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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



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. 

My Park is Yosemite



My first time hiking Half Dome.

Yosemite National Park is certainly a special place, both in its physical beauty and grandeur but as well as in the imagination and mind of what we envision as majestic national parks. It is embedded in the mythology of the National Park Service with a rich history that includes the Buffalo soldiers, John Muir and Teddy Roosevelt, and of course its role in being a precursor to the National Park Service by being protected by Abraham Lincoln in 1864 before the establishment of Yellowstone National Park in 1872.  Yosemite is also special in that it is a world-class destination so close to so many communities in the Central Valley of California and yet not many in those communities may always easily access it.


CA Mini-Corps Outdoor Education Program Instructors training in Yosemite to provide outdoor education to Migrant students throughout CA.

Growing up in the Central Valley I would often hear about Yosemite, but it would be years before I would really get to discover its beauty. I recall as a college student finally entering the Yosemite Valley on a morning with light fog and emergent sunlight. It was magical. I would return to explore Tuolumne Meadows and Lambert Dome. Later, with a group of friends we scaled Half Dome, and returned several times to repeat that experience. Whether it was walking Mariposa Grove with park rangers as we trained Latino college students to be outdoor instructors for migrant students, or simply hiking the Panoramic trail with friends, Yosemite kept providing a diversity of experiences. It is that diversity that presents an opportunity—to welcome a diversity of the American public, from near and afar, to enjoy a diversity of experiences within the park.



It is important to me, as a Latinx immigrant, a US Citizen, an English-Language Learner, and the first in my family to go to college, to be a role model of how our parks are for all—and the work we need to continue to advance in true inclusivity. I strive to exemplify how my cultura is important to me in these spaces, and how we create more inclusive environments to welcome all regardless of background. Yosemite welcomed me in its grandeur, and as a Yosemite Centennial Ambassador, I want to extend that invitation to others. We much to do but we also have much to celebrate, and regardless we start somewhere. Since that first time I wandered into Yosemite Valley, I have visited many other national parks and public lands and yet in many ways My Park Is Yosemite. It does not have to be yours or it can be, so long as you can see and feel yourself reflected in such a place.


En este año que celebramos el centenario de nuestros parques nacionales,  vengan, encuentren su parque, están bienvenidos, es mi placer ser su embajador y guía.

This post is part of the #MyParkIsYosemite campaign. If your park is also Yosemite, join us! If you want to express your love for other parks or other public lands share that too! #Next100 #PublicLandsForAll #EncuentraTuParque


José González is the Founder of Latino Outdoors. He is a Yosemite Centennial Ambassador and represents Latino Outdoors in several coalitions including the Latino Conservation Alliance and the Next 100 Coalition. He also serves on a National Park Service advisory committee and has been recognized with several honors, including the National Wildlife Federation, Grist Magazine, and The Murie Center.

To learn more about the Next 100 Coalition, check out this site and sign the petition.

New Years Resolutions: Outdoors Edition by Cynthia

Happy New Years! It is 2016 and many people are ready to start the new year with resolutions to either be healthy, share time with the loves ones, or go onto a new adventure. I am very excited to share that I made not one resolution, but six resolutions that are all focused in the outdoors in some way or the other. Here I share my resolutions with descriptions and fun images!

  1. Growing food!

    Image taken at my former job in New Hampshire as we put the garden beds to ‘bed’ for the winter. I will be doing the same this year at my new job with Growing Places in Leominster, Massachusetts.

    Growing up in the warm, tropical island of Puerto Rico, I had the privilege to learn how to grow vegetables, herbs, fruits, and other delicious food. Gardening has been part of a family tradition for many generations and I find gardening to be my zen! I get to plant a seed, tend for it and later on harvest the fruits of my labor. I hope to garden this year, spend time with family and friends at the garden, and enjoy delicious meals we create with the garden products! My favorite and family tradition dish we make is Sofrito, a delicious sauce that is pretty much the secret ingredient to a lot (if not all) Puerto Rican food dishes. My family and I also save seeds of cilantro and peppers as we LOVE those crops!

  2. Volunteer at a farm!

Image taken: September 2015 at my friends, Kohei Ishihara’s farm: Movement Ground Farm in Berkley, Massachusetts.

I love farms! My past experience with putting my hands in the dirt, weeding, and of course, meeting new people have been at farms. I have friends who are farmers and I love them for taking on, what I consider, the most important job in the world! Being nurtures, growers, and feeders of their communities, farmers are superheroes on my book. Therefore, I love supporting farms by visiting, volunteering as much as I can during the season, and purchasing their goods!


3. Keep on researching Latino/a/x Outdoor and Environmental work!


LO loves being part of America Latino Eco-Festival! L-R: Jose Gonzalez, LO Founder, me being silly, and Asnoldo, LO Colorado Ambassador. Image taken: October 2015

I love reading, writing, and learning more about my cultural roots and the environment. My resolution is part of my ongoing career as an Environmental Educator. I want to keep learning from Latino Leaders, community members, and other in the Environmental movement their steps, questions, answers, solutions, and much more in regards to Latinos and the Environment. I hope to attend conferences, connect with other human beings that are interested in the work of making the environment an inclusion to all. I want to also learn more and part-take in the conversation about the Afro-Latino(a/x) identity in the Environment in the United States. I can’t wait for what I will discover!


4. Keep on walking in the woods…


Did a morning walk in the small trail next to my work office! Image taken: January 2016

I want to keep on taking walks and hikes in many trails as possible. I enjoy being in the woods, using my learned skills of plant identification, take some time for me in the woods! There is something about being able to walk in the woods, maybe it is the sounds of the wind embracing the trees, the sound of my boots against the snow/ice as I make my way to the magical land called the woods. I am looking forward to many walks and hikes with loved ones, by myself, and new people!


5. Discovering more spiritual practices related to the outdoors!


Altar created during the America Latino Eco-Festival. Image taken: October 2015

As a spiritual being, I enjoy anything related to madre tierra. This year, I want to learn about more spiritual practices which include rituals, writings, and much much more that bring me to the outdoors. I am in the journey of discovering more the spiritual practices of my cultural roots. My family has a mixed ancestral spiritual practices coming from both Africa and the Tainos. I am in the self-discovery phase of these spiritual practices and I am hoping that year I will be  able to tie in the new information with my current spiritual believes. I am very honored, thankful, and excited for this resolution!


6. More time with my familia outdoors!


My family and I got to see the Springfield Christmas Parade and enjoy arts, music, and quality time together! Image taken: December 2015

There is nothing more precious than spending time with your loved ones outdoors. It is fascinating, fun, full of laughs, jokes, and love. I am looking forward to spending time with my family and friends in outdoors activities. Many outdoors activities I have done with my family have been attending outdoors events such as parades, go to the park for a walk, attend the pool during the summer, and create funny looking snow mans during the winter! These are all full of memories for me and have been ideal to get us outdoors, enjoy one another, and experience nature!


These are my six new years resolutions which I am extremely proud to put into place for me. They all include the outdoors in many ways! I would love to read/hear your new years resolution and how they include the outdoors by sharing on the comments section!

Happy New Year!