By Remi Mateo
Ever since I began the #52HikeChallenge the first weekend of January this year, I’ve looked forward to my Sunday hikes. Prior to this year, I had done some local hikes, like Runyon Canyon and Griffith Park in Los Angeles. This year, however, has been an adventure – hiking new trails, seeing waterfalls, hearing streams, and enjoying majestic views from some of the highest peaks in Southern California. Before joining the Sunday Hiking Crew, an informal Facebook group that some friends of mine started this year, I didn’t know many people who passionately enjoyed hiking. It’s because of this group I can say that I have found my hiking tribe. It helps to have knowledgeable people that can introduce you to parts of Southern California as well as teach you how to be safe in the wilderness.
The #52HikeChallenge, an initiative started by an Orange County couple, Karla Camador and Phillip Stinis, was a project to get people hiking once a week and to use the hashtag to connect and engage with others on social media. In the last 11 months, my hiking tribe and I hiked Mount Wilson, Cucamonga Peak, Topanga State Park, Bridge to Nowhere, Mount Baldy, San Jacinto – just to name a few. The beauty of the #52HikeChallenge is that anyone can participate and find a group of friends and start a weekly hiking group or join a few that are out there like the Sunday Hiking Crew, 213 FB Hikers, and other groups out there that you can easily find on Meetup.
During this hiking challenge I’ve gained a heightened consciousness of environmental awareness, I’ve connected with other like-minded people who are willing to go on hiking adventures, and also my mental health has improved by being out in the wilderness and taking all of what nature has to offer. I also feel that by hiking and exploring our natural lands people become more invested in their environment and have more of a reason to become environmental advocates.
It’s November and I’m currently on my 34th hike. I’m doing everything in my power to complete 52 hikes this year because I love a challenge. As a former high school football player, I would typically spend my Saturdays and Sundays watching football. I now look forward to my Sunday hikes – even throughout football season!
It’s funny how I’ve changed this past year. Even when I go out on Saturdays for a social outing or a bar, I make sure to be back at a decent hour so I can get enough sleep for my Sunday hike.
So what’s next for me on this journey? I’ve signed up for the Sierra Club Wilderness Travel Course which is a yearly course that teaches people how to be safe and survive out in the wilderness. I plan to use this information to share with others and hold bilingual workshops in order to get more Latinos out and exploring.
I encourage everyone to find their hiking tribe. Get your non-hiking friends to check out the outdoors, find a hiking group on Facebook or Meetup, carpool together and post those pictures on Instagram. I’ll be looking for your hashtags. @mateo_remi213
“The mountains are calling and I must go.”- John Muir
Remigio “Remi” Mateo has been hiking on and off for years. He lives in the Silverlake/Rampart District of Los Angeles. He loves to hike, bike, meet new people, and volunteer his time to various non-profit organizations. Remi is also a member of Voces Latinas Toastmasters where he has honed his public speaking skills and is working toward becoming a professional speaker.