Finding Time to Play Afuera: By Lylianna Allala



Working on a trail crew for the United States Forest Service based out of the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie Ranger District in North Bend, WA, circa 2009.

I’m not sure if being the oldest of four or being raised with a mezcla of Midwestern/Tejan@/Mexican@ work ethic or just being a plain old human being is a factor in this but, it’s easy for me to get carried away with “work”. “Work” looks different for everybody. For me, I lead with my heart and my work is driven by my passion for social justice, environmental justice, and equity. I love getting young people outdoors! I love fostering community for people of color who care about environmental issues. I am passionate about working towards gender equity. I care deeply about my family; blood and chosen and I love being outside!

Maybe this will resonate for you too. Because my heart drives my work, many times I can get caught up in the grind of preparing for presentations, coordinating meetings, working on organizational change strategies, representing organizations that I work or volunteer for at events, etc. Perhaps being involved in heart work facilitates a faster burnout process if one ignores self-care. By burnout I mean the feeling of exhaustion and frustration that can occur when dealing with an overload of work with effects of neglecting one’s own needs. I come home tired and a little cranky. I don’t sleep as much as I’d like. My diet mostly consists of convenience foods; for me, tortilla chips and salsa. I feel like I never have enough time to do anything well and I rarely have time to play.


Summer 2015 at Mt. Rainier National Park cheesing out on nature.

In order for me to care for others and give my very best, I need to find time to take care of myself. As I sit and reflect on the things that contribute to fostering balance and inner quietude, I think of the tall conifers swaying in the wind during a walk today through Kubota Gardens with my husband and dog. Ripples of water radiating outwards from a spot in the pond where a bufflehead abruptly vanishes underwater and resurfaces as it feeds underwater. Or, the feeling of warm sunshine on my face while lying on the pebbled shore of Lake Wenatchee last weekend alongside my best girlfriends reveling in each other’s presence in silence underneath the peak of Dirty Face. I can almost smell the cool sweet breeze carrying the scent of Nootka Rose and other wildflowers while hiking the trails of Mt. Rainier National Park.

Starting out in the environmental field in my twenties brings memories of hard physical labor, exhaustion, and joy. The feeling of sore muscles after a day of trail building or invasive plant removal brought me a sense of satisfaction. The mud and sweat streaked on my face, the spiders and twigs in my hair and soil under my fingernails made me happy. As did a hot shower at the end of the day! I realize that time in nature is what I need to be whole.


My grandmother Maria Irma Rodriguez or Gramma Mema.

When I think about the moments where I have been the happiest they center on being outdoors. Even as a child the memories that bring a sense of calm or home for me include walking through my grandma’s garden as she taught me the names of the flowers she planted; peony, marigold, tulip, geranium, black-eyed Susan. Reading books on a blanket lain out in my parent’s backyard, my toes buried in the lush green grass of our lawn. Swinging on the branches of the willow tree in our yard with my brother Louie, seeing who could swing the farthest. When I close my eyes and think back on these memories, I remember joy, giddiness, and a shared feeling of energy and peace. With this sense of calm comes a connection with the world, with myself, and with my heritage.

My Gramma Yolanda taught me the difference between a perennial and a biennial plant. My Gramma Mema taught me to always have Sábila (Aloe Vera) and Manzanilla (Chamomile) in my house. Sábila to sooth burns, bug bites, and skin irritations. Manzanilla to aid with sleep, assuage the symptoms of cough or fever, or to ward of nightmares. My Grampa Luis and Grampa Chável taught me the virtue of hard work outdoors with my hands through the examples they set working outdoors from sun up to sun down to provide for their families. My family has always had ties and connections to the land y cuando estoy afuera, me siento como que estoy con my familia, mis antepasados. I feel that I am reconnected with myself.


Sunset at the Granite Mountain fire lookout in Washington.

Lylianna Allala

Seattle Ambassador

Crossing La Kineña (Land of the King’s people)

By Eddie Gonzalez


When I was little, my father used to tell me fantastic tales about crossing King Ranch, or La Kineña as my father called it, an 825,000 acre ranch in South Texas started in 1853 by Captain Richard King. Some days, the story was about pilgrims caravanning across King Ranch and the bandits they encountered. Sometimes, the story was about young boy who got lost and was visited by a spaceship. Other times, the stories described hunting and fishing adventures on the ranch. One way or another, someone was always trying to cross La Kineña. The stories grew more and more incredible.

Imagination can only get you so far, though. My first real exposure to the outdoors was through Boy Scouts. Acquiring badges and utilizing survival skills was a great way of enjoying nature. Sadly, I never really got into camping or hiking and my attention eventually moved on to academics, band, and other school priorities. That’s when my appreciation for the outdoors abruptly stopped. I lived surrounded by beautiful Texas countryside in a part of country known for migratory birds and coast ecology, and yet I had lost my connection. Fortunately for me, my life would bring me back to the outdoors.

In 1995, I had been in living in Washington, DC for about a year after graduating from college when a friend organized a camping trip to George Washington National Forest near Front Royal, Virginia. There was something about that trip that reignited my love for the outdoors. I remember sitting around the warmth of the campfire mesmerized by the flames and pulsing embers. I felt at peace. It was a feeling I wanted to share with anyone and everyone.

A few years ago, I was talking one my daughter’s friend’s parents when they admitted to me that they had never been camping and really didn’t have the motivation to learn how to do it. I immediately felt sad that my daughter’s friend would not get a chance to experience nature the way we had. (We had been camping with our daughter since she was 1 year old.) It was a challenge I had to accept.

Within a few months, I had convinced them and four other families to go camping. I gave them all packing lists and took care of all the food. Everyone had a great time. The same group still goes camping twice a year, May and October, and each time we add a family new to camping. Families that had never camped before now email me articles about cool camping gear or new places to visit or recipes they want to try on the next trip. A mother said to me one morning, “That was the best sleep I’d ever had.” The impact of nature speaks volumes. It thrills me to be the spark that ignites the passion for camping in others.

Nature has a way of filtering out the noise in your life. It lets your spirit come out of its shell. Sadly, many families are still uneasy about camping. Those of us with the skills and knowledge to make camping more accessible need to help others through that uneasiness. We can be ambassadors for nature to our family, friends, or coworkers.

I love to camp and to share that love with others. I continue to help others cross La Kinena in my own way. I hope to see you out there. Meet me by the fire ring!


Eddie Gonzalez has over 20 years of experience in developing, administering, and implementing science and conservation education, outreach, partnership, and professional development programs, workshops, and trainings in a variety of non-profit settings. You can connect with him on twitter: @rubrics4life.

My Entry Into Mountaineering at Mount Shasta ~ By Ronald Quintero

For the love of adventure and all outdoors!

For the love of adventure and all outdoors!

My love for adventure and the outdoors began as a young boy growing up in a small village in the Honduras-El Salvador border. Most of my daily activities involved being outside in arid climate; walking and being on my feet was my way of life. As a young adult migrating to the U.S., I became involved in high school sports as a way to make friends and learn English. Growing up in Berkeley, I was fortunate to be in a community that appreciates and respects nature and the environment. I was formally introduced to hiking and mountaineering by a good friend of mine, Arnaldo Calderon, veteran of the Iraqi war who served in the marines for seven years. Like me, he is Central American born in Guatemala, and a thrill seeker. He would often plan short local hikes around the East Bay with friends and family. Within a year we began to plan more strenuous hikes around California and our goal was to enter into mountaineering with Mount Shasta being our first climb.

Taking a break at the summit of Mount Shasta t with my friend Arnaldo. It took us close to 11 hours to reach the summit through Avalanche Gulch.

Taking a break at the summit of Mount Shasta with my friend Arnaldo. It took us close to 11 hours to reach the summit through Avalanche Gulch.

On May 18, 2013 we attempted to summit for the first time with a group of friends who were all first time climbers. We chose the popular route known as Avalanche Gulch; class II & III of mountaineering. This route starts at Bunny Flat trail head 6,950 feet of elevation with a vertical gain of almost 7,300 feet to the summit over a stretch of 7 to 8 miles. This route can be accomplished in one day but is commonly climbed with an overnight at Helen Lake at about 10,443 feet of elevation. We started at midnight to complete a one day attempt. However, we reached a point on the mountain where we dealt with elevation sickness, exhaustion, and gusty winds, forcing us to turn back. I felt disappointed but it was the best decision at that moment. In mountaineering it is important to use proper judgement to decide when it is safe to continue or to turn back. To prepare myself for the upcoming climbing season, I focused on endurance running and training that included long hikes with weighted vests on steep terrains.

We headed back to Mount Shasta on June 21, 2014 better equipped and determined to reach summit in one day. This time we pushed the climb for a month with favorable weather conditions. For weeks prior to our scheduled climb date, we monitored weather conditions, we contacted Mount Shasta rangers to better keep us updated on the climbing season. This time we felt more confident with how we had prepared both on the physical level and gear selection. We came to a point on the mountain known as Misery Hill at 13,800 feet of elevation; it was here where we turned back during our first attempt. Misery Hill is exactly what the name describes, miserable. As you climb, it deceives you into believing that you have reached the final stretch when in fact you have to climb up higher. We kept the team morale up reminding one another to push through. The rewarding moment came when we hit the summit and got that chance to enjoy the 360 degree view of the entire northern California state border and Oregon.

The crew heading to the trail head at Bunny Flat that starts at 6,950 feet of elevation. I am on the far right pointing to the summit.

The crew heading to the trail head at Bunny Flat that starts at 6,950 feet of elevation. I am on the far right pointing to the summit.

On May 2, 2015 I made my third attempted to summit Shasta with a group of experienced mountaineers via Casaval Ridge route. This route is slightly more technical than Avalanche Gulch. Casaval Ridge is a class III of mountaineering with a level 4 of difficulty. While we conquered the technical aspects of this route, it was unfortunate that due to timing and weather conditions we had to turn back just 760 feet off to the summit. It was late into the day at about 4:00 PM when clouds reduced our visibility forcing us to descend. Time of day for a safe and efficient climb is critical in mountaineering; it is often recommended to start as early as possible to capitalize on the well compacted snow.

Going up through Casaval Ridge route during my third attempt. This is a class III of mountaineering.

Going up through Casaval Ridge route during my third attempt. This is a class III of mountaineering.

I wanted to enjoy that 360 degree view again this year and relive the emotion of being at the summit. On May 30, 2015, I packed my bag and all the lessons I took from my previous attempts drove directly to the trail head for my first solo climb. I was determined to start on time to enjoy a sunrise three quarters up into the mountain. I remember the route vividly, how could I forget Misery Hill, it was there where I had to turn back my first time. When you’re facing nature, you’re not only facing the environmental challenges or elements but also enduring exhaustion that comes from being focused on your task. I broke down the long trek in my mind by creating short term goals for myself; taking 7 French steeps at a time on steep stretches. I enjoyed the quietness of the starry night and the gentle breeze. I was alone but the mountain wasn’t a lonely place. Breakfast was at sunrise, it was a brief break for about 7 minutes. I carried enough food and hydration but at times I forced myself to consume it to keep energy levels up. Like once before, I reached Misery Hill and faced gusty winds. This time, however, I was equipped with the right gear and so I threw on my snow mask with googles to cover my face from the wind and pushed through.

At 8:30AM I reached summit and my stay was not brief. I rehydrated, refueled and made myself at home. During that hour at the summit, I took the time to capture its beauty. To the southern east California border, I was able to see Lassen Peak. To the North West I was able to see Mt Hood in Oregon. I had carried my Honduran flag from my previous climbs and so I took advantage to capture a photo with it at the summit. This was not a typical selfie as I had to place my GoPro resting against a boulder and I was able to control the shutter with my iPhone.

Finally waving my bandera at the Summit of Mount Shasta to honor my birthplace.

Finally waving my bandera at the summit of Mount Shasta to honor my birthplace.

Normally people glissade down to descend quicker, however, I didn’t feel rushed and so I took my time descending down. Mount Shasta is a very special place to me. My current record is two successful summits and two failed attempts. I have learned as much from my failed attempts as I have from my summits. Mount Shasta is by far the only mountain in the vicinity for novice entry level into mountaineering. Prior to Mount Shasta I had no experience in mountaineering and almost no experience trekking through snow. The final destination isn’t the summit, the accomplishment comes from the journey itself and the stories and people you meet along the way. I plan to continue my adventures with my next expedition to Mount Rainier in Washington State. Every climb is different in any given day.

Join Ron on his  future adventures by following him on Instagram: @rontheram  or click here:

For any questions regarding hiking, mountaineering, or fitness, send him an email to:

Click play below to view a recap video of Ron and Arnaldo’s first and second attempt to climb Mount Shasta. – Video created and edited by Arnaldo Calderon.