No Pues Wow! Latina Trail Crew Breaks Down Barriers to Stewardship

No, pues, wow.

For those who know me, you’ll recognize the sentence above as my go-to catchphrase. It’s a Spanglish phrase best used to communicate awe in a natural setting. I frequently mutter it after reaching a ridge-top view after a steep climb. But right now, after having spent a week wandering in the woods with the Latina Trail Crew, “no pues wow” feels like an appropriate statement.

Latina Trail Crew explore an unnamed lake at Mt. Rainier

So what happened? The Latina Trail Crew was launched in conjunction with Washington Trails Association and Latino Outdoors.  On July 23rd, nine young girls (ranging in age from 13 to 16) embarked on an epic adventure at Mt. Rainier. We were stationed out of the White River campground and spent our days building trails, exploring rivers and contemplating the future of equity in the outdoors. Most of the participants hailed from the South Park neighborhood of Seattle and were alumni of the esteemed Duwamish Youth Corps. They had spent several months learning about environmental justice and community healing and were eager to take the lessons learned in South Park to the wild lands of Mt. Rainier.

several participants had never experienced snow in the mountains – so naturally we went looking for snow. 


Over the course of four days of trail work and over 30 hours of volunteer maintenance, the nine girls learned about the parks natural history, careers in the park service, and their own place in world of public land conservation.  We also learned, first-hand, just how ruthless the bugs can be in the sub-alpine.

Gazing over majestic scenery or scratching a bug bite?



This work would not have been possible without the support of the Washington National Park Fund, who raised funds to provide students for each participant. We are also greatly indebted to the folks at Mt. Rainier National Park (including Ranger Orozco, Ranger Annie, and Ranger Montgomery) who welcomes the crew to the park and inspired several to consider careers in the Park Service.

Ranger Montgomery explains the importance of building an inclusive conservation legacy. 


Thanks to the support of REI, Outdoor Research and MSR, the adventure doesn’t stop here. Each of the girls received numerous outdoor gear (ranging from stoves to backpacks to Goretex rain jackets) to encourage further exploration. It is our hope that WTA and Latino Outdoors have merely planted a seed, a passion for the outdoors, that will be further cultivated in years to come.

Girls pose with trail bosses, Boston and Alex, after a hard day of building check-steps.

Ranger Orozco, current Latino Outdoors Washington Ambassador, joins the girls to chat careers in the Park Service. 


No, pues, wow. 

#Cuauhtémocing: How A Soccer Legend Activated the Adventurous Explorer in Me – Michelle Piñon



If I’ve appeared naturally suave and adventurous, I’ve misled you. Any semblance of social grace has been years in the making for this Piñon. Actually, any of form of “grace” comes unnaturally to me. Including the kind where I don’t trip over my own skis and slide headfirst intro a row of unsuspecting skiers…which happened to me three weeks ago. So yeah… I’m not suave.



Those who know me well know that I’m hopelessly awkward. Actually, anybody who knows me …


And soccer players…they’re about as un-Michelle like as you can be. Those folks are everything I’ve ever striven to be. During my lanky awkward youth, I idolized  futbolistas. Because, frankly, I just didn’t understand how.

Como es possible moverse con tanta agilidad? Did he just do that with his feet? How..what…no mames!

Naturally, as a prepubescent girl, siempre me enamoraba de los futbolistas. Chances are if you played in soccer in high school, I had a massive crush you. (I might still have a crush on you, who knows…) And, also because I was a prepubescent girl, I was immensely self-conscious. So, I ended up admiring such feats of agility (and attractiveness) from afar. Even as I pined for soccer players, I have always shied away from the game itself. Soccer demands intense finesse and coordination and I often miss my mouth when I eat.



Am I falling or messing around? The world will never know.


When it comes to soccer gods I idolized growing up,  Cuauhtémoc Blanco reigned supreme (sorry Chivas fans). Para los que no lo conocen, Blanco played most of his career with América and invented Cuauhtemiña, which remains one of the sickest soccer moves you’ll ever see.  Blanco was well known for the poses he would strike after sinking in goals. He was well known for this gem in particular –


I encountered this pose a lot growing up and distinctly remember watching folks in high school imitate Cuauhtémoc whenever they were out on the field. The pose meant something special to me then. It was a moment of Mexican pride, it was a celebration of finesse, it was accomplishment embodied. I craved something like that for myself. That’s where #Cuauhtémocing comes in for me.


#Cuauhtémocing at Rainier

#Cuauhtémocing is for those rare moments when I’m trekkin’ like a fearless mountain goat.  The mountains change you – for me, they challenged me to think of myself less as a awkward lump and more as a adventurous explorer. Going outside, spending summers frolicking in national parks, made my life better because I became less self-conscious.  Now, I worry so much less about my weight, my inherited lack of grace and physical imperfections –there’s no time for that when you’re outside feeling strong.



#Cuauhtémocing at Crater Lake National Park…with some birthday balloons that floated into the forest.


The #Cuauhtémocing poses I strike against majestic backdrops pay homage to my transformation over the last couple years. It’s been slow going, yes, but I’ve nonetheless moved away from my insecurities (thinking that I was hopelessly awkward and clumsy) to reinventing myself as a bold adventuress.

So yeah…if on occasion I do seem suave and adventurous, please know that it’s been years in the making.



Here’s some of my friends #Cuahtémocing with me



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Michelle Piñon is Latino Outdoors’ Regional Coordinator for the Pacific Northwest. Outside of Latino Outdoors, Michelle is also the Outreach and Volunteer Coordinator for Puget Soundkeeper and a Natural Leader. Michelle spends the vast majority of her time either outside or plotting how to be outside. She also loves Justin Bieber in a non-ironic way.

The Brief and Wondrous Life of Pepe The Piñata – Michelle Piñon

Like any good piñata, Pepe was made in México. Constructed from a hodgepodge compilation of used car advertisements and weight-loss flyers, Pepe was a classic piñata. And he had no idea what adventures awaited him at Yosemite National Park.


Pepe campPepe stands guard while the LO team explores the Yosemite Valley.

Eduardo and I met Pepe at a crossroads in his life. We promised him adventure. Even while nestled amongst his brothers in an overflowing cardboard bin at a Grocery Outlet, Pepe stood out. As much as it is physically possible for piñata to look adventurous, Pepe looked adventurous. So, we bought him and loaded him up in a car bound for Yosemite.

pepe purchaseAlthough still in disbelief that we were actually going to buy a piñata for our camping trip, Eduardo welcomes Pepe to our Latino Outdoors family.

Pepe was always destined for the mountains. He ventured high into the Stanislaus National Forest before descending into Yosemite Valley. He watched the heavy rain outside Sacramento become light snow in Groveland. He even offered to help us wrap snow chains around Eduardo’s tires after the car almost veered off an icy forest road.

snowy yosemitealthough truth be told, piñatas know very little about snow chains.


Wherever Pepe went in the Valley he was met with confusion (why is that piñata here? is it hiking? this is confusing.). But Pepe didn’t mind. He was a trend-setter – a real maverick. Plus, once people got over their initial confusion, (“yes..that is a colorful piñata stashed in between our down sleeping bags and Jetboils.”) they would ask if we had plans to break him soon. They wanted in on our piñata festivities. And so, Pepe became a celebrity of sorts.


Yet ultimately, Pepe fell victim to the elements. While our LO crew scampered about granite mountains and slid around on slick ice patches, Pepe protected our tents from mischievous raccoons.  (Apparently, in Yosemite, raccoons have learned how to unzip tent flaps.) As the afternoon set in, rain clouds rolled onto the scene and poor Pepe got caught in the storm. By the time we returned to the campground, Pepe was completely soaked.

That night we debated what to do with Pepe. Should we take him back to his former home in Sacramento? Attempt to blow-dry him? Or… should we use him to supplement our rapidly depleting firewood supply? Eventually we agreed to cremate the poor guy. (i.e. – Alfonso bugged me about it a couple times and I eventually gave in). Find below pictures of that painful, yet beautiful, funeral.

Pepe Fire
Biggest lesson learned – Piñatas burn really well. Like surprisingly well.

Pepe’s life was short-lived, true, but it was an exciting one. May we all learn from his sense of adventure, colorful disposition and unwavering belief that a belly full of candy is the key to life well lived. Hasta la siguiente Pepe!

(Also- here are more pictures from the trip!)


food and fun




Michelle Piñon is Latino Outdoors’ Regional Coordinator for the Pacific Northwest. Outside of Latino Outdoors, Michelle is also the Outreach and Volunteer Coordinator for Puget Soundkeeper and a Natural Leader. Michelle spends the vast majority of her time either outside or plotting how to be outside. She also loves Justin Bieber in a non-ironic way.