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  • Sunset at Mojave Desert in Twentynine Palms, CA

The Desert Institute at Joshua Tree National Park presents Photographing Joshua Tree by Moonlight with Craig Fucile.

Seeing the desert illuminated by moonlight is an experience not to be missed.  It’s a chance to encounter a quiet world of deep shadows and pale highlights, perceived by the eye as a soft-edged, nearly black and white landscape, where a familiar scene in daytime can start to look mysterious. The sky, absent all but the brightest stars and planets, attains a steely darkness. Yet as our eyes adapt to the dim light, we can notice the subtle beauty of the desert under moonlight.  In this evening field class, you’ll learn useful photographic techniques such as camera placement, focusing, exposure, lens settings, and composing the photograph. Craig Fucile, photography instructor at University of California Riverside Extension, will guide and assist participants in making moonlight photographs at two locations in the Park, away from city lights. Participants should to bring a tripod and remote (or wireless) switch for their camera.  Don’t miss this opportunity to find new ways to focus on Joshua Tree National Park.

The Desert Institute at Joshua Tree National Park present Hike the Boundary Lands with Travis Puglisi.

Approximately 8 mile loop hike exploring the washes and canyons surrounding Nolina Peak along with the flora, fauna, and land management curiosities that exist within. Set largely on lands managed by the Mojave Desert Land Trust (MDLT), this route will expose participants to Joshua Tree woodland habitat, upper elevation oak and pinyon environments, and the rocky channels that connect the two. Within the elevation lows (3711’) and highs (4796’) a huge range of fauna can be encountered, including jackrabbit and coyote, golden eagles, great horned owl, mountain quail, mule deer and bighorn sheep. The flora will change rather dramatically as the elevation rises and descends. Several species of cacti, impressive Parry’s nolina, notable scrub oak, and pinyon pine displays will be encountered.

While much of the hike will feel remote, there will be regular reminders of how public lands and private lands interface over time, as illustrated by the residential starting point, the MDLT managed trail head, mid-zone that contains private inholdings within Joshua Tree National Park, and the hikes conclusion which moves through land currently managed by the Mojave Desert Land Trust. This hike will be a mostly cross-country hike on durable surfaces, except for portions where roads, both active and discontinued, will be utilized. This hike will be labeled as moderately strenuous and does include maneuvering around and over rocks. Participants will encounter opportunities for shaded rest throughout much of the hike.

The Desert Institute at Joshua Tree National Park presents Hiking in the Shadow of Quail Mountain with Travis Puglisi.

Standing higher than every other peak within Joshua Tree National Park, Quail Mountain has had a dramatic impact. Joshua Tree National Park’s highest peak, Quail Mountain (5,816’), is a feature that dominates much of the landscape in the Park’s western reaches. Connecting no less than four distinct zones of Joshua Tree National Park (Covington Flats, East Deception Canyon, Lost Horse Valley, and the Quail Wash corridor, the areas surrounding the peak also connect the present to the past by containing several observable signs of human inhabitation. Examples include the Lost Horse Ranger Station, formerly a private residence within the Park, and Johnny Lang Canyon.

Apart from the structural remains of history, participants will also encounter dumping left by park homesteaders which provide a window into their day to day and craft of the era, areas of thriving cryptobiotic soil crusts, and fascinating alcoves that serve as ideal zones for animal inhabitation (coyote and fox). The heart of the outing will bring hikers to the south end of Johnny Lang Canyon and then up to a ridgeline that provides commanding views of Juniper Flats, Lost Horse Valley to the East, and the topographical variance as the terrain descends to the south towards Desert Hot Springs. Both Mt. San Jacinto and Mt. San Gorgonio will dominate the Western Horizon. This hike will be mostly cross country, with occasional use made of roads, both existing and abandoned.

The Desert Institute at Joshua Tree national Park presents Summit Queen Mountain with Travis Puglisi.

This roughly 8.5 mile out and back hike brings participants into the rugged terrain surrounding Queen Mountain (5,677’), the second tallest peak in Joshua Tree National Park. Much like its taller sister, Quail Mountain, Queen ties together several distinct zones, each providing opportunities to discuss history (mining, homesteading, indigenous) and prominent geological features. From the dramatic vantage point of the peak we’ll get a birds eye view of the Wonderland of Rocks to the west, the landscape that helped carve 49 Palms Canyon and led to the formation of its oasis, as well as long views east towards the Colorado Desert where the Coxcomb Mountains greet us on the horizon at the parts furthest eastern boundary. A fascinating array of granite and gneiss are present as are abundant lithophyte colonies growing upon these rocks. A tremendous amount of land within view is designated as “Day Use” as Bighorn Sheep regularly travel this zone and utilize it as a sanctuary.

The Desert Institute at Joshua Tree National Park presents Contemporary Art of Joshua Tree with Bernard Leibov.

Joshua Tree and environs are well known for the burgeoning artist community that has been drawn here. The local contemporary art scene is vibrant and a healthy companion to the music community that has flourished in the area. Bernard Leibov, Director of BoxoPROJECTS, takes us though his highlights of the local cultural scene. After an introduction and orientation in the classroom, Bernard will take us on the road to visit several of the interesting art sites in the area including the Noah Purifoy Outdoor Museum, Andrea Zittel’s public sculptures at A-Z West, BoxoPROJECTS, Art Queen and more!

The Desert Institute at Joshua Tree National Park presents the Geology and History of Cottonwood Spring with Ted Reeves.

Stretch your legs and enjoy the spectacular scenery of the Cottonwood Mountains with Ted Reeves, in this all-day field class. Reeves will discuss the geologic history of Joshua Tree National Park, and the rocks and plants of the Cottonwood Mountains.   We will also discuss some human history of the Cottonwood Spring area during the late 1800s.  Participants will walk six miles through the rolling hills of the Colorado Desert to see mills, mines, and more.  Along the trail, Reeves will share the adaptations of plants and animals to the desert environment.  A portion of the walk will follow a prominent freight road built in the 1880s.  Attendees will learn what is known about the road’s creation and use. Don’t miss the opportunity to learn how geology is connected to cultural history at Cottonwood Spring!

The Desert Institute at Joshua Tree National Park presents Geology: Creation of Joshua Tree Landscape with Tor Lacy.

Investigate the natural architecture and origin of Joshua Tree National Park’s landscape with Tor Lacy, Professor of Earth Sciences. Starting on a Zoom lecture on Friday, November 5th, participants will be introduced to basic geologic principles including major rock groups, plate tectonics, mountain building, and the impact of weathering and erosion. Tor will discuss how these processes worked together to form the fantastic desert landscape of the park. The class will venture into the field on Saturday, November 6th to observe and identify monzogranite, gneiss, veins, and basaltic rocks as well as inselbergs, alluvial fans, and pediments. For those new to geology or experienced geologists, Tor will make learning about the complex and unique landscape of Joshua Tree National Park comprehensible and fun.

The Desert Institute at Joshua Tree National Park presents Hike the Covington Coaster with Travis Puglisi.

This approximately 9-mile hike takes participants along a largely gravity-assisted trek over established trails beginning near Eureka Peak (5,518′) and casually descending nearly 1000’. The hike starts with a “front-row” view of peaks San Gorgonio (11,503′) and San Jacinto (10,833′). Its middle provides an “end of the world” view as the fortress of the Little San Bernardino Mountains that make up much of the boundaries of Joshua Tree National Park sharply fall away into the Coachella Valley. While the last leg of the journey winds through Lower Covington Flats. Participants will be exposed to topographical features which illustrate the flow of water and how that shapes the land as well as be able to connect that more broadly with other features in very different locations of Joshua Tree National Park that feed the same watersheds. Pinyon pine and scrub oak will give way to cactus and juniper and Joshua trees. Hikers will also pass Joshua tree forests containing some of the largest known examples of the species anywhere within the park, both living and dead. Also visible will be sections of mixed Joshua trees and junipers that burned over 25 years ago and have since found themselves in a process of natural re-development.

The Desert Institute at Joshua Tree National Park presents Wilderness Cooking School: Campsite Cooking with Alexis Grinbold.

Have you ever noticed that when you are out in the wilderness, everything tastes better? Back in the days of the Wild West, Dutch ovens were like gold. They were that important. No matter where their travels took them, all they needed was some hot coals and dinner was in the making. Nowadays, the mere thought of trying to survive in the wild sends shivers down people’s spines. The thing is, pretty much anything you make at home in the traditional oven and on the stovetop can be made in the wild in a Dutch oven. Bread? No problem. Pie? Absolutely. Stew? A no-brainer. The curriculum includes lessons on meal planning, culinary techniques with an emphasis on cast iron, campfire and propane stove/oven cooking. You will also learn basic baking, grilling and survival food preparation skills. Learn how rewarding it is to cook in the refreshing air of Joshua Tree Park Want to document your camping adventure like a pro? After dinner, Professional photographer Scott Klinger will go through the basics of night photography to enable you to document your campfire creations and outdoor adventures. You will go through the operations and settings required to get the most out of your camera at night and in dim light. The class will talk about the popular types of night photography particularly at Joshua Tree including, wide-field astrophotography, glowing tents, light painting and more and then Scott will walk participants through getting some great shots of their campfire experience. Tripods and a manually adjustable DSLR camera are required to participate in the photography component. To create a good appetite, hikes with TBD are scheduled for both Saturday and Sunday. Lost Horse campground has been reserved for Friday, November 12 for those who wish to camp a day early. Please contact us at 760-367-5539 if you wish access to the campground on Friday.

The Desert Institute at Joshua Tree National Park present a Women’s “Get-Away” Weekend.

Spend a weekend with the Desert Institute at Joshua Tree National Park where you can go to unplug, to get away, to learn new skills and to enjoy the company of other course participants. Trade in your computer, cell phone, clocks, schedules and work-jargon for an off-the-grid weekend with the girls – two days of pure unadulterated fun and education! Join Pam and Robin learning about camping, camp cooking, hiking and enjoying Joshua Tree National Park. This weekend of classes will be held at the Lost Horse Campsite, a beautiful location that is perfect for this program!

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