Hello, Hola, Barev, Helo, Annyeonghaseyo, and Everything in Between*

Greetings from sunny Southern California, more specifically, from my neighborhood of Little Armenia in the heart of Hollywood, California!


Blurry, but a picture of our iconic HOLLYWOOD sign, as seen from climbing up to the Griffith Observatory

My name is Esmeralda Baklayan and I am a 22-year-old recent college graduate from the University of California, Riverside (GO HIGHLANDERS!), where I received my Bachelor’s of Science degree in Anthropology.  My passion for Anthropology is fueled by my love of Archaeology, and for those of you who may not know what either of these two fields are (don’t worry, you’re not the only one whose head turns to the side in confusion at the sound of these two words), anthropology is basically the study of/the speaking of humans (anthropo- “humans” + -logy “to speak of”) and archaeology (a subdivision of anthropology) is the study of past humans cultures through investigation of physical evidence. For the next 10 weeks I will have the opportunity to intern (through the Latino Heritage Internship Program) at the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (try saying that five times really fast), where I will help out the in-house archaeologists, interpreters, and geologists survey and map out any and every artifact found in and around the full extent of the park (which spans about advocate the historical, environmental, and cultural interpretation and preservation of the park through various activities and events, while also connecting people to the park by bridging their love of the location with the importance of maintaining the park’s legacy in the community.  As a Los Angeles native and an anthropology major, these goals are what interested me the most when applying for an internship with the Hispanic Access Foundation (HAF); I want to see the communities I’ve grown up with and grown up in seek out the beautiful parks that their city has to offer, while also informing them about the history behind these parks.

  So let me tell you about my first four days! My first day mainly consisted of tours around the office and specific procedures on how the inner-workings of the Santa Monica Mountains (SAMO) visitor center help make for a productive environment.  I’ll provide pictures of the offices soon; I was too excited learning about the whole place to stop and take pictures.  BUT ON TUESDAY… We went out to the mountains!  Let me give you a brief overview of the project that the park is working on: There’s a trail called the Backbone Trail that the NPS has been working on since the late 70s, which connects each end of the 67 mile stretch of the Santa Monica Mountains.  The NPS has been working on making each piece of the trail safe and usable by hikers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders to make their way from the westernmost end, Point Mugu State Park, to its easternmost end, Will Rogers State Historic Park. BBT-Map-Image-2 Our mission that day was to survey two pieces of the trail that are currently cutting through private property and propose detours that can be made soon in order to fully connect the whole Backbone Trail as one long stretch.  I haven’t hiked in a cool minute…ok, I haven’t really hiked like this AT ALL, but I was ready for this new experience filled with yellow jackets, potential rattlesnakes, poison oak, chiggers, and other hazards that make the Santa Monica Mountains the Santa Monica Mountains! And I did this all with the help and company of archaeologists, park rangers, and other NPS staff members! 🙂


Me, probably panting after having hiked a little over a mile of the mountains.


A view from the mountains facing Ventura County


Some of the SAMO rangers and staff 🙂


One of the rangers, Bruce, explaining the trail proposals to us in detail. He got a bunch of nicks and cuts on his arms from fighting with trees! 🙁


A view of Malibu from the mountains 🙂



I slept like a baby that night. I spent the next two days learning how to use the archaeological database that the park uses, Archaeological Sites Management Information System (ASMIS), since I would be temporarily taking over a project in which a graduate student intern was updating the records kept in the system. The system contains EVERY ARTIFACT FOUND in the park, most of which are connected to the Chumash tribes that inhabited the area thousands of years before.*** Soon I’m going to accompany the archaeologists in surveying more sites around the mountains, which will definitely give me a chance to learn how the pros work and prepare me for what I want to do very soon with my career! I also attended a very informative workshop on the usage of digital media software to better enhance any visual representations we may create for the park, so if you see my blogs starting to look better as the weeks go by, you’ll know why. 😉 I’ll keep you all posted on my next adventures at the park! I’m accompanying a historian tomorrow (Friday, 6/26) to help him compare notes with other historians at the archive center near SAMO, so stay tuned! 🙂

*The languages, in order: English, Spanish, Armenian, Filipino, and Korean.  Just a taste of my city. **Everyone in our group knew the scientific classification of every flower we saw! Props to them! 🙂 ***If you find an artifact at the park, or any park for that matter, leave it there. Don’t take it with you.

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