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Have a Volunteer Vacation at Joshua Tree National Park

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Jumping for joy in Joshua Tree National Park (see more photos here) | Photo by Ryan Jesena/LAist
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Over the past few years, the exotic Sahara mustard plant has been aggressively spreading across the Joshua Tree National Park, possibly threatening the desert ecosystem and leaving irreversible damage. Perhaps the most noticeable damage to a visitor is the affect to the beautiful annual wildflower blooms.

"The weed pull is a relatively new thing," explained Joe Zarki, the parks' public information office, about volunteer weed pulls in the Pinto Basin that will take place on the next three upcoming Saturdays. "We've got to pull them before they go to seed. If you do it after, it's too late."

And you're going to spend a morning helping out a National Park, it might make sense to make a weekend trip out of it, right? Joshua Tree has nine campgrounds with 500 campsites. For the most part, it's first come, first serve, with only a couple--Black Rock and Indian Cove--that allow for reservations (call 877-444-6777 or go to www.recreation.gov). However, those two reserved campsites are not close to Pinto Basin where the volunteer work will be taking place. Zarki says the closest is the Cottonwood visitor center campgrounds, which just happens to be the one of the few sites with running water and flushable toilets. Jumbo Rocks is the next closest, but does not offer the aforementioned luxuries--you have to bring your own water.