Latino Outdoors Leadership Campout 2016

Malibu Creek State Park
April 1st – April 3rd

Latino Outdoors hosted it’s first Leadership Campout, Sembrando Semillas, this spring. Thirty-five outdoor leaders from across the country, and a few family members, came together to learn, teach, build community, and share space together in a beautiful natural setting. Below is a narrative from one of the attendees as well as a photo gallery from the weekend.

 

A Chicano’s Experience Outdoors

By Efraín Delgado

I traveled down California in a black, rented, soccer team van with six people I had only ever previously met through emails. We were on our way to the first ever Latino Outdoors Leadership Campout, which was being hosted at Malibu Creek State Park.

With the van’s windows down we drove into the parking lot just outside of our campsite with La Chona by Los Tucanes de Tijuana playing. The fatigue in our bodies was replaced with nostalgia and excitement as the fast-paced accordion, the slightly funky bass line, and the flashback-inducing chorus shook the cheap plastic interior of the van. For a nature loving Chicano this was a rare moment where two parts of my identity were able to transcend the border that regularly divides them.

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At the campout I saw people wearing huaraches, people’s skin tones matched my own, and I heard conversations conducted in colloquial Spanglish. We shared stories of being the lone person of color in our professional settings while we mulled ideas on how to reconnect the Latinx community to the outdoors. José González, the Founder of Latino Outdoors, wore a faded black shirt with Tierra y Libertad, a slogan from the Mexican Revolution that translates to Land and Liberty, printed across the front in an old English font.

Latino Outdoors provided validation of my Chicano identity.

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“The Bioblitz Dance” is a celebration of the outdoors, human diversity and biodiversity, and national parks. It was created for National Geographic’s Bioblitz Event, but should be done outside and often. #BioBlitzDance

 

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My First 3,000 Feet! ~ By Frank Barragan

Sandstone Peak Hike Morning

I don’t make it a habit to wake up at 6 am on the weekends. Especially Sunday! I mean, who does that?? Crazy people! That’s who!!

But this Sunday would be unique. It would be something really special; an exhausting, exhilarating, challenging adventure.

As I lay in bed, rudely awakened by my iPhone alarm, I had to decide if I was going to do this or not. I was supposed to go with a group, but in the end. I would be taking on this adventure, all by myself!

I was actually a little nervous that morning. Sure, I’d been on hikes before, but hikes I knew, and typically no more than a couple of miles. This would be a 6 mile trail with a pretty solid incline.

Being overweight doesn’t help. Having shortness of breath due to mild asthma doesn’t help either. And having flat arches is the worse, especially when you’re packing extra weight. When your feet get tired you get these extremely sharp pains right in the middle of your arch that feels like you’re being stabbed right in the middle of your foot!!  But when you’re determined to do something, you find a way to do it, no matter how much your body fights you!

So I got up, packed some snacks, a large water bottle, my sunscreen and off I went. I would have to drive deep into one of the mountains to access the trailhead. As I drove out there, finding the location pointed to by my iPhone’s GPS, it seemed like a dead end, not a trail head. I was about to turn back around and go home gleefully! But, I’m a MexiCAN, not a MexiCAN’t. So I drove about 500 feet and finally ran into the trail head.

I removed all my valuables from my car, as the warning sign stated, locked my car and off I went. I wasn’t sure just where i was going, but the entrance to the trail was well marked.

My nerves were a lot calmer now and I was taking in the beauty that is the Santa Monica Mountains. A breathtaking, 7am view due East.

I wasn’t actually sure if the trail was 6 miles in and 6 miles out, or 6 miles altogether. But by that time it didn’t really matter. Time to keep on keepin on!

Sandstone Peak Hike Hill I trekked for what seem to be an eternity. I looked at my watch, and it had only been an hour. At that pace, I figured it would take me at least 2 more hours to get to the top of this beautiful hike.

I pressed on, little by little, taking breaks often to let my flat feet and my weak lungs a rest. Lucky for me there was plenty of shade along the way because this was a HOT day!

California had been having these ridiculously global warmed days this summer that were blistering with a smoldering of humidity!

I must have reached several plateaus on the way up and every time I thought, am I there yet? Am I there yet??  My feet aching, my lungs burning, and my water running out. I knew I should have brought 2 bottles! Nonetheless, I couldn’t give up. I had to push myself.

I saw the signs, stating the peak was about 2 more miles. I cringed, but I collected myself and moved forward. The scenery was beautiful. The stillness of the air, exquisite. Nature, I felt, could cure almost anything!

I finally made it to the top, out of breath and nearly out of water, but I made it!! And it was all worth it.

If i had to do it all over again, I would do it.

I climbed onto the precarious large set of rocks at the top, managed to perch myself into a spot and took in the beauty of looking down at the Conejo Valley from 3000 feet above ground. Spectacular doesn’t even seem like a justified word to use; magnificent maybe.

I would use extraordinary, but I think that word has lost it’s meaning from overuse. Whatever it was, it was one of those once in a lifetime moments where you feel like you’re on top of the world and you kind of sort of are!

Time slows down up there. You take it all in, relax, and sit still with your thoughts and feelings. You let go of everything. This is the place of where epiphanies happen.

There were others there, but less than a handful at a time. I made some small talk before signing the Sandstone Peak log book. After about an hour of calmly relaxing with the wind at my back, the Pacific Ocean at my fingertips and dozens of mountains across the  way, I was ready to descend.

I had ran out of water by this time, and the weather was starting to get a little brutal. The way down proved to have no shade and was steeper, with a lot of loose gravel. It was challenging heading down. I had to watch every step carefully all while trying to maintain my thirst at bay.

Fortunately the way down was shorter, because it was steeper.

Frank BarraganAlthough I didn’t feel ill, I kept kicking myself for not bringing sufficient water and becoming parched most of the way down the hill.

After what seemed like an eternity (a different eternity), I saw the parking lot within site. I sprinted down the trail and tried reaching my car as fast as possible. I had to get to it, and head somewhere to buy some water. I had none left in my car.

I finally arrived at my visor-less protected car, relieved, exhausted, uber-parched. Yeah, but did you die??? No, not really!

I headed off to the nearest gas station 10 miles away. Grabbed multiple cans of various non-carbonated drinks, and proceeded to pound them like a college student at Oktoberfest.

My legs were weak, my body tight, my feet exhausted. But my mind was operating at 100%.

There’s nothing like the feeling of overcoming something you thought you couldn’t. It’s empowering. I believe it increases your willpower and your intestinal fortitude to pursue what most people won’t. I prove to myself once again, that I’m not a quitter. I prove to myself that I CAN do it, and that in the end, it is ALL worth it!

Sandstone Peak Overlook

Frank Barragan has been hiking on and off for about 5 years. He lives in the San Fernando Valley (Los Angeles) where he owns a small Web Design business. He loves to hike, meet new people, and volunteer his time to various non-profit organizations. Frank is also a member of Toastmasters where he has honed his public speaking skills and is working towards becoming a professional speaker.


“This I Believe” ~ Alin Badillo

This I Believe
By Alin Badillo

When I was younger I remember my mother always watering the plants she had around the house. I remember her watering them with a huge smile on her face. Her eyes glowed with such brightness that you could see the reflection of the moon upon the town. She seemed very peaceful and relaxed. I remember her looking at me and telling me about how much peace and harmony the plants brought to our house. She said that the plants gave us peace and harmony. At that age I was confused. I had no idea what she was talking about.

As I grew older the separation of my parents was cruel and devastating for me. I was only eight when my mother, who had custody of me, left me in Mexico and came to the USA. I didn’t know what to do. My two older sisters didn’t mind living with our aunt. Unlike them, I felt very lost with no guidance. Every day after school I spent my afternoons and free time on top of a tall, green and strong tree my grandmother had in her backyard. The tree was very bushy and wide like a tall and buff bodyguard guarding a one year old. The tree made me realized how being near plants and trees put me at ease with myself. I felt protected and safe.

It didn’t take long before my mother brought both of my sisters and me to the USA. All I wanted was to be with my mother so I didn’t mind leaving my history behind to start all over. The four of us arrived in Jackson, Wyoming at five in the morning at our mom’s apartment. That night I fell asleep in her arms. When I woke up she was watering plants. She had plants at every inch of the apartment. If you went to the bathroom, you saw a cactus. If you went to the kitchen you saw a spider plant. The apartment looked like a jungle. The jungle of in her house reminded me of how peaceful and calm I was at my grandmother’s tree.

Alin Tree-1

Growing up with a single mother and two teenage sisters was very hard. Not to mention growing up in a culture that was different to all of us. Going to school helped me to adapt but it was miniscule. What helped me the most was living in an area surrounded by mountains, plants and wildlife. Every time I was upset or just wanted peace, I went on hikes and stopped to look at the sky and listen to the birds chirp. I went to find the tranquility that only the forests could give me. I knew then that I had one mission in life. My mission was to protect the natural wonders of the world and teach others that plants and wild life can bring peace to the earth.

As I got older and more educated I understood that the only way I was going to fulfill my mission was through education. I wasn’t sure if I could even get that far; I come from a low-income family; my parents did not finish Middle School; my sisters got married and had kids at ages 18 and 19. I was expected to end up like my sisters, at least that’s what my coworkers and others said to me. Every time I spoke to them about my dream of saving the earth, they just laughed and changed the topic. It didn’t matter to me if they believed me or not, because every time I went to take a hike on the mountain or saw swans with their family crossing the street on my way to work, my ambition to protect the wild landscapes and teach others of its magic grew immense.

Alin Tree-1

Now that I am 21 years old, I am very proud of how far in life I have gotten because of how much I care for the environment. I know that society and nature can live together. I perceive that I can teach society what the natural environment taught me. If people are able to connect to the environment as my mother and I do, society will understand that taking care of our wildlife and plants as if it were part of us will bring peace and harmony to all of us.

Alin Badillo is a student of the University of Wyoming majoring in International Studies and Environment and Natural Resources. This past semester she had the opportunity to write a “This I Believe” essay through a course offered by the UW Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources. She presented her work to students and faculty to share and express some of the core values that help guide her daily life. The “This I Believe” essay is based on a 1950’s radio program hosted by journalist Edward R. Murrow. In 2004, This I Believe, Inc. was founded as a non-profit organization to engage people from all walks of life to share their core values in hopes to encourage people to respect beliefs that may be different from their own. Since then, essays have been featured in National Public Radio (NPR) broadcasts, in classrooms, within organizations, and across communities.

Alin is excited to share her “This I Believe” essay and hopes to inspire other young Latinas and Latinos to explore how they make connections to the natural world around them.