JOSHUA TREE — California’s desert communities will celebrate the National Park Service Centennial and highlight all the region’s protected public lands with a series of community events in October and November. These activities are being held throughout the desert to encourage local families and residents to explore these special places.

“The National Park Service Centennial is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate our desert, its cultural significance, and what it adds to our lives,” said Tanya Henderson, Interim Executive Director of the Amargosa Conservancy. “Public lands in the California Desert contribute significantly to our quality of life, offering places to hike, camp, fish and more.”

From Saturday until Nov. 5, nine events will take place, including opportunities to learn about our California Desert history, birding expeditions, overnight hiking and camping trips, stargazing events, and many more.

“We have a lot to celebrate this year in the California Desert,” said Monica Mahoney, director of Education and Public Engagement for the Mojave Desert Land Trust. “We are so grateful that President Obama designated three new California Desert National Monuments this year, adding to the wonders of our region. These are places where you can experience plants and animals not found anywhere else on our planet.”

After urging from Senator Feinstein, President Obama designated the Mojave Trails, Sand to Snow, and Castle Mountains National Monuments in the California Desert in early 2016. These public lands are now permanently protected for generations to explore and enjoy.

“In recognition of all that our public lands contribute to our way of life, now is the time to recommit ourselves to protecting these places,” said Maite Arce, president and CEO of Hispanic Access Foundation. “Whether you regularly hike and camp or have yet to experience the wonder of these lands, come join us to learn, explore and delight in all the California Desert offers to us.”

Here’s a rundown of upcoming events:

Old Spanish Trail Day

Discover the spirit and adventure of the Old Spanish Trail National Historic Trail, America’s first overland trading route between New Mexico and Los Angeles. Attendees will experience an 1800’s Living history encampment, mule packing and weaponry demonstrations, a Navajo Churro Sheep enclosure, and even desert animals. The day’s entertainment will include a Mariachi band, bluegrass music, folkloric dance, kids art projects, quick draw prizes and Viola Basulto’s famous Cocina de Movida homemade New Mexican cooking. When: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. Where: Desert Discovery Center, 831 Barstow Road, Barstow. Cost: Free.

Sand to Snow National Monument Big Morongo Birding

Join lifelong bird nerd Seth Shteir to learn about the ecological importance of Big Morongo Canyon Preserve. Attendees will learn the basics of bird ecology, identification and conservation on this easy walk. Binoculars will be provided! When: 8 to 10 a.m. Sunday. Where: Big Morongo Canyon Preserve parking lot, 11055 East Drive, Morongo Valley. Cost: Free. Information: 760-332-9776

Afton Canyon Centennial Celebration Community Campout and Stewardship Project

Amargosa Conservancy will host a group from Nuevo Comienzo Church to camp in the canyon, conduct bird surveys and map invasive tamarisk. Afton Canyon is often referred to as the Grand Canyon of the Mojave Desert, and the use of off-road vehicles, cattle grazing and the introduction of non-native plants to the canyon led its designation as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern in 1980. Through 12 years of restoration efforts, including the planting of more than 10,000 native trees, the Mojave River’s condition improved and migratory birds returned to the canyon. Today, over 180 species of birds have been spotted in Afton Canyon. When: 10 a.m. Oct. 8 and 9. Where: Afton Canyon. Cost: Free, but interested attendees must RSVP. Call Tanya Henderson, Amargosa Conservancy, at 760-852-4339 or email tanya@amargosaconservancy.org

Centennial Excursion and Full Moon Overnight Camping Trip

This is an overnight tour of significant cultural and biological treasures within the Mojave National Preserve and the Castle Mountains National Monument. Attendees will learn about and celebrate the new California Desert Monuments and MDLT’s role in achieving these protections, visit a Native American cultural site, and enjoy a full moon interpretive program and hike at the base of the newly protected Castle Mountains. When: 10 a.m. Oct. 15 to Oct. 16. Where: Goffs, exact location to be specified at time of RSVP. Information: Call or email Monica Mahoney, director of Education and Public Engagement Mojave Desert Land Trust, at monica@mdlt.org or 760-366-5440.

Backpacking Trip in Joshua Tree National Park

Attendees will learn backpacking basics like safety and logistical planning, as well as the history, culture and nature that is so abundant in Joshua Tree National Park. Campers will hike between 3 and 5 miles each day over rough terrain with a heavy pack (approximately 30 pounds) and camp beneath the star-studded, pristine night skies away from civilization. When: noon Oct. 15. Where: Joshua Tree National Park. Cost: Free, but attendance is limited, please RSVP. Information/RSVP: Seth Shteir, 760-332-9776.

Joshua Tree 2016 Night Sky Festival

Astronomers, scientists, night-sky enthusiasts, artists, junior rangers, and members of nearby communities will celebrate the night skies of Joshua Tree National Park. When: Oct. 28-30. Where: Joshua Tree National Park. Cost: Free, but park entrance fees apply. Information: Call Kevin Wong, Desert Institute, 760-267-5535.

Hispanic Heritage Month at Whitewater Preserve

The Wildlands Conservancy invites Hispanic community leaders from various organizations for dinner and a tour of the Whitewater Preserve to learn about access problems facing the Latino community in Sand to Snow National Monument. When: Oct. 29. Where: Whitewater Preserve, 9160 Whitewater Canyon Road, Whitewater. Note: Attendance by invitation only. Information: Contact Jack Thompson, The Wildlands Conservancy, 760-325-7222 or jack.t@twc-ca.org

Joshua Tree Workshop

This two-day workshop will explore the natural history of Joshua trees and their plant communities. The workshop will train attendees to conduct community science fieldwork on research being conducted within Joshua Tree National Park. Speakers will include Cameron Barrows, Chris Smith, Todd Esque and others. When: 9 a.m. Nov. 4 and 5. Where: Black Rock Visitor Center, 9800 Black Rock Canyon Road, Yucca Valley. Cost: Free, but online registration is required. Information: Call Kevin Wong at 760-267-5535.

Mojave National Preserve Star Party

The Mojave Star Party is a signature Mojave Desert event that has taken place twice annually since 2008. The Star Party offers free camping at the Black Canyon Group camp, and dinner is potluck. The event will provide snacks, drinks, hikes the following day led by the Superintendent of the Mojave National Preserve, and interpretation by the National Park Service. When: 5 p.m. Nov. 5. Where: Mojave National Preserve. Cost: Free. Information: Call David Lamfrom at 760-957-7887 or email dlamfrom@npca.org

To learn about the California Desert Centennial events, visit http://3monuments.org/centennial/ for more information.

Victorville Daily Press

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