Although the ruggedly beautiful Joshua Tree National Park receives more than a million visitors each year, only a handful of those venture more than a mile from the parking lot. As they move through the desert with their worlds on their backs, participants enjoy a rare, up-close view of the rich Joshua Tree ecosystem. The group experiences the landscape firsthand – alongside the birds, animals, Joshua Trees, cholla cactus and palms. Both demanding and beautiful, the desert is an ideal natural environment for participants to find challenge, purpose and camaraderie. At every step of the journey, the group takes time to reflect, relate and support one another in their transition back to civilian life.
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Outward Bound Veterans expeditions build on camaraderie and the challenge of the natural world as a pathway to healing. These expeditions encourage participants to connect with existing strengths and bond with fellow veterans in a safe, positive, mission-driven environment. As they harness the power of wartime experiences like carrying heavy packs, moving fatigued muscles and sleeping outside, these courses help build the self-confidence and sense of purpose veterans need to continue serving as leaders in their families, communities and the nation.
This course is designed for those either new to backpacking, or who have some experience and are interested in exploring the desert environment. Participants learn basic backcountry skills such as navigation and how to assess and adapt to varying weather conditions. As Outward Bound courses are not guided trips, participants share the weight of food and gear carried in backpacks, and each crew member assists with camp chores such as cooking, cleaning and tarp setup.
On every Outward Bound course reflection is an integral part of the learning process. During the Solo phase of course, students will find reprieve from the rigors of daily travel and spend a structured period of rest and reflection near the group’s base camp. The primary focus of this time is to provide structured and unstructured journaling as well as time for students to contemplate their life back home. Solo for adult courses is typically integrated into the daily flow of the course rather than a pre-determined time and place.
Joshua Tree National Park
Welcome to the high desert moonscape, where rugged mountains and desert plateaus were sculpted by wind and rain. Three distinct ecosystems come together to form this land of extremes: the dark, cold, star-filled nights against warm sand and boulder-filled days. Participants travel through granite monoliths and through narrow canyons that have attracted travellers from around the world long before the park became a national park in 1936.
The Mojave Desert’s sunny fall and spring weather is perfect for a week on the trail or basecamping below the next climb. Weather in the park is generally dry and rainfall is sparse, though unpredictable, irregular and persistent thunderstorms do sometimes occur. Temperatures can vary, averaging 50-80 degrees during the day to a cool 30 at night and potentially hitting 100 early or late in the season.
Travel in the desert takes careful planning to ensure an ample water supply. Logistics staff place water and food caches around the park to enable extended backcountry travel in this unique wilderness.