The Environmental Studies Anza Borrego Class Trip

March 9, 2012 at 4:57 pm 1 comment

by Martha Ellen Wingfield

Our Environmental Studies class, all seniors, traveled to Anza Borrego State park, the largest in California, early Saturday morning, March 3rd. The students, many of whom had never camped out, had highly anticipated the trip, yet were hesitant and slightly suspicious of my motives for taking them camping in the arid, abandoned and seemingly lifeless desert.

Once we arrived, a short trip to the spectacular visitor’s center in Borrego Springs introduced us to the plethora of wildlife and rich Native American history in the area. Excitement began to simmer amongst the ten seniors as we headed to the Borrego Palm Canyon trail head. As Sorrelle McGill wrote, “We hiked to one of the most beautiful spots I’ve ever encountered: a stunning oasis where we ate lunch, laughed and swam (those of us who were daring enough to brave the freezing water).”

After inspecting the macroinvertebrates living in the crystal clear stream and hearing about specific desert plants, adaptations and their life cycles from each student, we reluctantly left the oasis and hiked back out to the vans to head to camp. As we turned off the paved road onto the dusty, endless dirt road to head up Coyote Canyon toward the Desert Gardens, both vans, full of theatre, dance and film majors, fell silent. “Where are we going to camp? But we’re surrounded by cacti…Is Martha Ellen taking us out here to kill us?” were asked of Shannon and me with growing unease in their voices.

Once we arrived, students turned our dusty, cactus laden campsite into our home for the night, putting up the tents, or actually learning to put up a tent, building a fire and preparing dinner. By the time the sun set, we were cooking hotdogs over the fire, eating baked potatoes and s’mores, and telling both scary and hilarious stories over the fire, all unease forgotten. Having grand plans to stay up all night and throw a dance party in the tent, the students retired before the teachers and were fast asleep by 10 pm from the exhaustion and excitement of the day.

The next morning in our slumberous frenzy, we bundled up our gear, checked the campsite for any evidence of our stay, and hit the road. We drove about thirty minutes to the Mine Wash, where we climbed over hundreds and hundreds of boulders, once home to the Kumeyaay. Students explored caves, examined morteros, or grinding stones, and prepared our last meal together under a Honey Mesquite tree.

This trip was an amazing experience for all, teachers and students alike. It reminded us how to appreciate and enjoy life without technology or constant human contact. Many realized they could survive, and what’s more, have a blast, without electricity or running water for more than 24 hours. As Sasha Mercuri wrote, “What I learned on this trip is that there are beautiful places all around us, we simply have to look a little bit harder to find them. I looked up at the setting sun an thought to myself, life is good. Love is friendship, scary stories, s’mores and laughter. Our campground was in the middle of the dessert, but the barren land was one of the most hypnotizing things I’ve seen.”

The question I hear daily has changed from “How or why are camping in the desert?” to “When can we go again?”

Entry filed under: Academics, campus culture, News. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Rob Pasco  |  March 9, 2012 at 6:02 pm

    I visited Anza Borrego regularly while at ISOMAT. Back in early 90s Colonel and made several trips in my Toyota truck directly up Cayote Canyon cross country to Idyllwwild. It got really hairy at times but was a wonderful adventure.

    Rob Pasco


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March 2012


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