Joshua Tree, CA


Site Leaders

Alex Hanna

Emma Ellsworth

Type of Service


Site Partner(s)

National Parks Service



Departure Date


Return Date






Site Leader Description #1

My name is Alex Hanna and I'm a second-year student from Smithfield, Virginia. I plan to study English and will also apply to the Political and Social Thought (PST) program in the spring. I serve as the Vice President of Finance on the UVA Parliamentary Debate Society’s executive board and am a teacher with the Charlottesville Debate League. Emma and I were both participants on the ASB Sequoia National Park trip in 2020 and we loved our experience so much that we decided to lead a trip together! In my free time, I enjoy reading, hiking, watching movies, listening to music, and playing Secret Hitler. ASB was easily one of the best parts of my year at UVA and I look forward to a fun and transformative week of service with a new group of participants!

Site Leader Description #2

Hi, I’m Emma Ellsworth, a third-year student from Johnstown, Pennsylvania studying Political and Social Thought with a double-major in Economics. At UVA, I am involved with UDems, TYC, FoodAssist, ASB, and Kappa Delta sorority. You can also find my life-guarding at the AFC, and formerly in my favorite library, Aldy, RIP. I have worked at a summer camp for Marine veterans and at-risk youth for 2 years now, and I am passionate about sustainability / Constitutional law woohooo. I went on the Zion National Park trip in 2019 and the Sequoia trip in 2020, where I met Alex. These trips have honestly been some of my best times at UVA, and I am so excited for you all to experience service-learning in the beautiful outdoors, all while getting to know some pretty awesome people (oh and playing a little Mafia as well)!!


Trip Logistics

We will leave for BWI early Saturday morning for an early afternoon flight to LAX. We’ll then pick up our rental vehicle for the two and a half hour drive to Joshua Tree National Park. Along the way, our group will stop to buy groceries for the week and pick up rental camping gear near the park (we will be sleeping in tents for the duration of the trip). We will have all of Sunday to explore the park, but Monday through Thursday will be dedicated to assisting park rangers with projects throughout the park. On service days, our group will likely work from morning to mid-afternoon, with time for short hikes and recreational activities before dinner. We can spend Friday enjoying the park and doing longer activities and our group will return to Charlottesville on Saturday.

Participant Requirements

Anyone open to new experiences with a passion for the outdoors is welcome to participate!

Service Activities

Our service activities will vary greatly depending on the rangers’ needs at the time, but some of the work will involve park vegetation projects since we are volunteering with the Vegetation Branch of the National Park Service.

Recreational Activities

Although most of our time at Joshua Tree will be spent volunteering, there will still be plenty of time throughout the week to explore the park on our own. Our group will have the opportunity to participate in a variety of hikes such as Indian Cove Trail, Skull Rock Trail, and Fortynine Palms Oasis Trail, among others. Joshua Tree is also famous for its stargazing, and since we’ll be camping with no electricity, we’ll be able to take full advantage. We both fell in love with Secret Hitler and Mafia on our Sequoia trip, so we’ll play these games and more in the evenings.

Community/Area Background

The establishment of national parks in the United States has deep ties to groups of indigenous Native Americans, and Joshua Tree is no exception. The Park is the area where the Mojave and Colorado deserts meet; the unique combo of high desert and low desert is the perfect environment for very unique plants (such as the Joshua Tree) to grow. The people first recorded there, the Pinto Man, were hunter-gatherers along a now-dry river in the Pinto Basin. Later, the Serrano, Cahuilla, and Chemehuevi people traveled through the area collecting nuts and fruit, leaving rock paintings and small pottery bits behind. In the late 1800s, explorers, cattlemen, and miners came, transforming the land more than any group before them with the dams and mines they built. It was occupied by homesteaders throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, designated a national monument by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1936, and declared a National Park in 1994. Since then, the park has been a huge draw for artists and musicians from the surrounding area. (The Eagles song “Peaceful Easy Feelin” mentions Joshua Tree). It is most notably home to the Desert Tortoise and Bighorn Sheep, but its plant and animal life is evolving due to climate change.