Trip Number: 13443A
Staff: Gordon Olson
- Work with environmentalists from around the country to improve Southwestern
- Explore, hike, or just observe the majesty of the Baboquivari Peak surroundings
- Read, relax, and enjoy the comforts of our beautiful lodge nestled into
- All tools and equipment related to our service project
- All meals and snacks
- Comfortable lodging with hot showers, soft beds, and a cozy fireplace
Sacred Baboquivari Peak stands guard over Altar Valley, an impressive expanse
of grasses, woodlands, and mesquite groves that encompass over 118,000 acres
of what today remains Arizona’s largest ungrazed grassland. Altar Valley,
located in southwest Arizona, was once home to vast herds of pronghorn, wolves,
bear, and the elusive jaguar, as well as numerous bird species, until human
encroachment disturbed the delicate, balanced ecosystem in the mid-19th century.
Photo: Gordon Olson
In 1985, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service purchased most of this
vast region and created the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge (BANWR) with
a mission to reestablish a breeding population of the endangered masked bobwhite
quail and to restore ecological balance to the Altar Valley for other important
flora and fauna. Our Sierra Club Service trip will work with BANWR staff to
help with projects that recreate critical habitat essential to a healthy regeneration
of this magnificent landscape. Past projects have included removing fencing
and abandoned homestead debris, and repairing irrigation systems, but there
may be other tasks that require our attention. Budget and staff cuts have impacted
regularly scheduled maintenance duties in the refuge, so our volunteer assistance
will be a positive contribution on any assigned project.
We will be housed in a beautiful and rustic lodge nestled into Brown Canyon
within easy distance to our worksites -- yet it's private, quiet, and secluded.
Our group will meet on the afternoon of day one at the BANWR Visitor’s
Center for introductions and orientation prior to establishing our home base
in Brown Canyon a short distance away. Our work projects will keep us busy on
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. Wednesday is designated as a day for
participants to explore and enjoy as they please. Saturday morning will involve
cleaning our lodge and sharing a final breakfast together. A detailed itinerary
for the week and information regarding recommended clothing and equipment will
be provided to approved participants prior to the service trip.
Approved participants are responsible for getting to the BANWR Visitor Center
located approximately 55 miles southwest of Tucson. The Sierra Club advocates
carpooling to this location by encouraging phone and/or email communication
among approved participants.
Accommodations and Food
Photo: Gordon Olson
The Brown Canyon Environmental Education Center is a two-story lodge that includes
a large kitchen, dining area, reading room, and fireplace lounge on the main
floor. The second floor consists of six comfortable bedrooms -- each with patios
and decks looking toward the Baboquivari Mountains. If you are looking for a
service experience that includes moderate work, good food and company, hot showers,
and a great place to rest and kick back then this is your golden opportunity!
Towels, comfortable beds, blankets, and pillows are furnished. To conserve
water participants are required to bring a light sleeping bag or their own bag
liner to minimize washing of linens by BANWR staff upon our departure.
Meals included on the trip begin with Sunday evening dinner on the first day
and conclude with a shared breakfast the following Saturday. Reasonable requests
for special diets should be written on your application forms when applying
for this trip. We will all be expected to help with kitchen responsibilities
on a rotating basis throughout the week.
Working at altitudes of 3-4,000 feet in warm, dry, desert conditions makes
this a moderately strenuous trip. Participants will be urged to hydrate often,
take frequent breaks, and work at their individual comfort levels throughout
the week. If you are in reasonably good physical condition you will have no
problem with any of the tasks we will be assisting BANWR staff with during our
service experience. Each volunteer must have a current tetanus shot prior to
the trip departure date.
Equipment and Clothing
Photo: Gordon Olson
A detailed list of recommended gear will be sent to approved participants.
Basics will include a day pack to carry water, leather work gloves, sunscreen,
raingear, simple first aid needs, and a plastic container for your lunch and
snacks for the day. Desert temps can vary significantly from hour to hour so
dressing in layers that can be added or easily removed usually works best. Work
clothing and boots should be broken in, worn, comfortable, and protect the wearer
from plants that want to jump out and stick to you…which includes about
98% of desert plants!
- Brown, David and Carmony, Neil, Aldo Leoplod’s Southwest.
- Larson, Lane and Peggy, The Deserts of the Southwest: A Sierra Club
- Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge: www.fws.gov/southwest/refuges/arizona
- Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum: www.desertmuseum.org
We will be working closely with the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge staff
to improve, protect, and conserve the ecological balance of this unique southwestern
The plants and wildlife of the desert grasslands feature a fascinating array
of fine-tuned adaptations for survival. Livestock grazing, fire suppression,
and human demands on water supplies have altered the ecological balance of the
Southwestern grasslands. Recent crossings by illegal immigrants have reached
over 1,000 per day during winter months, causing further habitat damage by foot
traffic and trash left behind. Law enforcement practices create additional pressures
on already fragile desert and grassland ecosystems. Concerned volunteers, like
us, who partner with conservation agencies in land stewardship help ensure this
legacy of wildlands will continue for future generations.
See the How to Apply for an Outing section for more details on registering for this trip and details
about our Reservation and Cancellation Policy.
The payment of a deposit does not confirm you as a member on the trip. Participants must be approved by the trip leader. After signing up for this trip, you will be sent a confirmation packet containing approval materials (Participant Approval Questionnaire, Medical Form, Liability Release Form). Each applicant (including those on the waitlist) must fill out these forms and promptly mail them to the trip leader. The leader will review the approval materials and notify you of your acceptance in a timely manner.
From the heights of Mt. Kilimanjaro to the expanses of Patagonia or Antarctica, Gordy Olson has visited all seven of the world's continents and enjoys sharing work and travel experiences with enthusiastic Sierra Club Service Volunteers.
For two decades Phyllis Singleton's Dutch ovens and ranch-style cooking have fed volunteers on service trips in the National Parks and Monuments of Utah, Colorado, Texas, and New Mexico. Phyllis has seen a lot of the same country from the back of her horse. As a breeder and member of the American Paint Horse Association, there is very little she does not know about bloodlines and horseflesh. Living on a ranch means that as often as possible eggs from her chickens and grass-fed, free range beef will be part of our menus.
General Notes About Sierra Club Trips