Seminars at Joshua Tree National Park Will Explore Mysteries of the Desert and Teach Survival Skills

A number of seminars through the Desert Institute at Joshua Tree National Park will explore the wonders -- such as 'intaglios' -- and dangers, of the desert. Photo of beavertail cactus in bloom by QT Luong, www.terragalleria.com/parks ; photo of intaglio by Daniel McCarthy, both used with permission.

Deserts are fascinating places, holding beauty and mysteries, as well as dangers for the unprepared. With that in mind, a series of programs coming to Desert Institute at Joshua Tree National Park next month can give you some insights and tools to enjoy, and survive, the desert.

Here's a look at the schedule of programs, which are offered through the Joshua Tree National Park Association's Desert Institute:


March 5, 2011

Intaglios along the Colorado River

Coachella Valley, California – Intaglios or large figures laid out on the ground are one of the unsolved mysteries of modern archaeology. Officially classified as rock art, there are over 300 intaglios in the American Southwest and Mexico. Daniel McCarthy, archaeologist and Tribal Relations Program Manager for the San Bernardino National Forst, will lead this all-day field class to three sites to explore these larger than life images preserved on the desert floor. The best known of these are the Blyth Intaglios along the Colorado River that are famous for multiple human-like figures. The largest human figure is 240 feet in length! Participants will learn about these “gravel pictographs” and their significance. At the final stop, McCarthy will share stories from the Modern Mojave people and explain the cultural importance of a gigantic labyrinth, the Topock Maze. This is a great opportunity to visit these immense drawings with an expert archaeologist. Participants will drive 200 miles during the class, from Love’s Truck Stop to Needles, California, where the class will finish. Carpooling is encouraged.

Date/Time: Saturday, March 5, 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Meet at: Love’s Truck Stop, 45761 Dillon Rd., Coachella, California, 92236

Fee: $60 ($50 for Joshua Tree National Park Association/PINE members)

March 5, 2011

Basic Desert Survival

Tony Nester, a survival expert and author of Desert Survival Tips, Tricks and Skills, will teach the physical skills and mental processes that will prepare participants to discover some of the most beautiful and most dangerous habitats of the world. Mr. Nester will offer suggestions and strategies to manage your mind in survival situations and how to set priorities when stakes are high. Some of the topics covered include: survival kits, edible and dangerous plants, stellar navigation, as well as desert hazards such as flash floods, venomous creatures, and heat-related injuries. The class will also engage is mock survival scenarios. This class is not to be missed if you plan on spending any time in the desert!

Date/Time: Saturday, March 5, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Meet at: Oasis Visitor Center, 74485 National Park Dr., Twentynine Palms, California, 92277

Fee: $60 ($50 for JTNPA/PINE members)

March 6, 2011

Advanced Desert Survival

Joshua Tree, California – This all-day field class goes beyond mere survival and delves into long-term skills used by the indigenous cultures of the Southwest. Tony Nester, survival expert and author of Desert Survival Tips, Tricks and Skills, will teach time-tested survival strategies and self-sufficiency methodologies that date to the roots of civilization. Participants will learn sustainable indigenous skills such as how to create fire-by friction, how to weave rope from yucca fibers, and how to make
primitive deadfalls. Nester will discuss modern survival skills such as how to fashion utensils, how to start a fire using steel and wool, and how to make delicious jerky. This is a great opportunity to increase your self-reliance! Please note: No animals will be trapped during this course. Enrollment is limited.

Date/Time: Sunday, March 6, 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Meet at: Joshua Tree Visitor Center, 6554 Park Blvd., Joshua Tree, California, 92252

Fee: $60 ($50 for JTNPA/PINE members)

Material Fee: $5

March 6, 2011

Secrets of a Desert Oasis

Indio, California – Explore the largest stretch of palm trees in Joshua Tree National Park with outdoor guide and desert naturalist Mark Wheeler. The class will travel to Munsen Canyon, an isolated canyon on the park’s south boundary that has over 110 naturally occurring fan palms! If time permits, the class will get to explore the highest oasis, Munsen Oasis, a secluded stand of 35 palms on Eagle Mountain. Wheeler will discuss the ecology of the Colorado Desert and the geology of the Eagle Mountains. At Summit Spring, participants will see the first oasis of the trip and begin to see first sign of a running spring. They will learn the importance of oases and the threats to the south boundary of the park. The class may see some bighorn sheep at this haven for wildlife. Good physical condition required. The class will walk up to twelve miles with rock scrambling throughout the route.

Date/Time: Sunday, March 6, 8 a.m. - Afternoon

Meet at: Chevron Station, Chiriaco Summit 62450 Chiriaco Road, Indio, California, 92201

Fee: $60 ($50 for JTNPA/PINE members)