The week long course itinerary varies from year to year depending on the weather season that affects plant life and road access. An emphasis is placed on distinctive geologic and biologic features to enhance the participants learning experience. Professors and staff skilled in their fields participate in hands on learning experiences. Each day the teaching staff lead a focused group to discover and explore different academic themes. Study groups are gone for the entire day to sections of the Park that yield diverse discovery and analysis as well as a historical aspect to appreciate the leg- ends that abound in “them thar hills”.
Class size is limited, with course materials and study guides furnished for reference. Accommodations are sited at a campground with facilities. A resource area is created to provide access to a variety of books, papers, articles and magazines on the environment, geology, biology and cultural influences. Shared cooking enables a wide variety of food tastes and types. A mandatory pre-trip orientation meeting (Friday night, 2 weeks before the trip @ SJSU Duncan Hall) ensures coordination of equipment, food requirements, transportation and registration.
Where we stay
The program campsite is located near Furnace Creek at the National Park Service staff housing site called Cow Creek. It is about two miles north of Furnace Creek on Highway CA 190. In some years we enjoy the daytime use of the mobile home trailer that is owned by the Death Valley Natural History Association (DVNHA, started by SJSU in 1954). You will need a tent and sleeping bag for this adventure. If you don’t have camping gear, you can arrange to borrow what you need at the pre-trip orientation meeting.
Eating on the trip – Cook Groups
For breakfasts and dinners, you will join a cook group and together you will plan your meals for the week. Each cook group is responsible for bringing a stove (we have a few to loan out), pots and pans, cooking utensils, plates, silverware, ingredients, and anything else you will need for these meals.
You are responsible for bringing your own lunches for the whole week. Don’t depend on being able to buy food once you are there. Though there are a few opportunities for this, you will find a very limited selection for very high prices. So plan ahead and bring what you will need.
There are some spaces available in the school vans for the ride there and back. Sign up at the pre-trip meeting. You can also drive yourself there and back, try and carpool so we can reduce our impact. If you are riding in the school van, please be conscious of the amount of stuff you are bringing. We have to squeeze a lot of people, food, and gear into these vans.
Water and Power
Water will be available from a portable sink for use in cooking, cleaning and personal use. Showers are available at the campsite, though it's necessary to take short and not-too-frequent showers.
Power is available at our site for use in charging electronic equipment, energizing coffee makers, etc. We use a single 120V circuit from the trailer which has limited capacity. Please be sensitive to what you use.
You will not have an opportunity to do laundry, so bring all the clothes you will need for the whole week. In respect to your fellow classmates, please bring more than one change of clothes. Lots of layers are necessary, as the nights and mornings are cool and breezy, while the days can get hot. We recommend light long sleeved shirts for the desert days to protect your skin from the sun, even though it may seem counter-intuitive, they actually keep you cooler. Same for lightweight long pants.
Camping and Other Gear
If you don't have camping gear and/or have never been camping before, fear not! We have tents and sleeping bags and other gear you can borrow. And, this is a great first time camping experience with lots of camping luxuries including flush toilets and power outlets.