The Mojave Desert can be a hostile environment to live in, however, life continues to flourish despite extreme temperatures. Environment for the Americas organized a 2019 Memorial Day camping trip to bring together interns from Mosaics in Science and the Latino Heritage Internship Program who will be working in national parks in the southwest. Ricardo Escobar, a former Mosaics in Science intern and now a National Park Service Interpretive Park Ranger, was our guide. We set up at Hole-In-The-Wall campground to prepare for our weekend of hiking. 

We went to the desert to camp, but for some this was also a chance to learn new skills. Some had never been camping and this was a great moment to learn how to set up tents. We each pulled out a small bag from the back of the van and began to assemble what we would be sleeping in for the next few nights. We learned the importance of correctly setting up a tent on the last night when the wind was blowing fiercely. Equally important as setting up camp is setting up a means of cooking! We elected to use a propane range instead of campfire cooking. However, we did gather around a campfire to end the first night. 

The sun rose around 6am and we ate breakfast in order to prepare the day. First on our list, a moderate hike to Tetounia Peak. On the way to the peak we began to see traces of a vibrant desert. This section of the Mojave National Preserve has the densest concentration of Joshua trees – more so than Joshua Tree National Park. The desert floor was also scattered with various cactus and succulents. We would also make our way to Kelso Depot for lunch and later Kelso Dunes that proved to be a difficult hike in the heat. 

Sunday morning was the same, but instead we drove to Amboy Crater National Natural Landmark. This public land is managed by the Bureau of Land Management and offered many opportunities to study the landscape. We also got the chance to hike the rim of this inactive volcano which last erupted 10,000 years ago.

All this hiking gave us a chance to engage in physical activity while simultaneously learning about the environment around us. Different flora and fauna captivated our group the entire trip, although I never came across a desert tortoise! We did however come across a small snake at the California State University Desert Research Center in Zzyzx, California. I don’t remember the species name, but I do know it was not venomous!

During our trip, it was vital to pay attention to the weather. High temperatures and too much physical activity can be dangerous. Implementing a water bottle check prior to leaving for hikes would be prudent. Having a full canteen of water can help everyone better enjoy the day better by improving hydration and stamina.

The camping trip provided a chance for interns to meet and interact in a safe, relaxed setting. I believe outings like this improve intern comradery and allows them to connect with their colleagues even if they are in different parks around the country with varying projects. This can be beneficial as they move through their internship, sharing adventures and information throughout different parks and public lands. 

I enjoyed the relaxed mood of the group that allowed for questions and discussion about history, geology and wildlife. This experience can also help produce material for our intern blog posts. The overall experience of the Memorial Day camping trip was great and I hope this experience is available to future interns. A huge thanks to Environment For The Americas, Latino Outdoors, the National Park Service and Petrified National Forest.

Interns included Sebastian Álvarez, Alberto Herrera, Alejandra Muñoz; Jesús Quinn, Kevin García, Steven Nañez, and Verónica M Barreto Rosa.


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