Wellness Walks 2016: Para el Bienestar de Nuestra Comunidad

This coming weekend, Saturday Nov 12,  marks the end of the Wellness Walks in Marin County for the year. It is another year of a successful round of monthly outings connecting families with the open spaces in their communities in the San Francisco Bay Area–and a feat worth celebrating!

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In the words of coordinator Alicia Cruz, who started the Wellness Walks in 2015, “during a difficult time, these walks saved me” and it was created “out of a sense of service to promote well-being, build community, and to create access for families that otherwise would not be connecting with their nearby parks and open spaces.” They simply started with Alicia wanting to explore the natural spaces in Marin, and sharing that interest, passion, and curiosity with her community.

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CA State Parks noticed and the Wellness Walks institutionalized under a partnership that provided monthly transportation support for a year with funding from the CA State Parks Foundation. Alicia worked with CA State Parks staff to provided guided hikes, nature walks, and other outdoor experiences for families that not only provided physical wellness but a space for cognitive and spiritual wellness, as well as learning about outdoors.

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Since then over 22 outings have taken place with many families visiting their state parks for the first time. For many, the walks provide an opportunity for family bonding, for a space to breathe from the daily stress, and to convene with others. For CA State Parks, it provides an opportunity to deliver on its mission to provide more access for more Californians–and for Alicia, it provides an opportunity to expand on the definition of an outdoor experience while establishing a clear personal connection of what holistic wellness can look like with nature.

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The success of the Wellness Walks in Marin is self-evident. But it is important to note that it is realized out of an intent and purpose of service. They started with the power of welcome and invitation, and have been sustained with the relationships of community, family, and volunteer support. While funding is essential to support the logistical work, it is the people behind it that actualize it all.

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As we close out the year, and as many of us face physical, mental, and spiritual stress, we invite you to take the time for healing and wellness with nature and go outdoors. It is also the time of the year many of us begin to reflect on gratitude and appreciation–and reconnect with our families and loved ones for the holidays. May a nearby trail and parkland provide the space for all of that, for yourself, with your family, and your community.

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If you’re in the SF Bay Area on Saturday, Nov 12, join us!

José G. González is the Founder of Latino Outdoors, a volunteer-run organization focused on celebrating Latino culture in nature and connecting families with the outdoors. 


Cesar Chavez March by Xitlaly Reyes

I grew up with a narrative of the latino family doing outdoor labor and not outdoor recreation. My grandfather was a farm worker, my father and mother were farm workers, and the homes I grew up in as a child were, more often than not, right across an agricultural field.

This month in honor of Cesar Chavez day the Lideres del Sendero hiking club which, I am a part of, participated in the Tucson, Arizona Cesar Chavez March and Rally on Saturday, April 19th in an effort to address the ethnic disparity among Saguaro National Park visitors. The disparity arises from Latinos making up about 41% of the Tucson population but only representing 3% of park visitors.

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Lideres del Sendero has many goals, one of them being combining the experience of the outdoors with cultura. As I walked down 6th ave toward Rudy Garcia Park I was surrounded by it. Chants describing issues facing the latino community such as education, immigration, workers right and even Black Lives Matter emerged from the crowds at different times. Children as young as five carried signs that were at least half their size. The elders who were able to march did and those who could not waited for our arrival at the park. It is this aspect of Latino culture that one must keep in mind when planning outdoor events or outreach to the latino community, the familia. Lideres del Sendero seeks to train community trail leaders so that they can lead their familia through hikes in and around tucson. Cesar Chavez kept familia in mind while doing his work and now his children continue to work for migrants rights.

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Once we arrived at the park the event became more of a party with storytelling and music. Giant puppets reenacted Cesar and Dolores fight for workers rights followed by a sombering reminder that rights are still being fought for here in Tucson. Workers from El Super grocery store are fighting for fair working contracts and are asking the community to support them by boycotting the chain store. After different calls to actions were made such as asking people to join in on the Cesar Chavez Day of Service and a Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta campout at Saguaro National Park I had the opportunity to get the word out for the Lideres del Sendero hiking club.
Even though I grew up with the narrative that latinos work outside and don’t really play outside I have decide to work towards creating a counter narrative where Latinos go hiking, rock climbing, and camping in the desert. By committing to go on at least one hike every week and inviting others to join me I am making a difference in my narrative.


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.