Stargazing with Rangers while Camping with Coleman in Joshua Tree National Park
Recently I had the opportunity to spend a night under the stars camping in Joshua Tree National Park with my service dog Bobbi -- follow her on social media @jetsetpup. It was a magical experience for a number of reasons, including the out-of-this-world scenery, but the major one was joining 60 kids from the Boys & Girls Club of Yucca Valley in California on their first ever campout.
Getting to see these kids experience rock climbing, ranger led hiking and smores by an open campfire for the first time was heart-warming, and what voluntourism is all about. This trip was sponsored by Coleman, a great American-made brand that gives a lot of money and gear back to local organizations helping educate kids about exploring the great outdoors first hand, and held as part of the National Park Service's 100th birthday year celebrations. And while it wasn't open to the public (I attended as media), by volunteering with a local organization, like the Boys & Girls Club, in your community, you can often find volunteer opportunities that let you travel for good as well.
Volunteering aside, camping in Joshua Tree is also educational. The night sky here has little light pollution and as a result the stars, planets and meteors look brighter and more plentiful. Best of all, park rangers often set up an extremely powerful telescope that lets visitors see the craters on the moon -- it can't be done at full moon because the light is too bright, even during a half moon my eyes were stinging.