Joshua Tree, CA

Mar 4th, 2017 to Mar 11th, 2017
Cost: $905.00 Partner Organization(s): Joshua Tree National Park Service Service Type: Environmental conservation Number of Participants: 10

Trip Logistics & Participant Requirements:

We will gather in Cville on Friday night (March 3) for some pre-departure bonding at either Sydney or Lillian’s apartment. Everyone will sleep over so we can get an early start Saturday morning to drive to Dulles.  From there we will fly to Los Angeles, rent a 12 person van and drive approximately 2.5 hours to Joshua Tree, stopping to pick up our camping gear and eat dinner (Chipotle!? In-N-Out?!). The van will become your second home throughout the trip as we will use it to get around the park, which is massive. At the end of the trip, we will drive back to LA, fly to DC and be back safe in home sweet Cville Saturday night (March 11).

While in Joshua Tree, we will be staying at Indian Cove Campground inside the park. We will have a super authentic, nitty-gritty camping experience, complete with tents, bonfires, stargazing, sunrise meditations, and yummy camping food. Once we arrive at the campsite, we will be preparing most of our meals there, except for our super special farewell dinner on the Friday before we leave. Be prepared to show off the cooking skills you’ve acquired in college because we will be rotating who prepares dinner for the group!

Participants should be willing to work hard and get dirty. And we mean seriously dirty (yay!) because we likely won’t be showering until Friday at the Ranger Station. We will be doing some intense hiking/scrambling, so a love of the outdoors is a must. We are looking for participants with positive attitudes and open minds who will actively participate in all activities and are excited to jump into a week of adventures.


Service Activities:

Our service will consist of volunteering with the National Parks Service in Joshua Tree, doing various kinds of environmental conservation work. We are there to be of assistance to the park rangers, so we will help with whatever they need at the time. In the past, service has involved eradicating invasive species, restoring natural ecosystems, and clearing trails. The U.S. National Parks are notoriously understaffed and struggle to keep up with all the work required to preserve and protect the huge areas of the country that are reserved as park land. We aim to do quality work that will help Joshua Tree remain beautiful and pristine for years to come. On the whole, we see service in Joshua Tree as an ideal opportunity for participants to develop a greater appreciation for how people interact with the natural world, and we hope we can all come to appreciate such a beautiful and radically different environment than here in our little corner of Virginia.


Regional Background:

The deserts of southern California have a long and interesting history.  Humans have occupied the area encompassed by Joshua Tree National Park for at least 5,000 years. The first group known to inhabit the area was the Pinto Culture, who were followed by other hunter-gatherer societies. More recently, starting in the early 1800s, the land was used by cattlemen to drive their cows (at the time it was very grassy). Later,  gold prospectors took to the area, and Homesteaders began developing the region by the start of the 1900s. Each group of inhabitants has left its mark on Joshua Tree, creating a landscape rich in cultural history as well as natural beauty. Joshua Tree was upgraded to national park status in 1994, but had been protected land since 1936.  Throughout the week we hope we can all come to a greater understanding and appreciation for the native culture and diverse history of the region.


Community Background:

The area of Joshua Tree National Park is home to three distinct ecosystems; the Colorado Desert, the Mojave Desert, and a strip of the Little San Bernadino Mountains. Each contains extremely different plant and animal life variety.  The Joshua Trees, for which the park is named, grow mostly in the western part of the park . The park is also notable for its incredible geological features such as beautiful canyons, plateaus, and rock formations. Because of the dark SoCal nights and the limited light pollution in the area, Joshua Tree is well known for its star gazing opportunities and visitors can see the Milky Way on most nights.


Recreational Activities:

When not volunteering or making food, we will have plenty of time for other fun activities! Every day will begin with a sunrise meditation and end with a bonfire, s’mores, stargazing, and games/bonding (we have lots of ideas for this particular time frame, so get excited!!). Get ready to enjoy the majesty of nature while thinking deep thoughts. We have a few hours of free time every day after volunteering as well as two full days off to explore and choose our own activities. We will be doing lots of hiking and scrambling in the park. There are also many options in play that include horseback riding, visiting Palm Springs or San Bernadino National Forest, a cactus garden tour, an outdoor sculpture museum, and a wildflower walk (we will be visiting during peak flower season!). We will get input from everyone and decide as a group what seems most fun.


About the Site Leaders:

Sydney Rubin is a fourth year studying Environmental Science and Environmental Thought and Practice. She’s obsessively passionate about all things environmental and fell in love with the environmental service on her ASB trip last year to Biscayne. Be prepared to hear her tell you more than you want to know about sustainable living and how corrupt environmental issues are. And one time at space camp she fell in love with the stars and is looking forward to talking with everyone under the Milky Way every night. She’s also probably too excited to have an excuse to not shower for a week.

Lillian Gaertner is a third year Psychology major pursuing a dual Bachelors/Masters in Teaching degree from the Curry School.  She loves ice cream, babies, hiking (this will come in handy), and slow, leisurely breakfasts (this sadly will not).  Lillian first got involved with ASB as a participant on last year’s Biscayne trip, and loved the opportunity to get out of her comfort zone in more ways than one.  This year she is looking forward to experiencing a true desert for the first time, lots of bonding around the campfire, and getting way too competitive over card games.


Site Leader Testimonials:

The most impactful moment during my ASB trip was looking at the massive pile of garbage bags on the beach my group had collected in just a few hours. We collected nearly 700 pounds of trash in just two days, mostly small pieces of plastic such as bottle caps. That’s 700 pounds of trash that won’t end up in the stomachs of sea turtles. The trash had floated all over the world through ocean currents and ended up on the beach in front of us. Picking it up allowed me to tangibly grasp the adverse impact of overconsumption, which I had learned and studied in the classroom.          — Sydney




I am so grateful ASB gave me the refreshing opportunity to pour my energy outward – into a new place and new people, instead of focusing on all the mid-semester stresses that try to take over.  Though I came home exhausted from travel and a jam-packed week, I still felt rejuvenated and refreshed from the experience.  Working in environmental conservation also allows the incredible opportunity to watch your own sweat and hours of hard work transform a landscape before your eyes.  The change is truly tangible and the National Parks Service was so appreciative of our help year after year. — Lillian