LEARNING IN THE FIELD
We will be car camping, day hiking and backpacking. We are eager for you to have an experience that immerses you in the varied Baja ecosystems. Thus, we move from field area to field area, spending a few days in each. The car camps will typically be dry camps in very remote areas off dirt roads. Day hikes will typically be cross country off trail travel, sometimes along rural dirt tracks, often through rocky volcanic terrain. Backpacking sessions are planned to stimulate your learning. Generally we will have a morning seminar or formal field activity, leaving the afternoons open for personal exploration and independent work. We will be self-reliant, carrying a field library and all our food and gear.
Remember that these are academic programs. You should be prepared to work hard with writing assignments, projects and class presentations as part of the process. Also, we want to have an enjoyable and cohesive time together as a group. Drugs or alcohol, or inappropriate personal conduct, are not part of the Sierra Institute experience. The Sierra Institute reserves the right to dismiss anyone who is a danger to the land, herself/himself, or other group members.
SCHEDULE (subject to change):
Week 1: (North Pacific Coast and Interior Desert, San Quitin and Catavina, BCN). Initial lectures will focus on a) safety and course logistics, expeditionary learning, b) the geography, climate, geology and vegetation of Baja California. Day hikes will help students gain an initial familiarity with California Chaparal and Sonoran Desert Biomes.
Week 2: (Sea of Cortez Coast, Bahia de los Animas). The class will examine geology and biology across a range of landforms and ecosystem types, as we travel to the Bahia de los Animas. Activities there will include a 3-day backpack trip. Lectures will cover the classification of ecosystems and an introduction to their management.
Week 3: (Sierra de los Gigantes) Here we will consider the management of protected areas as informed by principles of field geology and field biology. Activities there will include a 3-day backpack trip. Lectures will emphasize landscape scale conservation biology and abiotic-biotic-human interactions.
The day hiking and backpacking can be done by beginners. No prior hiking experience is necessary, but you need to be in good shape, able to carry a loaded pack five miles cross country on days we do backpack, and have no chronic/debilitating injuries. Wilderness Leadership and Leave No Trace wilderness knowledge and skills will be stressed. We work hard to provide a safe learning environment in the backcountry. The wildlands classroom, however, is different from studying on campus. You need to be aware of the normal risks of backpacking including but not limited to snakebite, flashfloods, getting lost, lightning storms, cross country travel, etc. In general, we will be away from typical emergency response services, hospitals, and medical assistance. I have training in wilderness first aid but I am not a health care professional. In event of an emergency I will do my best to get you to proper care. I will also establish basic safety procedures at the beginning of the program.
Winter in Baja can be extremely variable, but will usually include mild sunny days, cold nights, with rare rain. These conditions will vary somewhat from the Baja Peninsula high desert interior to the lower coastal zones.
Participants provide their own personal equipment. Group items (tents, stoves, pots) are shared by everyone and organized by the instructor before the program. A detailed equipment list will be sent upon acceptance. If need be, a tent may be rented inexpensively from the Sierra Institute. All of your gear and clothing must fit into a backpack and daypack. There are significant space limitations for group travel.
Upon arrival, we will organize into cooking groups. Sharing of cooking gear (pots, stoves) will be arranged by me before the program begins. Between field areas each cooking group will be responsible for organizing and purchasing its food cooperatively for the next field area. Vegetarian and vegan diets, like the carnivores/omnivores, will therefore be responsible for their own menus. Remember that special diets might have special challenges in the little towns in which we stock up on food! We will occasionally eat at low cost taco stands and restaurants. Total cost for food during the trip is estimated at about $210, depending on how much one eats. Plan to bring at least this amount and extra money for emergencies (or fish taco addictions!).