Field Trips

Except for the final week, participants joined with faculty, co-directors, and guest speakers to visit sites in northern Arizona that connected to the institute’s themes. Some locations related directly to Aldo Leopold’s experiences in the region – often places where he conducted research. We traveled to each site as a group on a bus and most days were full – leaving Prescott in the morning and returning around 6 PM. Listed alphabetically, the sites were:

  • Photo courtesy of: The Cosanti FoundationArcosanti is the visionary city designed by renowned architect Paolo Soleri, a student of Frank Lloyd Wright’s, who also built his legendary community of Taliesin West in Scottsdale, Arizona. As the father of “archology,” a blend of architecture and ecology, Soleri, his students, and his team have been building their city 40 miles north of Phoenix since 1970. Paolo Soleri joined us during our trip to Arcosanti, to discuss how his ideas about living in the desert connect to Leopold’s land ethic. You can learn more about Soleri and Arcosanti at this link. Our trip to Arcosanti during Week Two also took in Montezuma Castle National Monument. Separated by only a few miles but a thousand years, Arcosanti and Montezuma Castle both exhibit a desire to live in and with the natural environment.
  • Photo courtesy of: the National Park ServiceGrand Canyon National Park was our location for Week Three. One of the most famous tourism destinations in the world, the Grand Canyon is not just pretty rocks and a river; people lived there for thousands of years. We met with National Park Service archaeologist Mike Anderson at the park’s new interpretive center to discuss the human, as well as the geological, stories that shape the Grand Canyon. Aldo Leopold conducted a major study of the park, so Mike described that history and Leopold’s recommendations. He also focused on indigenous land values and their connection to Leopold’s evolving ethics. We set aside time for some modest hiking and to simply take in the majestic views from the South Rim. You can read much more about the Grand Canyon at this NPS website.
  • Montezuma Castle National Monument, one of our two field trip sites for Week Two, was only a few miles from Arcosanti, but separated by more than a thousand years. Still, similar to Soleri’s experimental community, Montezuma Castle, a cliff-dwelling community built by the Sinagua Indians, is a perfect example of how a culture could live sustainably in a remote region where arable land and water are scarce. Arizona State University anthropologist Elizabeth Brandt, one of the state’s foremost authorities on native cultures, met us in the site’s museum to describe how Leopold’s land values may have been shaped by his ongoing encounters with American Indians. You can learn much more about Montezuma Castle and the nearby Montezuma Well at this NPS website.
  • Photo courtesy of: the Arizona Game & Fish DepartmentSpringerville, a small town in Arizona’s White Mountains, is the location where Aldo Leopold stepped from the train in the summer of 1909, so the site holds thematic significance for this institute. Our journey to Springerville across the state’s Mogollon Rim, a 200-mile plateau running from the Prescott region to New Mexico, also introduced us to many of the land features that Leopold studied during his 25 years in the Southwest. We visited the Sipe Wildlife Area, which lies in the shadow of the famous Escudilla Mountain, where we were met by noted environmental historian Stephen Pyne. An Arizona Game & Fish Department cabin serves as a visitors center and museum, telling Leopold’s story. It was in this area that Aldo Leopold started his career as a forester and conservationist, using this backdrop to begin his evolutionary philosophy on land use, game management, and aesthetics. The sections in A Sand County Almanac titled “Thinking Like a Mountain” and “Escudilla” were based on his experiences in this area.