Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Millennials and the Quest for the Wild

Edgar surveys the Yuha Desert

-by Edgar Bernal Sevilla, Curation/Education Staff

I know I have been a little inconsistent with my supposedly weekly hiking adventures, but the last month has been a busy one. I finally got the chance to get back on the dusty trail (or lack of trail) much to my heart’s content. I chose a truly grand undertaking; I wanted to tackle the largest mountain in the Coyote range, Carrizo Peak.
I, perhaps unsurprisingly, failed.
Edgar and his friend Max
I set off with my friend Max to the Coyotes at around 4 AM. I had heard that the trailhead was somewhere in Painted Gorge, so we started there. We then got lost in the dark, so we pulled over, set up our tiny (non-invasive) portable camp stove, and cooked some chili. As the sun began to rise, I climbed out of the gorge through a wash, and was greeted with an exhilarating view. As the cool wind nibbled at my face, the purples, reds, and greens of the gorge swam before my eyes. I told Max to follow me up and then we climbed to the top of a nearby hill. I had climbed this very same hill the last time I was at the Coyotes, but the sunrise blessed me with a completely different view. The hues of the sky blended just as beautifully as did those of the gorge, albeit with brighter, more striking colors.
Dawn in the desert
Moments like that cannot be bought or sold. They can only be experienced. It is something that more and more Americans, particularly young people, are realizing. While millennials are often typecast as technology dependent urban dwellers, there is a growing pull to nature blossoming within the selfie generation. Posts glorifying the outdoors explode on social media all the time. Conservation movements are getting strong support from young people; perhaps the greatest example of this is the opposition movement to the Dakota Access Pipeline that clearly struck a nerve with young adults. Although not specifically a conservation movement, protecting natural resources is undoubtedly a cause that resonates powerfully within what might be the most urbanized generation in our nation’s history. Similar to the Wilderness Cult of the turn of the century that influenced the founding of our national parks, pushback to increasing urbanization could be the cause of millennial interest in the outdoors. Although this is pure speculation, other factors for this “quest for the wild” could be the inability to afford the attractions of the city, the increasing relevance of the finite resources and nature on Earth, and the inability to find (and afford) life satisfaction in the creature comforts of the previous generation.
Edgar explores a small side canyon
Although this is anecdotal, the weekend I took my hike had three different friends also post nature experiences like mountain climbing and hiking. I’ve had many young people ask me about my hikes in person, with a few asking if they could go on the next one. As cities expand ruthlessly and more and more people are online, the quest to get away from that magnifies in importance. Perhaps this generation can ignite the next powerful conservation movement.

As for my own quest for Carrizo Peak, it had to be postponed. We didn’t find the trailhead until we had been out exploring for hours. We took a raincheck from the mountain, marked down the trailhead, and vowed to return. The peak has been there for millions of years. It can wait a week or two.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Children Are Here!

Edgar goes over the rock cycle

-By Edgar Bernal Sevilla, Curation/Education Staff

This week’s hiking blog post is going to be about one of my least physically demanding but favorite hikes: elementary school field trips! Field trip season has begun here at the museum and we just had our first week of school visits. As usual, I led the hiking/field education part of the field trip. We tailor our field trip program according to the grades of our visitors, and since we’ve had mostly 4th graders, I introduced the children to the rock cycle and centered the hike on rock types and geological processes. And, also as usual, I had a blast while doing it.

Albert helps a student with her pot
In case you are not familiar with our incredibly successful field trip program, here’s an overview. The field trips are usually split into three different sections: history, coiled clay art, and hiking. These different sections allow for a holistic and multifaceted learning experience concerning the desert in which we live.

While each of our staff members can lead any given section on demand, we tend to have our favorites. The history section deals with two main subjects: the history of water in the Imperial Valley and the Kumeyaay, the indigenous people of our part of the valley. Students get an informative tour of the museum, usually by Angelina, one of our staff members. The coiled clay section of the field trip is usually given by Albert, one of our two education coordinators. Students learn to create clay pots made in the same style as those of the Kumeyaay that are on display. Students then get to go on a hike out into the desert led by yours truly. Different grade levels get different hikes, depending on what they are going to cover in school. We can give hikes with many different focuses, including but not limited to: geology, botany, ethnobotany, zoology, and human culture.

Students explore olla uses with Angelina
Our field trip program, organized by our other education coordinator Marcie Rodriguez, is growing exponentially. Two years ago, we had 423 children come through the field trip program. In the first 6 weeks of 2017 we have already had 465. It's gonna be a big year!

As for the actual hikes themselves, they’ve been a lot of fun. After giving a geology lesson from our "GEOLOGY IS THE SCIENCE OF GETTING YOUR HANDS DIRTY" toolbox, I took these fourth graders down to the wash behind the museum all the way to our mini 1.5 foot sandstone canyon, making several stops along the way. I love leading these hikes because children are so incredibly inquisitive and eager to learn.

“What’s this type of rock teacher?”
“And this one?”
“And what about this one Edgar!”
“Also quartz.”

Whether it’s rocks, cactus, or coyote prints, that level of interest keeps me energized, even on days towards the end of the field trip season when it starts to get hot and I’m the only person that has to go outside three times. This energy allows me to do my job well, and have a blast doing it.

My coworkers all feel the same way, we talk about it all the time!

Friday, January 27, 2017

New Year, New Horizons

Edgar's mother and father are caught unaware in a postcard perfect picture
- By Edgar Bernal Sevilla, Curation/Education Staff

As comes the New Year, so too do the winds of change breeze through the Imperial Valley Desert Museum. Since 2016 was the last year of our five year plan, we spent the latter part of the year asking the community through various mediums what they want to see from us. The community responded, and an overwhelming number of them were interested in seeing a greater emphasis on desert hikes in the museum. Favorites included staff led hikes, more support for hikers (information, equipment etc.) and more outdoor exhibits on museum grounds. As such, we are declaring 2017 as our Year of the Outdoors.
Edgar surveys the upper canyon walls

It is a fantastic coincidence that this push for the outdoors begins as I myself have been pushing for the outdoors in my private and professional life. As the usual hike leader for field trips to the museum, I expect to be heavily involved in most of our outdoor projects this year. More information on upcoming projects will be out soon!

Edgar and his brothers Jorge and Carlos

As for this week’s hike (“this week” being New Years week, we have been very busy at the museum!), I decided to go somewhere a little unfamiliar. New year, new horizons right? My family and I visited the Painted Canyon in the Mecca Hills near Mecca. There, we did the Mecca Hills Ladder Hike, which, as the name suggests, is a hike through a rough slot canyon with ladders in several parts of the hike where climbing gear would normally be needed to proceed. My previous hiking experience centered around areas near the IVDM’s location in Ocotillo, so the landscape of Mecca Hills, despite being part of the same valley, seemed totally alien to me. The dull gray stone that formed the walls of the canyon was not one found around Ocotillo, and neither were the large pink tinged quartz nodes that occasionally jutted from the canyon floor. The mountains were shaped differently as well. The desert varnish was of the darker variety, indicating more manganese present than iron, unlike the varnish of the western valley. Those were the few differences in geology I noticed. As is obvious, I am not a geologist.The flora was different as well, but I am even less a botanist than I am a geologist, so all I can say is the shrubs were not creosotes and were, for the most part, larger than the ones we have in our side of the valley.

The view that mesmerized Jorge
The ladders were tricky, and by the end of the hike all of the adults (my mom, dad, and I) were exhausted. The spry young lads that are my brothers had an easier time on their first desert hike. Both fell in love with the experience of nature, something that they hadn’t really explored before like they were doing today. My brother Jorge was particularly stricken by the beauty of nature hikes. Once he reached the highest point of the hike, he sat down alone for 15 minutes taking in the view of the Mecca farming community and the Salton Sea, crowned by the Santa Rosa Mountains behind it. The moment that he had on that hill top was the same moment I had when I was guided by that crazy crow to the top of the Coyote foothills as I oversaw the entire southern Imperial Valley. Moments like that ensnare the mind with the splendor of nature. It’s hard to go back from there. It seems like my list of hiking companions has grown!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Baby Steps in the Desert Sand

Edgar looks over the entire southern valley, with Mount Signal in the background

-by Edgar Bernal Sevilla, Curation/Education Staff

As many of you who have read my blog before know, I am an MWOA (museum worker of action.) While I love comfortable office work, my true passion lies in travel, whether it be through the spatial dimension or the temporal one. What better job is there to travel through both time and space?

Edgar and his friend Miguel begin their hike
During another one of my surges of (semi) creative energy that overwhelmed all feeble attempts to continue my day to day work, I decided that I would take a hike every Monday to some locale at or near the Imperial Valley. This way, I could see everything I read about, whether it be the exact point where the Yuha Man was found, the fish traps on the ancient shoreline, or the ghost towns of the eastern Imperial Valley. It is my firm belief that it is impossible to write about something you do not know intimately with any kind of authority, and academic intimacy is best achieved through the saturation of all of the senses, not just the sight of words on paper.

Near the top, with the Carrizo Badlands behind
My first local hike was but baby steps in the desert sand. A friend and I decided we wanted to visit the Coyote Mountains near the Painted Gorge. We climbed up the foothills and were instantly rewarded by amazing views and, being young people, incredible selfies with the beautiful backdrop of the Colorado Desert. We climbed the highest foothill at the beckoning of a large crow who would grow agitated every time we stopped and would keep cawing until we resumed the climb. Once we reached the top, the crow let out some shouts of victory and then flew away, satisfied that we could finally see what she sees every day, at least in my romantic interpretation of events.

Southeastern view of the summit, overlooking the Yuha
The view we were rewarded with by just climbing the highest foothill, nevermind the actual mountains, filled us with the desire to seek greater heights. The red, yellow, and purple hues of the Painted Gorge blessed our northern view, while the jagged hills of the Yuha Badlands crowned by the misty blue Mount Signal in a way our phone cameras so sadly, inadequately captured stole the show to the southeast. That southeastern view was something absolutely incredible, bringing to mind images of Pride Rock from my favorite childhood movie the Lion King.

Our next target: Carrizo Mountain, the highest of the Coyotes. We tried to find the trailhead that day but could not, so I just found the location online and now I wait for the coming Monday!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Giving Thanks for Giving Tuesday Support

-from the Executive Director & the Head Curator

We want to send a big "Thank you!" to everyone who supported our #GivingTuesday campaign this year.  

#GivingTuesday is fueled by the power of social media and collaboration.  It kicks off the charitable season when many people and companies focus on their holiday and end of year giving.  Since 2012 #GivingTuesday has become a movement that celebrates and supports giving and philanthropy, connecting diverse groups of individuals, communities, and organizations around the world for one common purpose: to celebrate and encourage giving.

Last year was the first time the Desert Museum participated in #GivingTuesday.  This year our campaign expanded its social media reach and focused on raising money to support the Education Department.  The Education staff works to develop curriculum based educational field trips for Imperial Valley students, both at the museum and through our the History on the Go program that brings the museum to the classroom.  Educational programs and events, supplies for fairs and field trips, new ideas to try with students: our Education Department does it all! But it is entirely funded through donations and field trip cost of admission ($5 per student).  A perfect place for #GivingTuesday support!

Here's the breakdown of our campaign this year:

  • Goal: $6,000
  • Raised: $1,906
  • 32% of goal reached
  • 16 supporters
  • 3 times what was raised last #GivingTuesday! 

Thanks to everyone for their support as we keep growing our museum and our community outreach

.  If you are interested in donating to the Museum for your end of year giving you can do it through our website or mail to: Imperial Valley Desert Museum Society, P.O. Box 2455, El Centro, CA 92244

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Matches on Giving Tuesday

-from the Executive Director

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and we know what that means: Black Friday and Cyber Monday are right around the corner! 

If you plan on taking advantage of the great online deals, did you know that you can support the Imperial Valley Desert Museum while you shop?
Shop through the #StartWithaSmile campaign at and Amazon donates to Imperial Valley Desert Museum Society Inc.
When you shop at AmazonSmile, Amazon will donate to Imperial Valley Desert Museum Society Inc.…

Tuesday, November 29 is the global day of giving after the excitement of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.  The Desert Museum has set a goal of reaching $6,000  for the Education Department by the end of the day November 29. You can help make that happen!

Help support our Education Department as they work with Imperial Valley kids!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Celebrating 100 Years- and Many More!

-by the Head Curator & Angelina Coble, Education Department

The mission of the Imperial Valley Desert Museum is to preserve, interpret, and celebrate the deserts of Southern California.  The new permanent exhibits help visitors understand the cultural and natural history of the Imperial Valley.  As we finish writing the Museum’s five year strategic plan and partner with the Kumeyaay Diegueno Land Conservancy, the Museum is actively working on new ways to connect people to the great outdoors: nature, wildlife, and geology in all its majesty. Therefore, it seems only natural that the Museum’s staff should participate in some of the National Park Services’ Centennial celebrations! 

America’s National Parks

Sunset in Mojave National Preserve    
In 1872, President Ulysses S. Grant signed the first National Park, Yellowstone, into effect.  California’s first National Parks, Sequoia and Yosemite, were established in 1890.  Today America boasts 413 national parks and preserves, eleven in California!  On August 25, 2016 the National Parks Service, which manages all the national parks, monuments, and historic sites, celebrated its 100 year anniversary.  You have probably heard about the NPS’ year long celebration through online campaigns like #FindYourPark or tv commercials encouraging people to get out and enjoy the parks. Did you know that within six hours drive of the Imperial Valley you can get to three National Parks? Joshua Tree National Park, Mojave National Preserve, and Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument- the first national monument to be specifically dedicated to the preservation and scientific study of Ice Age fossils!

The Centennial Celebration is not only looking back at the accomplishments of the last 100 years. It is also looking forward to “a second century of stewardship for America’s national parks” through community engagement, recreation, conservation, and preservation.  This past weekend three staff members and two Museum Board members were invited to attend a Star Party and Centennial Celebration in the Mojave National Preserve by David Lamfrom, President of the Mojave National Preserve Conservancy’s Board of Directors.  Here is their experience and how it inspired local outdoor education through the eyes of Angelina Coble, Education Department.

Angelina Coble & Matsay the Museum Education Coyote setting up camp for the night    

Inspiration from the Great Outdoors

We spent the night at the Black Canyon Group Campground in the Mojave National Preserve along with over 100 other visitors. We were able to admire and take in the night sky, planets, and constellations through high-powered telescopes provided by experienced and skilled astronomers. For some of us it was the first time we had ever gazed at the rings of Saturn!
We took turns looking through the telescopes and sitting around the campfire enjoying the atmosphere of like-minded people, who understand and appreciate the awe and grandeur of desert landscapes. During the evening when David was addressing the crowd and thanking everyone for being part of the celebration he mentioned the importance of keeping the night as dark as possible: "we don't want Wi-Fi out here, we don't want our phones to have service out here. We want to preserve the ability to view the night sky without obstructions and distractions.” Another visitor added, "the night sky doesn't belong to the desert, the desert belongs to the night sky."

Edgar Bernal Sevilla in dense forest of Joshua Trees, Mojave National Preserve
The next morning Todd Seuss, superintendent of Joshua Tree National Park, and his spouse Jackie led a hike on the Teutonia Peak Trail where we were able to experience a dense landscape of Joshua Trees.  When we reached the peak of the trail Todd mentioned how much it meant to him to see so many young people (many high school and college students from L.A. seeing the dark skies and desert beauty for the first time) surrounding the campfire the previous evening.
Our hopes and efforts are to continue the conservation and preservation of these lands for the next hundred years, and the only way we can make this possible is through education. As part of the museum’s education staff it is my responsibility to impart to the next generation the importance of caring after and protecting our local desert. As Robin Dodge, secretary of the museum's board of directors said: “We cannot teach you these experiences." This makes me aware that the best way to educate a child in conservation and preservation is by giving them an experience. When a child walks through this museum, I want their visit to impact them for years to come. My dream is to host field trips for future archaeologists, botanists, historians, environmental advocates, and workers in the preservation and conservation field.

Angelina Coble explaining geology to Lexi Romo. IVDM permanent exhibit
I have this opportunity everyday with my 7 year old niece, Lexi, whom I currently have guardianship over and home school. She often comes with me to the museum where she is free to roam through the exhibits and look at them without any time constraints. She is in my closest realm of influence, and I have the ability to raise a pioneer to help lead the way to the next 100 years of preservation and conservation!

 Thank you David Lamfrom, Todd Seuss, as well as all of those that were involved with putting the event together and allowing us the privilege to experience the beauty you are daily surrounded by and continually work to protect.

Dr. Robert Wishner, Cory Landeros, David Lamfrom, Robin Dodge, Edgar Bernal Sevilla, Marcie Rodriguez, & Angelina Coble enjoying Mojave National Preserve