Why #OptOutside is so important to Latino Outdoors:

The Thanksgiving Holiday is traditionally a time for family, laughter, fun, food, and friends. Growing up in a Latino family, everytime we got together — for a birthday, quinceañeara, baptism, or even a baby shower, celebrations around a table of food with family and friends with laughter and unity were always a must. So in a way, we had many Thanksgivings.
#OptOutside is special to Latino Outdoors because it allows us to grow our family. And it lets us do it after the celebration in the kitchen, and on the trail. Rather than spend Friday morning in line at a retail store, the #OptOutside campaign has allowed us to grow our network of outdoor enthusiasts. It allows us to grow our families of conservation-minded hikers, bikers, snowshoers, birders, and more. And it lets our local Latino Outdoors leaders do what they do best, lead on the trail. Not to mention, it gives us a good excuse to work off the tamale calories too.
We #OptOutside because its what we love to do. As volunteers for this organization, dedicating to bringing cultura to the outdoors and bringing in more members of our community to enjoy our public spaces, we thrive on showing others our favorite trails, our knowledge of the land, and our connection to the environment.  That’s why we choose to #OptOutside, and why we’ll continue to do it in the years to come. We encourage you to look for a local #OptOutside Latino Outdoors event near you, and encourage you to eat an extra tamale, because you’re probably going to work it off in great company, with new familia, on Friday, Nov. 24. Vamos Afuera!
#REI #OptOutside #sponsored
Gabe Vasquez- NM Coordiantor

As a Force of Nature, who Inspired You?

By: Laura Torres, Social Media Contributor, Los Angeles California
E-mail: laura@latinooutdoors.org

When I think of who I am today, I am thankful for all the amazing people whom I have met and connected with throughout my life. I consider myself a resilient person and I learned primarily from the strong, loving, self-reliant women in my life. First and foremost my inspiration comes from my mother. She has overcame many obstacles in life, as an orphan, an immigrant and a single parent. My mother taught me by example to forge my own path, to be self-sufficient and to move forward even when I am filled with fear. My mother did not encourage me to be outdoorsy or even involved in sports. Growing up I knew my mother’s lack of interest in having me in sports was connected to a lack of resources. My own development into a force of nature stems both out of my mother’s guidance and a need to rebel and push back; a need to set my own path.

My mama on the right and her sister on the left, walking in their hometown in Oaxaca, México.

 

 

During high school, I joined the cross country team. This experience left a deep impact in my life, it taught me to focus and tune out troubles in my life, to push myself and reignited my connection with the nature. Through cross country met my high school best friend Yessica. Yessica made me feel completely comfortable in asking questions as a new person on the team, so I stuck around. Yessica shared her own insecurities, which helped me feel like I was not alone. When I felt like giving up on those 12 mile runs I remember her saying,   “You are an athlete, you need to convince yourself you can finish.” As I got better. I found it gratifying to feel the power of my own body. I went from having negative thoughts like “Am I fat?” to having positive thoughts like “I will practice until I can run up that hill” or “I will improve my mile time” etc.  Yessica was an inspiring Force of Nature because she was by my side both on the course and as I navigated planning my next step in life. Cross country was also a great opportunity to bond with other women. I loved the focus on teamwork and celebrating each other’s victories. While my mom wasn’t the biggest fan of having me arrive home late from practice and spending Saturdays in the forest,  My mother  knew running gave much more than an extracurricular for my college application.

Roosevelt High school Cross Country Team. 2002

 

Laura Torres  & Yessica senior year of high school.

As an adult challenging times have lead to growth. When I was in graduate school, I worked during the day and took classes in the evening/night. There was very little time for anything else outside of pursuing my degree. To save money I began to ride my bike home after class. To be honest, this was a bit scary at first. I was a young woman alone and at the time there were no bike lanes on my route. I had seen my mother do things that terrified her because she had a vision of a better life for me. It was my turn, I had to finish up my degree and continue moving towards not only being  self-reliant but also a support system for her. Over time these night rides became my favorite time of day. My fears diminished and I fell in love with night rides. My rides became longer and a time to bond with friends.  Social rides became a test to my will power, self-love and an opportunity to challenge outdated ideas of what others expected of me because I was a woman.  My mother made it clear she hated my night bike rides.  As a young woman she felt it was inappropriate for me to ride around the street of LA late into the night with a bunch of men. At this point in life my mother and I had many disagreements on the path I was forging for myself. I had learned my mother’s lessons on standing her ground so I choose to move out for the sake of our relationship.

Picture: ( top left) Laura riding along the 4th street bridge in Boyle Heights. 2010 (top right)  A “Spoke N Words” ride around downtown LA .  2011 (bottom left) Exploring the industrial parts of Boyle Heights with friends. 2010 (bottom right) Taking a moment to watch traffic and time the lights changes, to be able to ride down the hill on Grand past 5th in downtown LA without getting a red light.

 

In 2010, I volunteered at day labor center because they had a bike kitchen and I could get a free bike if I volunteered enough hours. (Did I mention I was hit and my bike did not survive? I was fine just had a small scratch on my arm.) While Volunteering, I met Brenda. It was the first time I got to know another woman who not only rode a bike, but was a bike mechanic. I was in awe of Brenda’s  knowledge of bikes. As we got to know each other, Brenda inspired me in multiple ways.  Brenda  is such a badass woman. Women who inspire me are like my mother self-reliant, and courageous. One reason Brenda is my shero is her participation in a mostly female bike ride from Los Angeles, California  to San Andres Iztapa, Guatemala. Let that sink in over two thousand miles, an international bike ride! They were not held back by not having the right gear or even a crystal clear day-to-day plan. When she arrived to Guatemala she spent some time there to reconnect with her Guatemalan roots. I could go on with reasons why Brenda is a Force of Nature that inspires me.

Picture: (Top) Brenda taking a break with bikepacking gear (bottom left) Brenda engaging with local communities, this time about reproductive rights (bottom left) Brena using her bike as a multitool, including to make smoothies and run some errands.

 

Currently, I am grateful for the opportunity to work in engaging communities to conservation and specifically to advocate for our National Parks. As the Los Angeles Field Representative for the National Parks Conservation Association, I have a responsibility to connect communities to our public lands. As an advocacy organization, this is done with a mix of outreach, presentations, workshops like our “Civic Voice Lessons”, partnering with other great organizations to have community events, among other wonderful opportunities. The days I come home with the most energy, are days that spent with young people who love nature and are becoming more confident in using their own voice to push for environmental rights, access and adventure. Seeing women in my age range and younger inspires me to dream that we can make our communities and our world better.

Picture: NPCA volunteers Lizbeth, Rebecca & Jenny provide outreach support during the 626 Golden Streets event in March 2017. Laura holding a plush P 22.

 

Of course, the women of Latinos Outdoors inspire me. I have the privilege of  getting to know them little by little and  beyond what you see on social media; they are all amazing. They are resilient, courageous and loving enough to volunteer time to support others in getting outdoors and connecting with nature. To me being a Force of Nature is using one’s personal adventure and accomplishments as a form to inspire and support other women in becoming a Force of Nature for their communities.” As women, we are underrepresented in the outdoors. As a woman of color, my peers are my inspirations, I still do not see many women of color in mainstream outdoors media. My younger nieces and cousins are my motivation. I hope my actions and my guidance will help my nieces  forge their own path with less push back from societal norms, cultural expectations, and even the remaining outdated family ideas of what a “good woman” is. Most of us have struggles, fears, and things beyond our control, yet as we nourish each other’s growth more of us will see ourselves as a Force of Nature.

Picture: Overnight camping trip in Malibu Creek State Park , lead by Los Angeles Coordinator Maricela Rosales.

 


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.