Anza-Borrego Desert, CA

Mar 3rd, 2017 to Mar 11th, 2017
Cost: $900.00 Partner Organization(s): Anza-Borrego Desert State Park Service Type: Environmental conservation Number of Participants: 8


Trip Logistics and Participant Requirements

Our wild western adventure will begin on Friday, March 3rd as we leave Charlottesville to spend the evening at a participant’s house in Northern Virginia. On Saturday, we’ll get up early to fly from Dulles to San Diego, CA, where we will pick up a rental van. The trip kicks off with a our road trip to Anza-Borrego, which will include a lot of great music getting absolutely ruined by our heinous singing. After stopping for groceries we will arrive to our campsite in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, where we will be volunteering for the week. Besides the awesome service, our week will be as full of campfires, bonding, and good times as it is lacking in showers. While the environmental conservation work will be the central part of our trip, we will have afternoons and evenings free to explore the park (second biggest state park in the U.S.!) and the nearby town of Borrego Springs. Get ready to experience some of California’s prettiest and funkiest landscapes and get closer with nine strangers than you ever thought comfortable. On the following Saturday, March 11th, we will return to the airport, fly back to Dulles, and drive back to Cville for the long-awaited shower. Also, we will be in the park during peak wildflower season. The park is renowned for its wildflower population, so get ready to explore and photograph some especially beautiful desert landscape.

Trip participants should be ready to embrace the great outdoors and a week without showers (yes, we’ve already mentioned it three times). Make sure to send any last minute faxes to your friends before we arrive, because we’ll be spending the week without service or, for the most part, technology. We will spend the whole week camping and working outdoors, so an enthusiastic and flexible attitude will go a long way. Since we’ll be in the desert, we will experience fairly warm days (mid 60s-70s F) and cooler nights (mid 40s F). We are both very jazzed about ASB and the new trip to Anza-Borrego, so with a positive attitude and ability to go with the flow we know we’ll get along great.

Service Activities

We will be working with the rangers of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park on a variety of projects. We may not know the exact details of our service work until we arrive, but possibilities include trail maintenance and invasive species removal. Our site contact has also mentioned the possibility of working in their cultural resources or paleontology programs, which would be a unique opportunity. Either way, our work will be critical to maintaining the beauty and health of the desert while minimizing human impact. The majority of our projects will involve manual labor, so participants should be ready to work hard against the scenic backdrop of the desert.

Regional Background

Located in Borrego Springs, CA, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is California’s largest state park. The park opened in the 1930s, but its landscape was broken up by many private landholdings. Since 1967, the nonprofit Anza-Borrego Foundation has fundraised on behalf of the park to augment the park’s preservation of the desert landscape. These acquisitions have also helped further the park’s paleontological research.

Given the expanse of the park (615,000 acres), it is home to a large variety of plant and animal species, many of which are endangered or rare to the region. One prominent species of note is the desert bighorn sheep, few of which remain in California. The park also contains the only palm species native to the United States, the California Fan Palm. These palms survived the Ice Age (!) and predate the park’s human history.

Community Background

We hope to cover the human history of the Colorado Desert area during our trip. Petroglyphs evidence the residence of humans in the area as early as 6,000 BP. The semi-permanent Cahuilla and Kumeyaay peoples lived in the area as early 16th century, when Spanish conquest missions encountered them in San Diego County. Many Indians entered the Spanish Franciscan missions in the late 18th century. However, the populations were deeply affected by Mexico’s acquisition of the region and their subsequent passage of the Act of Secularization in 1832. This act confiscated mission land with the goal of returning it to the native tribes. Unfortunately, large landowners purchased the majority of it, which left tribes like the Cahuilla and Kumeyaay further impoverished and removed from their way of life. The arrival of white settlers during California Gold Rush compounded the displacement of the Indians. Later in the 19th century some indian peoples began to enter the greater Californian workforce, only to face discrimination and disproportionately low wages. The story of these native tribes in California is a story of the constant denial of rights. We’ll visit some of the sites of the ancient native peoples and hope to appreciate the area in a new light.

Recreational Activities

    As Don Quixote once said, “the desert is our oyster.” Afternoons will be spent making the most of our time and exploring the park. While you can’t judge a book by its cover, I really hope you can judge a trail by its name, because these hikes sound awesome. Palm Oases, Split Mountain, Coyote Valley, Indian Head Mountain, Elephant Tree–I personally can’t wait for this new caliber of trail names (you gotta admit, Cville’s leave a little something to be desired. Looking at you, Old Rag).

Alongside hiking, we’re also hoping to rent mountain bikes for an afternoon and tear it up in the most respectful way possible. There’s also a valley full of rusty twisted metal sculptures out there somewhere, so we gotta see what that’s about. There will also be plenty of downtime around the campsite. I (Zach) have a little backpacker guitar that I can bring if we want to get musical and have ourselves a little hootenanny. The rest of our time will be filled with campfire stories, recreational eating, stargazing, and drawing straws to see who’ll be fending off the coyotes for the night.

About the Site Leaders

Jane (jow9tn) is a fourth-year from Williamsburg, VA, majoring in History and Global Development Studies and moonlighting (minoring) in Spanish. Before you ask, she dreams of being a NPS ranger but knows she’ll probably end up at Trader Joe’s. She enjoys cooking, looking at pictures of food, running so she can eat more food, and, above all, eating, so it’s safe to say that trip participants will not go hungry. When she’s not thinking about food, she’s busy telling dad jokes and finding the hidden gems of Charlottesville. While she loves U.Va. dearly, she believes in the importance of getting out of the U.Va. bubble. In fact, she’s studying abroad in Mendoza, Argentina right now, but she promises not to talk about it too much on the spring break trip. She first discovered ASB when she was a very lost, very awkward first year and since then has been a participant on Jupiter, FL and Zion, UT trips. She led the Moab, UT trip last year and she only hit one stationary object with the 15 passenger van. She thinks ASB is the best of all, but around Grounds she’s also involved in her sorority, UDems, Sustainability, “stalking” her professors and can be found schlepping towels at North Grounds. Please don’t apply to the trip unless you’re cool with her sending you/your parents a postcard and you can appreciate a nice bucket hat.


Zach (zrs2wg) was born in Pacifica, California, but always felt like something was missing. After moving to Williamsburg, Virginia when he was six, he put on his first tri-corn hat and, for the first time, felt whole. A rising second year, he’s very much undecided but enjoys classes in Global Studies, Youth & Social Innovation, and Urban & Environmental Planning and fears the day when he’ll actually have to make a life decision. He enjoys running, biking, and swimming, though is far from committed enough to be anything close to an actual triathlete. In his spare time you can usually find him temporarily living his fantasy as a singer-songwriter, working on fixing up an old road bike he found, teaching himself to cook, or trying to explore Cville for the cool, vibrant town it is, though there’s a good chance he’ll actually just be at Trin, guiltily but contentedly eating an entire bowl of $5 spinach dip for dinner, again. Zach went on the Congaree, South Carolina trip last year and loved it, and when the opportunity presented itself to reunite with his ol’ neighbor, it felt just as right as that starchy three-pointed headpiece all those years ago. This summer Zach worked as an intern in the Office for Sustainability and as a trip leader for the COAR program, where he led incoming first years on backpacking trips in Shenandoah. Zach, however, is currently writing this from Detroit, where he arrived after abandoning responsibility and joining his buddies on a 12-hour odyssey of a road trip that was put together more or less on a whim. That should say a lot about his outlook on life and, glaringly, his need to reevaluate it.


My ASB trips have been some of the highlights of my year, every year, and it’s an organization with which you really feel proud to be involved. It’s given me the opportunity to connect with students from all over U.Va. and return feeling like I’ve gained a bunch of awesome new friends. In addition, I’ve learned a lot about the heart and soul of our national parks. While we should enjoy them, we should also appreciate the rangers and staff that strike the difficult balance between preservation and presentation. An environmental service trip allows you to not only appreciate them, but help them and learn from them firsthand. If you take the leap to apply to and join an ASB trip, your risk will pay off and you’ll learn a lot about yourself.