Death Valley Rocks!

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students jumping at the dunes
David Basham

Death Valley Rocks! is a hiking and backpacking tour through Death Valley National Park in the Mojave Desert. This trip will spend time visiting locations that represent different landscapes within the largest national park in the contiguous U.S. As the hottest place in the world, and the lowest and driest in the U.S. the natural features of this vast desert offer extremes foreign to Western Washington.

We will spend one night and two days backpacking Fall Canyon, one day hiking a famous Death Valley peak, and two days bookending the trip seeing and exploring more of the beautiful, rugged landscapes of the park. At night, we will enjoy the International Night Sky designation of Death Valley identifying the stars and hiking under the moon without the light pollution of nearby cities, establishments or even our own flashlights.

Students will be expected to do research in advance and to be prepared to speak to that research while in the park regarding topics that are pertinent to our adventures. Topics might include, but are not limited to: geology, geography and climate, flora and fauna, light pollution/night sky/astronomy, desert survival, and history and culture.

Camp time will be treated always as if we were backpacking. Packing lists and supplies will also reflect this, even though we will not be backpacking every night. Students will practice packing effectively, cooking for a large group with minimal tools, setting up camp quickly and efficiently, and working as a team to provide the best group experience.

Students will participate in reflective time, including internal reflection (journaling), partner time and group discussion periodically throughout the week. This time is imperative to help students to think critically about their experiences, to learn about the experience of others and to spend time processing the highs and lows of each day.

Death Valley is an extreme environment, and while we won’t be visiting in the hottest season, it will still be very warm. Average temperatures in March and April range from 82-90 degrees Fahrenheit, with overnight lows in the 50s and 60s. Record highs have been in the 110s, and lows in the 20s. Because of the heat and the dryness, it will be extremely important to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Students will be expected to carry at least a gallon of water a day for every hike. Paying very close attention to your body during this trip will be a key factor in ensuring your safety.

Be sure to discuss with your parents your health and fitness levels prior to applying for this trip. All physical aspects of the trip will be moderate to strenuous and will require your full participation in order for your success and the success of the team.

When we return to campus, students will be designated from the group to report out on the trip to the Upper School.

Project Week Timeline (2019-20)

  • November 9 - Catalog Published
  • November 20 - Independent Proposals Due
  • November 10-20 - Student Selection Period
  • December 20 - Student Placement Published
  • January 24 (9:05 – 9:45 am) and March 13 (9-9:30 am) - Project Week Group Meetings
  • March 30 - April 3 - Project Week


Joey Pauley
Project Week Director
425-868-6191 x816