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. 


Latino Outdoors: A True Force of Nature

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Latino Outdoors: A True Force of Nature

Written by Maricela Rosales, Los Angeles Coordinator

 

Several months ago, I watched the Force of Nature (FON) anthem video and I said to myself, “It’s about time!” As I sat at a coffee shop reflecting on what FON means to me. I realize that it takes more than just going outside and exploring. You really need to stand by your beliefs and allow for growth to lead you to where you need to go. This campaign starts the conversation of having grit to resist the status quo, find your path; to get outdoors and live it the way you want to live it — all the while diversifying these spaces and bringing about positive change.

 

Such a powerful message can be portrayed in the work Latino Outdoors (LO) does. LO is a very unique group, driven by passionate volunteers who believe in creating a national community of Latino leaders in conservation and outdoor education. LO has many female leaders, paving the way in their local communities by connecting families and youth to the outdoors, and promoting leadership in nature.  By creating, mentoring, and expanding outdoor access to different recreational activities, LO is effectively amplifying the Latino narrative in green and open spaces.

 

Latino Outdoors has opened many doors for its volunteers and the communities it touches. This organization has chosen to give their time and energy to enhance the well-being of the Latino community, and so many lives have been positively impacted. Quality of life is enhanced when you share the outdoors with others; it influences people to act in the same capacity and truly builds community. To stand alongside the Force of Nature Campaign has been an energizing and unifying experience for the LO community.  #ForceOfNature


#VamosOutdoors in the South Bay con Jennifer Adams

Joining Jennifer, our LO Coordinator in the SF Bay Area South Bay, on a family nature hike you may not know the lineage and heritage she carries in her blood and with every step. But that becomes very clear once you have a conversation with her mom—and you learn about the strength and resiliency she carries, as well as the connection to nature and the outdoors at an early age.

Jennifer is a biology student—a major she chose to learn more about the natural world and share that passion with others. And it also connects with whyy she was interested in volunteering for Latino Outdoors:

 “I know so many people that don’t engage in outdoors activities because it’s not a focus in our culture. I am bilingual, and would love to get the chance to engage our youth and hope to inspire them to pursue a career helping our planet and enjoying nature.”

On a recent community hike with Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District, she reminded me of the first LO hike she joined—one I had set up with Santa Clara County Parks so she could see what we were trying to do with our “Familias Outdoors” idea with Latino Outdoors. Basically, “what does it look like to invite families that otherwise may not engage in outdoor activities due to a host of real or perceived barriers? And what happens when the barriers are tackled?”

This was back in September 27, 2015 and it was a powerful reminder of the work that our volunteers do not just in the San Francisco Bay Area, but throughout the state and in other parts of the country.

That day we were led by a Latino ranger, Fernando Elias, who was at times more excited than us to share what he did and where he worked. He was diligent, prepared, patient, and overall conveyed a sense of pride to be of service to la comunidad. As someone that had been peppering ideas throughout the Bay Area, I was hoping this would be one of several outings that could happen in the South Bay and Peninsula but I needed help—I needed a team that could make it happen for the long run. Into that idea and desire stepped in Jennifer that day, excited, observant, and eager to help.

Jennifer reminded me how that day we were powerfully impacted by families coming to visit a park that most of them had never visited before—in fact, it could be easy to get lost in getting there. But once there, the magic of nature and the experience of being outdoors led the rest of the way. The Santa Clara County Parks ranger shared “all the cool stuff” in a ranger vehicle and he brought out pelts for the kids to touch and wonder where they came from. Then we were off on a hike where he paused and shared information about the landscape as a naturalist. And it was there that a mother shared with us how impactful this outing was—that it had been quite some time since she and her kids had been out and simply enjoyed being together outside since the passing of her husband. That it was special to see her kids smile and play in this setting because they had been through a difficult time.

To be honest I had forgotten about that moment, but it came rushing back to me when Jennifer reminded me—and it reminded me of so many other similar moments with families on other Latino Outdoors outings. The power of nature, familia, y cultura coming together.  And here we were in 2017, sitting at a table at Pichetti preserve, with Jennifer’s family, with her mom sharing how special it was to be here with her daughter, and sharing her life story of what brought her to the us, and how she became a more resilient woman.

I could only sit there with pride—and again reminded of the power of nature, familia, and cultura coming together, and the leadership of Latino Outdoors volunteers helping to continue to drive this forward and making it happen.

Jose Gonzalez is the Founder and Executive Director of Latino Outdoors. He also doodles, thinks, and helps other organizations with diversity, equity, and inclusion work in the outdoors.