The founder of Bunks and Burros and the beginnings
About Bunks and Burros
A unique two night volunteer camping event located along the foothills of the Sierra Nevada to benefit the wild burros and other rescued animals living at the Wild Burro Rescue and Preservation Project in Olancha, CA
Located on 130 acres in the shadow of the Eastern Sierra, the Wild Burro Rescue provides sanctuary to over 200 burros, mules, horses, dogs, cats and one orphaned cow. Founder Diana Chontos started the rescue after learning about the National Park's “direct reduction” program of wild burros in Death Valley. From 1987 to 1994, the park service shot 400 burros in Death Valley alone (thousands more were shot in Grand Canyon and Death Valley from 1920-1971). Because the government land-management policy calls for the elimination of wild burros, the Wild Burro Rescue Project has become one of the only safe places for them to live out their lives.
When I first visited the rescue back in May of 2016, I instantly felt a connection to the land and the animals that have found sanctuary there. I've also grown close to Diana and her dedicated team of workers who do an incredible job of providing care and love to all the animals but are often forced to place other projects on the back burner due to insufficient funding and/or limited resources. While the rescue has always been open to volunteers, the volunteer program itself hasn't always been able to reach its full potential.
Bunks & Burros was created to build upon the volunteer program that already exists at the rescue. This unique one of a kind program offers volunteers the opportunity to camp alongside some of the last remaining wild burros taken out of Death Valley National Park. They'll also work on projects during their stay that will help improve the lives of all the animals that now call the sanctuary their home.
WHAT TO EXPECT
After a short, bumpy drive off of Highway 395, you'll reach the entrance to the sanctuary. Inside sits a very secluded 130 acre ranch nestled against the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, where the sagebrush meets the pines. As you drive onto the property, you'll be greeted by some of the over 200 wild burros that have been rescued from Death Valley National Park or other nearby locations that they once called home. Soon you'll reach the spot where you'll be camping at over the next couple of nights. After all the volunteers have arrived and set up their camps, we'll meet up with Diana and enjoy a drink or two as we watch the stars appear over the Sierra Nevada Range. After heading back to camp, you'll have an opportunity to enjoy the beautiful night sky and say good night to the burros before hitting the hay.
The next morning, early risers will set off on an optional short hike up to a nearby rock outcropping to watch the sunrise over Owens Valley and the Inyo, Panamint and Coso Ranges. After meeting back up with the rest of the group, you'll then get a chance to help feed the burros, horses and the rest of the animals that call the sanctuary their home. After a short breakfast, you'll be assigned to work on a project. Projects may include anything from removing rocks from corrals, pouring a foundation for a shed, making sure the animals have clean water or just about anything else you can think of. Each project will have a different level of difficulty, so if you get assigned to something you can't do (or don't want to do), let us know and we will gladly reassign you to something else. We want you to have an amazing experience so you'll come back or at least tell your friends about us. Regardless of what project you end up working on, you'll have the satisfaction of knowing that each one will go towards improving the lives of the animals or the sanctuary in some way. Later that evening, we'll meet up with Diana for some pre-dinner Q & A. To show our appreciation for all the hard work you did during the day, dinner on Saturday night is on us!
The third day will progress much like the previous one but it will be way more casual. Depending on what needs to be done, we'll either wrap up the projects we were working on the day before or spend the morning enjoying the animals. During lunch, we'll clean up camp and pack our cars. After a little volunteer appreciation, you'll have one last chance to say goodbye to Diana and the rest of gang before we officially end the program. Volunteers are then free to leave or head out on an optional 3-4 mile moderate hike to the historic ruins of The Oaks Pack Station and secret waterfall. We should be back to our cars at the Rescue by 5:00pm.
Friday [Day 1]
5:00pm-6:45pm - Volunteer arrivals/Camp setup (arrival time is flexible, please read the FAQ's below for more info)
7:00pm - Diana Meet and Greet Happy Hour
8:00pm-11:00pm - Stargaze, play games, tell stories, read a book, enjoy the moment
11:00pm - Quite/bed time.
Bunks and Burros 1- May 19- 21, 2017
ABOUT CAMP BURRO
Looking for more meaning in your life in 2018? Why not become a volunteer at the Wild Burro Rescue and Preservation Project in Olancha, CA? Camp Burro offers volunteers a chance to live off grid in a tiny cabin while caring for over 200 burros, mules, horses, dogs, cats and one orphaned cow. The Rescue is located on 130 acres in the shadow of the Eastern Sierra and is only a three hour drive from Los Angeles.
Camp Burro is a one-on-one personalized volunteer experience. A small off grid tiny cabin will be your cozy home during your stay. The cabin is perfect for 1-2 people, so you are more than welcome to bring along a family member or friend if you like.
Camp Burro takes place Thursday-Saturday during the dates listed in this event. While we would prefer that you stay with us both Thursday and Friday nights, we understand that this might not be possible for everyone. If you are only able to attend for one night or would like to extend your stay past Saturday, please message me and we may be able to work something out.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Volunteers who attend Camp Burro will help care for all the animals living at the sanctuary during their stay. This will include feeding and making sure they have enough water throughout the day. We may also work on some smaller projects that will directly benefit the animals or sanctuary in some way. There are lots of incredible hikes and great photo opportunities in and around the property that will also be available to you during your stay. Nights at the sanctuary are even more spectacular, with dark skies perfect for stargazing and capturing glimpses of the Milky Way (if you’re lucky). What you do for the rest of your evening is up to you. Whether that’s playing a round of cards, shooting the sh*t or just retiring to your tiny cabin to read a good book, nights at the Rescue are perfect for unwinding after spending the day caring for the animals.
Animal lovers, photographers, hikers, travel bloggers, nature lovers, bird watchers, stargazers, urban runaways, off grid wannabes, dreamers, and just about any other type of person who loves the outdoors and enjoys making a difference in an animals life. EVERYONE is welcome at Camp Burro.
WHAT TO BRING
- a sleeping bag, blankets, pillows and an air mattress for extra comfort. We can provide a cot for you to sleep on or you can sleep in the loft area inside your cabin
- a folding chair for camp or inside your cabin
- lanterns/lights for your cabin and flashlights/headlamps for walking around at night (extra batteries are always good)
- enough food for your entire stay. Fires aren't allowed on the property but small portable camping stoves are okay
- drinking water (at least a gallon a day or more per person)
- an ice chest and ice for your drinks and perishables
- trash bags...pack it in, pack it out and leave no trace. There's no trash collection on site, so please take it with you when you leave the Rescue
- car chargers for all your devices, the Rescue is off grid so you won't have access to electricity during your stay. Cell service is fairly good on most of the property (including your cabin) but becomes more spotty as you get closer to the main house
- sun protection: big hats, sunglasses, sunscreen, bandanas
- clothes you don't mind getting dirty, including work gloves
- an old pair of shoes or muckers (rubber boots) which can usually be found for under $20 bucks at a hardware or army surplus store
- hiking shoes/boots and clothes if you plan on going on any of the optional hikes.
- cameras (sorry, no drones allowed, they scare the burros)
- baby wipes, toilet paper, paper towels and zip lock/grocery bags (there are no showers or flushing toilets but you will have access to a private paper free [no TP], waterless compost toilet and water to use for cooking or cleaning if needed).
- carrots for the animals (optional but greatly appreciated)
Q. Are kids allowed?
A. Unfortunately, no one under 18 can attend but we are looking into having family events in the future where those under 18 will be able to join us.
Q. Can I bring my pet?
A. While the sanctuary loves all animals, it would be unsafe for yours to attend, so please leave them at home.
Q. How much does it cost?
A. The event is free, however you will be responsible for bringing all of your own camping gear, food, water and other items you would typically take with you on a 2 day long camping trip.
Q. Do I need a 4WD vehicle to make it to the sanctuary?
A. No, the sanctuary is located approximately 2.8 miles off of Highway 395 down a very bumpy/rocky dirt road but if you take it slow, most vehicles with average clearance will have no issues.
Q. Are the arrival and departure times flexible?
A. The earlier you can arrive on Thursday the better. Since the animals are often fed in the morning/early afternoon, we would like to be able to use this time to show you the process. It’s also one of the best times for photography at the Rescue. If you can’t make it that early, no problem, just let me know. Departure time on Saturday is usually around 1pm after all the animals are fed, however, all times are flexible so just let me know what works best for you.
Q. Are fires allowed?
A. While campfires are awesome, they are not allowed on the property. In fact, only small portable camping stoves can be used during your stay (no candles, fireworks or fires of any other kind are allowed).
Q. What will the weather be like?
A. The sanctuary is located up against the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in Owens Valley at an elevation of 4,500 feet. While it's difficult to predict what the weather will be like during your stay, winters usually average anywhere between 30-70 degrees. Nights can get chilly so bring warm clothes (thermals, beanies, gloves) and down blankets/sleeping bags to keep you warm while sleeping. It’s probably a good idea to check the forecast for Olancha, CA prior to your stay so you’ll no what to expect.
Q. What are the tiny cabins like?
A. The cabins are the perfect size for one person but can comfortably sleep up to two people. There’s a small loft area that can also be used for sleeping. The high ceilings make them feel much larger than they actually are. There’s no water in the cabin but a faucet is located right outside if needed. There’s also no electricity or heat so bring plenty of lanterns and warm clothes and blankets to help keep you warm.
Q. What about the bathroom situation?
A. There are no flushing toilets but you will have access to a private, paper free [no TP], waterless, compost toilet that is located in the cabin just a few steps from yours. The toilet is very much like a pit toilet only paper cannot be discarded in it. Instead, you will be required to place any paper (including TP) into a sealed plastic baggie and then discard it into a trash can located next to the toilet. It's not as bad as it sounds. While there are no showers available, you are more than welcome to use one of the many water hoses located around the property to clean up with if needed.
Q. None of the dates listed on your events page works for me, can I visit or volunteer at the Rescue any other times?
A. We are constantly adding more dates to the events we organize at the Rescue, so make sure to follow our FB page so you’ll know when new dates are added. Visitors and volunteers are welcome at the Wild Burro Rescue throughout the year (although summers can be harsh). If you would like to visit, please call or text Founder, Diana Chontos @ 1-760-384-8523. The property is secured with a locked gate and you must coordinate the date and time of your visit with Diana prior to your arrival to gain access. If you would like to come out and spend a day or longer as a volunteer, please send me a message via Facebook, Instagram or email @ email@example.com. If a cabin isn’t available during your stay, we may be able to provide you with another accommodation. In the warmer months you are more than welcome to camp on the property or sleep in your vehicle. Due to the road conditions, RV’s are not recommended but if you have a truck camper or are living the #vanlife we have areas for you to park on the property if needed.
Q. I won’t be able to make it to the event but would still like to help out the Rescue in some other way, is there anything else I can do?
A. There sure is, please visit https://www.wildburrorescue.org/you-can-help.html to find out how you can help support the Rescue. The Wild Burro Rescue and Preservation Project is a tax-exempt non-profit organization under section 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Code, so all donations are tax deductible.
Wintertime at the Rescue is magical but often to chilly for the tent camping our volunteers enjoy during our larger volunteer group event, Bunks & Burros (Spring/Fall). Camp Burro was created to give volunteers a more personalized experience during the cooler months of the year. Our goal is to show you just how special the Rescue truly is, so you’ll want to keep coming back. Once you spend a couple of days caring for these special animals, we have no doubt you will be back, again and again.
If you have any questions, please let me know and I'll be happy to answer them for you.
- Straynger Ranger
The founder of Bunks and Burros and the beginnings
The latest Camp Burro video by Straynger Ranger on January 26, 2018
Come to visit and spend time with our burros!
At right is a video that was filmed here at the sanctuary that is very informative on the PMU issue that many horses like Amber face each day.
Straynger Ranger Videos
When I first visited the Wild Burro Rescue and Preservation Project back in May of 2016, I instantly felt a connection to the land and the animals that have found sanctuary there. I grew up in Bakersfield, CA surrounded by all kinds of animals but it was our horses that I always felt the strongest connection with. Visiting the rescue that first time reminded me of all those wonderful memories I had growing up and over the next 12 months I continued to return to do what I could to help out. Each visit made me realize just how much work goes into running the rescue and I knew I needed to do more.
I created Bunks & Burros to build upon the volunteer program that already exists at the rescue. This unique one of a kind event allows volunteers to camp alongside some of the last remaining wild burros to be rescued out of Death Valley National Park, experience incredible hikes, and most importantly work on projects that help improve the lives of all the animals living at the sanctuary.
Watching Shadow, a senior Burro living with a club foot react to seeing her newly cleaned out stall, was a fairly good sign that we were doing something right during our first event back in May of 2017.
Bunks & Burros volunteers, with the help of everyone else at the Wild Burro Rescue, were able to complete the following projects during our weekend long stay:
• removed excess hay and manure from four stalls, which helped reduce the biting fly and gnat populations that often annoy and cause serious health issues for the burros
• removed hundreds of large rocks from a corral that surrounded Shadow and Daisy, two older burros that have difficulties walking due to their club feet and/or other crippling issues, which allowed them to enjoy the sun more often and opened up a larger area for them to walk in
• cleared smelly compact soil, rocks and debris from some of the steel fencing and shade structures that had washed in during a recent flood, which stopped rust from weakening them further in the future
During our second Bunks & Burros event in October of 2017, the love continued and with the help of all the volunteers completed the following:
• removed hundreds of large rocks from Billy's and Chicalene's corrals, making it easier for Billy to walk around on his club foot and providing Chicalene with a much bigger space to run and play in
• fed and watered all the other animals living at the sanctuary
• offloaded hay around the entire property
• deep cleaned two of the cabins and a restroom so that future volunteers and guests will have a better overall experience when visiting the rescue
I plan to continue to host Bunks & Burros throughout the year and would ultimately like to start organizing larger fundraisers and organized group events sometime in the future. In the meantime, I’ll continue to remain focused on raising awareness about the rescue through my videos (https://vimeo.com/strayngerranger) and social networks (https://www.instagram.com/strayngerranger/). After all, Burros have been helping people throughout most of their existence, isn't it time we showed them a little love?
Cash Autrey aka Straynger
For information about upcoming Bunks & Burros events, please follow Straynger Ranger on FB (https://m.facebook.com/strayngerranger/).
Besides helping the burros, there were also a lot of "side trips" made with hiking all around the sanctuary. Catching stunning waterfalls, sunrises and sunsets.
If you'd like to come and visit and volunteer with us please contact Straynger Ranger for news of the next upcoming Bunks & Burros 3
Our two volunteer event programs explained
Who is Straynger Ranger?
A ranger of the strange and no stranger to the range, Straynger Ranger is obsessed with discovering the hidden histories and unique stories of the obscure and often overlooked people, places and things that surround us.
Find out more at http://strayngerranger.com/
Bunks and Burros 2 - October 6-8, 2017
A nice dinner after the day's work with (L-R): Gerhard, Diana, Aime, Roger, Cash and Lale
The video below sums up beautifully the work done by these awesome volunteers!