat some of the typically barren areas as well!
Death Valley has been inhabited since the last Ice Age by various people groups. One such group is the
Timbisha Shoshone, a Native American tribe that called and continues to call Death Valley their home.
They lived off the land and have many spiritual sites that still stand. Death valley didn’t get it’s present
name, however, until the Gold Rush of 1849, when the first Western settlers arrived. Around this time, 13
pioneers searching for gold met their demise in the hot and dry climate. Thus, the creative pioneers
appropriately called it Death Valley. The area has never thoroughly been settled but its awe-inspiring
landscape and ecosystem has drawn scientists and explorers from all parts of the world. Another
controversial but important part of the history of Death Valley is that the area was used during World War Two as an internment camp for Japanese Americans. There is currently a population from the Timbisha Shoshone tribe that inhabits sites near and within the park. There is also a population of about 525 who work for the park in some capacity.
When we’re not helping out the park service, we’ll be bonding and exploring all the wonders Death
Valley has to offer. Every night, we’ll be sitting around the campfire, making some s’mores, gazing at the
stars, and getting to know one another. We’ll have two full-days off from volunteering, in addition to a
few hours after our service activities to explore. Possible recreational activities include hikes, such as
Natural Bridge, Badwater Salt Flat, and Wildrose Peak, stopping at lookouts, such as the Devil’s Golf
Course and Dante’s View, and taking scenic drives. We can even take a trip to Devil’s Hole, the only
place in the world where one can find the elusive Death Valley pupfish! We are open to suggestions and
will get group input on where we should spend our free time.
About the Site Leaders:
Katie Vinson is a third-year pursuing a double-major in Computer Science and German. She’s involved in
the Cavalier Daily, Madison House, and the CS department as a TA. Her hobbies include: eating breakfast foods, pretending she knows how to hack, and curating Spotify playlists for her friends even if they don’t ask (get pumped for the trip playlist). Katie first became involved with ASB when she went on
an environmental conservation trip to Joshua Tree, CA, last year, and appreciated the opportunity to take a break from a busy semester and connect with other students and the park service while measuring some J-Trees. She is very excited to hike and explore Death Valley with new friends!
Paul Armstrong is a fourth-year pursuing a major in biology and a minor in global sustainability. He’s
involved in Madison House, the comedy group Hot Kids Comedy and Housing and Residence Life as an
RA. His hobbies include music, reading, exploring outdoors and also breakfast foods (maybe the reason
he and Katie are a great team). Paul started up with ASB last spring break when he went to the Grand
Canyon on an environmental conservation trip. He loved how everyone bonded throughout the week and also loved the unique and refreshing opportunity to be completely in nature for all of spring break. Paul and Katie met on the UVA Men’s Rowing Team and both had a great experience with ASB, so they
decided to team up. He is really excited to help a diverse group of UVA students explore the foreign land
of Death Valley.