ECOLOGY AND CULTURE OF THE SOUTHWEST DESERT

 

 

The Expedition includes:

  • Nature Walks
  • Astronomy Observatory Visit
  • Bird Watching
  • International Biosphere Reserve Visit
  • Museum Visits
  • Politics in context
  • Hiking
  • Camping
  • Canoe Tour
  • Community Service & Cooking Lessons

* The following is a sample itinerary.

* We can make adjustments to this itinerary based on your specific interests, timeline, and budget.

DAY 1. OWNING YOUR EXPERIENCE

Students will be challenged to take charge of their experience over the next 9 days, encouraged to engage in active learning and personal growth, and to have open minds to make the most of this incredible opportunity.

Greetings from The Desert. After landing you will meet with your Chill Expeditions guides, and head to the Saguaro National Park, to take a short walk and begin to learn about the Sonoran Desert. Saguaro National Park, named for the saguaro cactus that is native to the environment, is the only national park in the US that is split in two, with half on the east side of Tucson and half on the west. Today your guide will help you to compare each side of the desert. Tonight, we will enjoy the first nightly reflection circle.

Important Themes:

  • Your guides will introduce the Story Approach and the teaching themes that will cohesively link together the incredible wealth of information you will learn on the trip.
  • Your group will be introduced to the Expedition Mentality, our nuanced strategy for creating the strongest possible group culture.
  • Our first nightly circle and bandana ceremony will reinforce the Expedition Mentality and set the tone for the best possible experiential learning trip.

Overnight: Tucson

DAY 2. LEARNING TO SEE AND FEEL THE DESERT

Understanding your environment serves as a foundation for the rest of the trip, providing the group with necessary information and experience to build upon.

After a traditional southwestern breakfast, you will explore the flora and fauna at the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum, with the help of world-class outdoors/museum guide Jesús García. Together, you will discover the biodiversity of this unique area as you explore the desert geology and see local wildlife. Your day will include a review of the history and culture of the Sonoran Desert, and an explanation of the biodiversity and geological formation of the area, you will also learn how to scavenge for useful plants, make flour out of mesquite seeds, taste cactus, create rope from agave plants, and much more. This evening, you will enjoy the nightly circle under the stars.

Important Themes:

  • Geology of the Sonoran Desert
  • Biodiversity, wildlife
  • Evolution and adaptation of organisms

Overnight: Tucson

DAY 3. MISSION GARDENS AND KITT PEAK NATIONAL OBSERVATORY

Today we discover the agricultural history and cutting edge scientific innovations of this area

Today you will visit Mission Garden, a re-creation of the 18th-century walled garden used by Spanish missionaries during their historic San Agustin Mission. There, you will learn about crops of the Sonoran desert and 4100-year-old agricultural techniques through hands-on service.

Later in the afternoon, you will visit Kitt Peak National Observatory, a mountain-top observation area, just shy of 7,000 feet in elevation. Kitt Peak operates three major nighttime telescopes and 22 optical telescopes and 2 radio telescopes. You will meet with one of the scientists to learn about the projects currently going on there, and as the sunsets. Kitt Peak occupies the top 300 feet of one of the most important mountains in the cultural heritage of the Tohono O’odham Nation.

Important Themes:

  • Community service, who benefits?
  • Agriculture, food crisis
  • Astronomy, physics, and observation

Overnight: Tucson

DAY 4. ORGAN PIPE CACTUS NATIONAL MONUMENT TO YUMA

Today we explore diversity of habitats and cultures in this unique ecosystem

Today you will drive through the desert to the Oregon Pipe Cactus National Monument, an international biosphere reserve. Here, you will be exposed to a living desert that thrives right on the border between Mexico and the United States, which results in a complex cultural community and economy. This is a well-traversed part of the border and there is a completely different human story here than the ones you may have heard. Along the way, you will learn of the Tohono O’odham Nation tribe and their fascinating history in the area.

In the afternoon, you will head to Tina’s Cuisine for a cooking lesson. Here, Tina Clark will teach you the art of making tamales. You will learn not only as a Chef, but also as an Archaeologist and Historian, as Tina will share her passion for heritage cuisine, regional dishes, water issues, and local agriculture.

Important Themes:

  • Evolution and adaptation of organisms in the desert
  • Culture and food
  • Environment shaping culture

Overnight: Yuma

DAY 5. BIRD WATCHING IN CIBOLA & EXPLORING THE COLORADO RIVER

Today’s adventure gives us a first hand understanding of water use and conservation issues

Today you will head first to Cibola Wildlife Refuge where you will do a birdwatching tour. Then take a guided canoe tour on the Colorado River. You will learn about the wetlands of Yuma, but more importantly about water issues in the desert and how Colorado River water is used for farming throughout the desert and supporting the life of 40 million people as it flows to Mexico, where it dries out before reaching the Sea of Cortez.

Important Themes:

  • Water cycles
  • Water issues and land use rights
  • Bird diversity and migration

Overnight: Yuma

DAY 6. BORDER PATROL- INS AGENTS

We delve into the migration crisis, the role of Border Patrol, and the future of our borders

Today, you will enjoy an amazing opportunity as you meet with an INS agent and learn about the reality of Border Patrol and the unique economy that it supports. The INS will engage you in a fascinating discussion about the methods people use to cross the border and cover their tracks, the high-tech equipment used by Border Patrol to guard the area, and most importantly, some of the factors driving illegal immigration from Mexico and Central America.

Important Themes:

  • Human crisis and migrations
  • Technology use in Border patrol
  • Border Politics: Global and Local

Overnight: Yuma

DAY 7. YUMA TO YUCCA VALLEY

Today we compare environments and build upon what we have learned so far

Today after breakfast, you will learn about the human history at the Center of the World, just before you head to the Glamis Dunes, where you will learn about its unique desert environment.

Later on today you will continue your journey to Joshua Tree National Park with a brief stop at Salvation Mountain. This 50 feet tall and 150 feet wide adobe clay mountain is both an eclectic and artistic display.

You will arrive at Joshua Tree National Park in the late afternoon, in time to set up camp, make dinner and observe the stars as you practice what you learned at Kitt Peak Observatory in one of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S.

Important Themes:

  • US National Park system
  • Preserving environments: protected and conservation areas
  • Ecology of Joshua Tree

Overnight: Camping at Joshua Tree

DAY 8 & 9. JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK

We explore the geologic wonders of Joshua Tree and the unique microclimates in the park

After breakfast, you will take a hike on one of the trails of Joshua Tree National Park. Along the way, you will appreciate the stark landscape and rugged rock formations of the park, where the Mojave and Sonoran Deserts meet. How are they different? And how does that affect the weather, landscape, and human experience in these two distinct ecosystems? These are some of the questions that will be answered during the hike.

In the afternoon, you will head to the Arch Tail to enjoy the sunset. Tonight, you will enjoy your night circle, reflecting next to a fire under the stars.

On day 9. In the morning, you will enjoy your last hike at the National Park, as you explore the 29 Palms Oasis. Here, you will see the Iconic Jumbo Rocks, the Skull rock, and learn about sources of water in the desert. After lunch, you will head to your lodge in 29 Palms, where you will enjoy a farewell dinner and the last bandana ceremony.

Important Themes:

  • Geologic formations and Impact on Flora and Fauna
  • Ancient and modern settlements in the Southwest
  • Putting it all together: what will you take back from your experience?

Overnight: Camping at Joshua Tree & 29 Palms

DAY 10. HOME WITH INSPIRATION!

Early in the morning, you will enjoy your last breakfast before you drive to Palm Springs for your flight home, filled with inspiration and memories to last a lifetime!

Why settle for less?

Crawford Hill (Chill)

Crawford Hill (Chill)

Co-owner, Chill Expeditions

Crawford Hill (Chill), CEO and Head Expedition Guide has been guiding wilderness expeditions since 1974. Chill’s goal in all his educational efforts was simply to give his students pause about why they do what they do.

Audrey Ziomek

Audrey Ziomek

Operations Manager at Chill Expeditions

Audrey believes that educational expeditions that expand perspectives and challenge students can be life-changing experiences.

MIKE BUDD

MIKE BUDD

EXPEDITION DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR at Chill Expeditions

As a husband, father, coach, and athlete, Mike is in perpetual motion. He will, however, pause for sushi, bacon, fried plantains, mint chocolate chip ice cream and a pint of Guinness.

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