02/4/19

“Tesoros de Texas”~ Latino Outdoors San Antonio.

Tesoros de Texas” are Texas treasures we have decided to highlight from our group once a month. These amazing individuals are you!! The gente from our Latino Outdoors San Antonio community. You have participated, engaged, brought your families and most importantly, believed in yourself at many of our outings. In doing so you have inspired us to continue this work we genuinely care about. We are building a strong foundation so that we can become successful, sustainable and educated in conservation and the environment.

Last year we hosted nine events, five campouts, two tabling events and kayaked twice in and around our beautiful city and Texas State Parks. We explored, shared our cultura and renewed our souls in the wild.

We thought we would start our “Tesoros de Texas” series with a couple that has been with us from the very first LO San Antonio campout in 2017. They are Texas treasures no doubt and have even stepped in as volunteers and mentors for our group. They were like familia from day one. You cannot help but adore their adventurous spirit in the outdoors as they share this life as husband and wife : ).

Nosotros los gustaría presentarte Lissette y Pedro Cantu!!

What are some of your first nature related memories?

Pedro ~ As a native Dallasite, my earliest memories of being afuera revolve around a move from the City to rural Dallas County at the age of five years old. While this may sound a little strange when referring to Dallas, please keep in mind that First: this was a long time ago 🙂 and second that the community that we moved to was a quarter mile from the East Fork of the Trinity River. The city park was half a block away and either side of the park were thousands of acres of river bottoms, creeks, natural springs, sloughs, gravel pits, and ranch lands.

At the age of five, I had a whole year to discover the park, creeks and surrounding area before I had to walk the two miles to school. Uphill both ways, naturally 🙂 I discovered very quickly that the wildlife and birds were much more active as the sun was rising and my siblings less active (sleeping). I had mi mundo all to myself.  I was fascinated by the flying squirrels, hognose snakes, alligator snapping turtles, fish and what we called ‘crawdads’. I could leave the house at the crack of dawn and be back by midmorning in time to have breakfast with everyone after doing plenty of exploring.

Once I started school, mi mundo afuera expanded. I would always take the route through the woods when possible so that I could look for box turtles in the grasslands and softshell turtles in the creeks. I also discovered that many of my schoolmates were the children of the ranchers and farmers in the area. So when we would ‘camp’ in the backyard on weekends, the nearest fence was likely to be barbed wire and be hundreds of acres away. The sound of coyotes at night was the norm, not the exception.

Mis memorias afuera incluyen a México, from the time that I can recall, we would spend summers in either Guadalupe N.L. or near Reynosa. My paternal Familia has a homestead belonging to my immediate family totaling 880 hectares on the banks of the Rio dating to 1866. I say, immediate family, because the original place is much, much larger.

This place es magico, many of the community residents are second, third and fourth cousins, todos somos ‘primos’. The buildings are all adobe, with dirt floors and we had to chase the chickens out of the vigas when we arrived to spend the summers. In a place with no running water and no electricity, we had the best time ‘camping’ for three whole months. This was a ‘nuevo mundo’ with tortoises, tunas, pitayas and lots of fishing. Bathing was either jumping in the river with a bar of soap or using the water caught in a 55-gallon drum by the home-made gutters catching the heavy morning dew.

Guadalupe was another thing, Mi abuelita lived near El Cerro de La Silla that was also an aventura. We had La Pastora, El Bosque and of course El Cerro to explore. You have to travel through each of these areas to climb El Cerro and we spent plenty of time there. La Pastora and it’s beautiful rio of running water, cypress trees, and swimming holes was always inviting. There is a network of stone-lined pools that were built by the indigenous peoples that always offered an excellent way to cool off. Two of the pools had become filled with sediment and were home to gigante Elephant Ear plants that we would use as umbrellas if it rained. But the best part of the sediment pools was that they were overflowing with frogs. ‘Buelita never tired of fixing ancas de rana for supper when we came back from the Cerro.

Lissette ~ I grew up in Mexico City, a big urban city, and every weekend my parents would take us out of the city to the mountains with other families and friends. We would all play afuera and have picnics while enjoying the trees and nature. My parents loved hiking, that is the way they met, their courtship time was spent hiking with friends. Once they were married and had kids they took us all hiking.

How much of yourselves do you devote to nature and does this play into your work/community?

Pedro ~ My move to San Antonio prompted my signing up for the Master Naturalist program, after moving here I quickly found out that although I was still in Texas, there were many fascinating things that I was not familiar with. The Edwards Aquifer, karst, huisache and tons of native plants. I proposed to become intimately familiar with my new home by signing up and participating in the Eco-environment of San Antonio.

As the Director of the Physical Plant for the Oblate School of Theology, I take the stewardship of sixty-six acres of property that includes an organic garden, a pollinator garden, and meditation gardens. We also have water rights on the property and have to report our water usage to and abide by the regulations of the Edwards Aquifer Authority. I work hard to maintain a balance between the cultured landscape and the use of native plants where possible. My love of the outdoors extends to protecting the wildlife on the property which including raccoons, possums, hawks, great horned owls, squirrels and yes, being gentle in the removal of skunks when needed.

My devotion to nature includes participating in forums, groups removing invasive plants, park planning committees, served as a board member of the Spring Creek Forest Preserve in Garland, TX and serving as the Environmental Liaison for the Wilshire Neighborhood Association

Lissette ~ I work as a Community Health Worker, my focus is to help improve the communities health, I strongly believe that a way to help people be more healthy is showing them love for nature and the outdoors,  I do my best to bring families and kids to the outdoors by taking them hiking, biking and exercising outdoors when possible. Sadly nowadays we spend to much time inside on the screen. Kids do better when they are outside.

What is your favorite “juntos”hike and what park was it?

Hiking is our favorite activity because it can be “spur of the moment” and we take every opportunity to do so while traveling, on vacation or while at home.

Lissette’s parents

While we have hiked some incredible places in Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado, our favorite hike remains Friedrich Wilderness Park  in San Antonio. It is close, convenient and a beautiful preservation of nature near the city.

How do you both continue to stay inspired and inspire people around you?

We stay inspired by taking every opportunity to be afuera and to be mindful while being afuera, of the beauty around us. We take every opportunity to motivate family, friends, and neighbors to spend time outdoors and to point out the beauty of nature around us.

Thank you both so much for sharing your story and for always being kind, compassionate, sweet, humble and silly : ). Let’s continue to blaze these trails we explore and let people know … estamos aqui!
Josie~Fitfunand

 

01/14/19

“Yo Cuento Outdoors”:The Stories of Latino Outdoors. Part 10

Vamos afuera con Albert Arevalo,

Latino Outdoors ~ Program Coordinator – DMV.

 

A native Texan and lover of BBQ, Albert is a proud alumnus of Texas State University-San Marcos—Eat ‘Em Up, Cats! Albert is passionate about making services accessible to everyone, particular minorities and low income communities. He been fortunate to work alongside colleagues and organizations that align with his moral compass. From connecting youth to their local parks to leading a Regional Litter Campaign in DC Albert is dedicated to improving the quality of life of the individuals he works with. In his free time, Albert loves to play tennis, hike, tweet on behalf of @PetTurtleOliver, and play kickball.

What are the earliest memories of you in the outdoors with a connection to nature?

Growing up in South Texas, I had the opportunity to explore the outdoors in both the US and Mexico. In the US I was able to transform my backyard into an endless landscape for my imagination. My best friend Richie and I would create forts to defend ourselves from attacks from the 90’s Power Ranger villain Rita Repulsa and her army of Putty Patrollers. In Mexico, my grandfather would use his craft as a welder and add bunk beds so we could spend the night sleeping next to the ocean. In the morning, we’d use the sound of the crashing waves and the smell of the sand as our alarm clocks. We’d then prep some breakfast before spending hours fishing in the Gulf of Mexico.

How did you learn about LO and how does this organization play a part in your life?

Coincidentally, I was volunteering at Rock Creek Park in DC and doing what I could to help connect the Latino Community to their local parks. As a volunteer I’d help Park staff by translating materials in Spanish and providing educational programs in Spanish. I was unaware that a network of Latino environmentalist existed through Latino Outdoors. This network was not only interested in connecting our community to the outdoors but interested in restructuring the conversation to include people of color into the dialogue for the future of public lands. Realizing the lack of diversity in green organizations, it was comforting knowing that I wasn’t alone in this fight.

How do you maintain a connection to nature?
By playing in it! Either through sports like tennis or running or by just admiring its beauty.
What is a fond memory in nature for you?
Visiting Sabal Palm Sanctuary with my family. This gem is known for being a hot spot bird migratory bird route and it was only 5 miles away from where I grew up. It only took me 30 years to visit it but discovering it with my family allowed me to share my love for the outdoors with them.
What is it about nature that speaks to your soul?
I love being humbled by nature. Something as powerful as the ocean or as large as the Grand Canyon allows me to reflect on my purpose in life.
Thoughts, ideas or reflections?
I was unaware that being an environmentalist was a career option for me and having a career in Parks and being a volunteer for Latino Outdoors has taught me the importance of being visible in my profession. The value of seeing yourself in any career allows you to dream big and follow your dreams.
This Texan has become a dear friend of mine! We will not hesitate for tree love and he is just like the lyrics from an 0ld country song … “the stars at night-are big and bright/deep in the heart of Texas”.
It has been my pleasure to highlight and share these amazing leaders. I continue to be inspired by these individuals who give their heart and soul on every outing or event that they attend. We are becoming part of the outdoor narrative and in doing so we want to make sure it is done with a vision and purpose that will expand and amplify the Latino experience. Our voice, your voice … juntos!
Latino Outdoors is a unique Latino-led organization working to create a national community of leaders in conservation and outdoor education. Check out the Latino Outdoors site for more information on events being held near you or if you would just like more information on how you might be able to get involved.
Vamos Outdoors!
12/30/18

“Yo Cuento Outdoors”~The Stories of Latino Outdoors. Part 9

“Yo Cuento Outdoors”

Latino Outdoors is a beautiful Latino-Led organization. These leaders are working to create a national community of leaders in conservation and outdoor education. Part of this work is focused on expanding and amplifying the Latino experience in the outdoors; providing greater opportunities for leadership, mentorship and professional opportunities and serving as a platform for sharing cultural connections and narratives that are often overlooked by the traditional movement.

“Vamos afuera” con Nohemi Mora who is an Outdoor Leader in Denver, CO and a first generation Mexican-American (and proud Tejana!) from Dallas, TX.

What are the earliest memories of you in the outdoors with a connection to nature?

My earliest memories in the outdoors connecting to nature are in Mexico. When I was in grade school my mom would take my brother and I to visit family in Guanajuato and Michoacan as soon as summer vacation began and we would stay all the way until the new school year started. I think of my visits to the rancho where my tios live. They would pick us up from my grandma’s house in their trucks. My brother and I loved the fact that we would get to ride in the back of the truck. Back then it took us hours to get to the rancho as there was a bumpy, dirt road that led us there. While we rode in the back with my cousins, we would drive past beautiful scenery. We would see green hills, plenty of farmland, and I remember we would count the number of lizards we saw scrambling across the dirt road (it was like a game). And once we got to my uncles rancho, it was a break from the concrete jungle of home. I loved following my aunts and cousins to the farm and playing amongst the cattle (calves are my favorite farm animal!), sugar cane, and rows of corn. These visits to Mexico definitely planted the seed in me to appreciate nature. 

What is your story in relation to what you do now in the outdoor space?

I am an Outings Leader for Latino Outdoors in Colorado. It’s been an exciting journey as I had followed LO on Facebook for a couple of years before I became involved. At that time, the closest active LO group was four hours away from me and at the time it wasn’t feasible for me to get involved. However, when I moved to Denver it was one of the first things I got involved in besides grad school. I’ve led hiking and snowshoeing outings through LO, attended conferences and local events, and made connections with all sorts of environmental organizations. I want to provide opportunities for the Latino community to enjoy the outdoors even though some people think that they aren’t “the outdoorsy type”. I still have ties to Dallas and wish to encourage my friends back home to enjoy the pockets of outdoor spaces that we do have. Once I finish grad school, I hope to combine my interests in Student Affairs and outdoor recreation.

What makes the outdoors special to you and how do you keep that connection?

The views definitely always make an outing worth it but there is much more than that. To me the outdoors is special because it keeps me in tune with my physical strength, I can disconnect from the daily grind, have some time to reflect about the things that matter to me (solo hikes are awesome though sometimes scary!), and I can connect and learn new things about my friends when we go out together. I am very fortunate that at this point in my life I have somewhat of a flexible schedule so I can sometimes go hiking on a random weekday or have long weekends. I can just get in my car and drive into the mountains.

What is your favorite outdoor outing to date?

Love this question because it is very recent! Just this past weekend I went to Glacier National Park to celebrate my birthday. It’s my favorite outing because it seemed like such a distant reality from when I first came up with the idea. I saw an image of St. Marys Lake on Facebook about a year ago and told myself, “I’m gonna see that one day”. But I didn’t quite want to put those miles on my vehicle, and a plane ticket is very expensive. This year I turned 25, in a somewhat jokingly manner I wanted to celebrate by renting a car (since the rates are cheaper for 25+), as some kind of rite of passage. I specifically wanted to rent a Jeep Wrangler because I like Jeeps. I think they’re cool and embody the spirit of adventure (Jeep, sponsor me?). The drive up there is about 18 hours, the park being about 30 minutes from the Canadian border. Who would I go with? How will I get there? What if the car breaks down? What if we don’t have the necessary gear? What if all the planning falls through? I don’t know anybody in Montana! But I have amazing friends that simply said, “which weekend, so I can ask for the days off” when I told them about this idea. And slowly, piece by piece the trip formed. We borrowed each others gear, pitched in for new gear, and took off! I had a good group of friends there (shout out to y’all), that rolled with whatever uncertainties we faced when we got there. I really liked this trip because Glacier NP was on all of the group’s list of places to visit, and I loved hearing people’s comments on how amazed they were with the sights, or how different this experience was compared to other outings they have done. And of course the time spent with my friends whether we were filling up at a gas station, eating at Roadhouse Diner, stuffing ourselves with Takis, Cheetos, birthday cake, or struggling to build a campfire.

A sunrise or a sunset?

Sunsets! Mostly because I’m not a morning person. This question reminds me of a time I did a sunset hike in Acadia National Park. One of the most magical things I’ve seen.

Any advice you would offer to a person of color in the outdoor space?

Whether in a group or on a solo adventure, my advice is to take ownership of the space. These are public lands and the resources available are for your use. Whether you’re walking an urban trail or primitive camping. Go into the ranger station and ask questions, greet your neighbors at the campgrounds, say hi to people on the trail, get a state parks pass or National Parks pass. We got to let them know that we’re here and that we enjoy the outdoors too #YoCuento. And more importantly encourage other POC to join you as well.

What is on your outdoor bucket list?

My outdoor bucket list includes many faraway places. However high on the priority list is taking my parents, brother, and cuñada camping. My parents have a different view of the outdoors than I do. Growing up their families worked the land, depended on good rain, had spotty potable water supply, and they navigated rugged roads without hiking boots. In my generation, spending time recreating outdoors is more optional and our livelihood doesn’t depend on it like it did for our parents. I would like for them to have an opportunity where they can sit back, enjoy trails, and landscapes that they are unfamiliar with.

Thank you so much Nohemi for sharing your story with us.

I am so honored to be surrounded by ladies leading the way into the wild. This Texas girl in particular is not letting the fear of the unknown hold her back. She is slowly becoming a fearless leader representing her community and making sure her cultura is never lost on the trails. Every time I see her it’s a little bit of sunshine that just gets brighter every time. 

“She is where she is meant to be”.

 

This summer the Colorado team had the pleasure of camping with TIME to show them how they have found sisterhood in not only each other but in the outdoors. Check out the link “Camping in Colorado with the Women of Latino Outdoors“~ Time.

 

10/13/18

“Yo Cuento Outdoors”~The Stories of Latino Outdoors. Part 8

“Yo Cuento Outdoors”

 

Latino Outdoors is full of passionate individuals all with a common goal … La Tierra Madre! An international volunteer Latino-led organization changing the outdoor narrative. They are focused on expanding and amplifying the Latino experience in the outdoors; providing greater roles for leadership, mentorship, professional opportunities and serving as a platform for sharing cultural connections and narratives that are often overlooked by the traditional outdoor movement.

 

First Latino Outdoor Leadership “Sembrando Semillas” camp out in Malibu Creek State Park, California.

When I joined Latino Outdoors as an Ambassador for Texas three ago I remember thinking what a great opportunity it would be to have an outdoor Latino presence in the city of San Antonio. Little did I realize how much of a positive impact this organization would have on my soul . A few months later I was invited to the first Latino Outdoor Leadership Campout in California at Malibu Creek State Park.

This was the first time I would meet my LO Familia. It was also the first time I formally met Mr. Richard Rojas. He is Chairman on the Latino Outdoor Advisory Board and a (Retired) District Superintendent for the California State Parks. His story is beautiful, inspiring, and doesn’t stop there. He is a pioneer and a very lucky Latino. Lucky to have lived a dream many of us are just learning about. “Vamos afuera con Mr. Richard A. Rojas, Sr.”

Graduation from William Penn Mott Jr. Training Center – Basic Ranger Academy in 1978.

  1. What is your earliest memory in the outdoors?

Growing up, my family lived in a quiet working class neighborhood in Southeast Los Angeles County. We had a large backyard with apricot, peach and plumb trees, an expansive lawn and my favorite, an abandoned chicken coop that my brother and his friends converted into a fort! As a kid, I remember looking up at the tall fruit trees and telling myself that I would climb and conquer them one day, which I did. I quickly learned that the view of the world was a lot different the higher up you sat or stood. Something I would never forget, especially leading hikes and ski treks as a park ranger in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Digressing, my first memory of being in the mountains was at about two years old. My parents took my older brother David, my older sister Linda and me on a trip to the Angeles National Forest to play in the snow for the day. Not long after that first trip, my parents planned a trip for us all to visit Yosemite National Park. Reinforced over the years by family stories and photos, our family’s trips to Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park, the California North Coast Redwood State Parks and Lake Mead National Recreation Area impressed upon me the importance of caring for and enjoying these very special places.

The Rojas family first trip to snow in Angeles National Forest – circa 1958.

  1. How did you decide on the Outdoors as a career?

When I was about eleven years old, our growing family needed a larger home. Instead of moving, our parents built a big new house in our large back yard and rented our smaller house to tenants. One of our first tenants was a young father, his wife and their young family. The father’s name was Bill and his wife’s name was Diane. Bill was quite an outdoorsman who loved to hike, camp, hunt and work on cars and build things. My brother David and I used to help Bill with his various projects, including building a small runabout boat in his garage!

On my first camping trip with Bill and Diane near Little Rock Dam in the eastern Angeles National Forest, a US Forest Service (USFS) ranger stopped by our camp and visited. It was deer hunting season, so the ranger was patrolling the campground and checking hunting licenses and talking to campers about hunting safety. I remember that morning vividly. The ranger was a tall man, dressed in a USFS tan shirt and green pants, wearing a ball cap with the USFS logo. When the ranger drove up to our campsite, he waved to us, got out of his truck and said “Howdy!”   

Bill welcomed the ranger and asked him if he would like to join us for breakfast? He replied, “No thank-you”, but said that he wouldn’t mind taking a break and sitting with us for a few minutes. The ranger reached for his green colored Aladdin-Stanley stainless steel thermos from the seat next to him and then joined us at the camp table. Bill and the ranger talked for what seemed like forever about deer hunting, fishing, favorite types of rifles and fishing gear before I jumped in and was able to ask the ranger a couple of questions.

With a lot of excitement, I was able to ask the ranger two questions. First, I asked him to describe for us his daily routine. And second, I asked him to share his favorite part of the job. With a big grin on his face, the ranger proceeded to share with us how he started his day from his office, which was located next door to his home. While there, he would usually check reports for lost or missing persons, reports of any hazardous conditions within his patrol area, and then he’d submit his patrol plan to his dispatcher so that they would know where he should be throughout the day. A day on patrol consisted of checking camper registrations, inspecting fishing and hunting licenses, cleaning restrooms, fixing signs, fences and camp furniture and meeting and greeting forest visitors.  

The ranger’s answer to my second question really surprised me. He said his favorite part of his job was talking to campers and hunters like us, sharing stories and making sure that our visit to the forest was safe and memorable. At that moment, I knew I wanted to be a forest or park ranger. Years later, my wife gave me a green colored Aladdin-Stanley stainless steel thermos for my promotion to supervising ranger. And whenever I was on patrol and approached a family or kids in the park, I would always greet them with a friendly “Howdy!” Just ask my kids, they know.   

Fishing at Lake Kaweah – circa 1966.

  1. How do you maintain a connection to Nature?

I enjoy hiking, camping and riding my hybrid bike whenever I can. For the last 24 years, my wife and I have hosted an annual family and friends group campout. It all began when we invited a few high school friends and their families to camp in our backyard when we lived at El Capitan State Beach. Soon, our group grew from 20 to 100 campers and so we would do our best to reserve group campsites along the Central Coast large enough to accommodate our ever-growing group of campers.

Over the years, it has been wonderful watching our children, their cousins and the children of our close friends grow up and learn to appreciate and enjoy the outdoors. On every campout, I arrange for our group to participate in a park clean-up project. Not only does the park staff appreciate our volunteer help, but our young campers and their parents have learned how important it is to become good park stewards. Now that my wife and I have five, soon to be six grandchildren – our lives our always full with new outdoor adventures and excitement!

Richard and Ophelia Rojas at the Annual Family Picnic with their son and five grandkids (2018).

Rojas Family and Friends Annual Campout-2017

  1. What is a fond memory in nature for you?

As a journey-level park ranger in my mid-twenties I was offered a transfer from the beaches of Orange County to Donner Memorial State Park in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. At the time, California State Parks was about to enter collective bargaining and employee transfers were to be based solely on seniority in grade. With only five years experience under my belt, I knew it would be a long shot to even be considered for the job.

As luck would have it, after my interview, I learned that my reputation for working hard and my desire to learn everything I could to be a good ranger overshadowed my novice mountaineering skills and experience. So, during my time in the Sierra’s I challenged myself to learn as much as I could about alpine mountain hiking and camping, fishing, snow-shoeing and Nordic skiing. Our Sierra District Parks were popular with visitors, especially for the challenging and adventurous hikes, skiing, snowshoe and winter camping programs we led as park rangers.

During my last winter at Donner, I volunteered to co-lead one of the most difficult treks we offered to visitors in the District – a Nordic ski hike to Schallenberger Ridge. Schallenberger Ridge is located southeast of Donner Lake at 7,169 ft. and is named after Moses Schallenberger, an 18 year old member of the Stephens-Townsend-Murphy immigrant party who survived the winter alone in 1944 at Donner Lake, two years before the ill-fated Donner Party arrived there. And, while the ridge is only 1,200 feet above Donner Lake (5,965 ft.), in mid-winter the area surrounding the ridge is known for steep avalanche chutes and icy cornices along its peak. One the sunny winter day we led our hike, it was 32 degrees, sunny, clear and there was an 8 foot snow pack at lake level, which meant we would encounter icy footing along the sun exposed ridge top. 

Donner Memorial State Park in California

Ranger Bob Burke, an experienced Nordic and Alpine skier would lead the hike and I would serve as sweeper, the person responsible for making sure that none of our hike participants were left behind. As luck would have it, I was the least experienced skier on the trek! And, as Ranger Bob and the eight other skiers on the hike zipped up the steep trail using their finely tuned herringbone technique, I trailed behind making slow progress using more of an ugly duckling waddle than that of a seasoned master-skier. Lucky for me, Ranger Bob and the rest of the group were more excited about me tackling the hike and making it to the ridge summit safely than they were about me having great skills and decades of experience on them.

I arrived at the top of Schallenberger Ridge about 20 minutes behind the rest of the group who were just finishing up lunch. Before I could sit down and take a much-needed break, Ranger Bob and the others greeted me with a slap on my back and a sincere congratulation for reaching Schallenberger Ridge summit safely. As I briefly sat to eat my lunch and drink some water, I was amazed at the incredible view visible from high above Donner Lake. The early afternoon air was crisp and clear and it seemed as though I was sitting on top of the World.

In that moment, the view of the snow covered Sierra Nevada Mountains that stretched from Donner Pass on the west all the way to the Nevada border on the east made me appreciate the hardships that the early emigrant families endured to make the journey to California for a better life. It also reminded me of my own childhood, sitting atop our family’s apricot tree and seeing our backyard differently for the first time. For four and a half years, I hiked, climbed, drove around and skied the area at the base of Schallenberger Ridge.

It wasn’t until I sat atop the ridge that I realized that I wanted to be more than just an average park ranger. I wanted to be a leader, an advocate and an ambassador for other kids like me and families like mine who grow up in the City and might not ever experience the wildness of nature like I experienced that day. Conquering Schallenberger Ridge was an epic moment and motivated me to dedicate my career to improving diversity, equity and inclusion for State Park visitors and staff for the rest of my career.      

  1. What advice would you offer to a poc in the outdoors?

Shelton Johnson, an African-American National Park Ranger who currently works at Yosemite National Park is probably best known by most Americans for inviting Oprah Winfrey and her friend Gale King to camp at Yosemite NP for their first time. But, what many do not know is that Ranger Shelton is an incredible naturalist, a history buff (a Buffalo soldier re-enactor) and an accomplished photographer too. He often reminds young people of color to learn about, appreciate and hold sacred places like Yosemite, Sequoia-Kings Canyon, the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone and other wonderful national parks and wild places, as they make up the fabric of our American legacy too.

I could not agree with Ranger Shelton more. As young Latinos/as begin to discover the wonders on our National, State, Regional and local area parks I encourage everyone to read about their histories — how did they become protected and what are the stories that these special places tell us about our own contributions to America’s past? Knowing a park’s history will also give you insight on why visitors are so eager to visit and explore the park themselves.

If exploring the outdoors or a new park on your own is outside your comfort zone, then I encourage you to join one of the many outings hosted by Latino Outdoors, your local chapter of the Sierra Club, County or City Park and Recreation Departments or many REI and local outdoor gear retailers. You can also find many great books on hiking and camping in your area by searching Amazon, eBay, Craigslist and other online resources.

Lastly, if you are curious at all about learning about jobs or careers in the outdoors, you have to look no further than the amazing people who work and volunteer for Latino Outdoors like Alfonso Orozco, Michele Pinon, Laura Nava, Juan Telles, Andres Esparza and Guadalupe Sotelo. I bet if you send any of them a DM via our LO Facebook or Instagram pages, they will respond to you with incredible enthusiasm and helpful insight. It’s no secret that our LO volunteers and staff inspire me every day to do everything that I can to support their work in developing our next generation of Latino/a outdoor leaders!    

LO Leadership Campout Santa Clara, CA 2018 L-R Naomi Torres – NPS Supt., Richard Rojas -LO Board Chair, Jonathan Jarvis – NPS Director (Retired), Sally Jewell – US Secretary of Interior (Retired), José González – Latino Outdoors Founder & Director Emeritus

  1. Thoughts, ideas or reflections?

One of my best supervisors and career mentors was Steve Treanor. He graduated from the University of California and by all rights should have been a famous attorney, university professor or theologian. But instead, he became a California State Park Ranger, eventually promoting to become the Southern Division Chief for California State Parks before retiring.

Steve often ended our meetings with a thoughtful comment or word of advice. One I think of often is “Dare to be mediocre.” In other words, never settle for average when you know you can be amazing. The hourglass of time passes way too quickly so do not waste a single minute. Let’s do this!” — Estamos aqui!    

Thank you Richard for continuing to inspire our community with what you have accomplished in your field. Your love for the outdoors is totally obvious in the way you share your stories. I remember when I heard you speak at the first LO campout and thinking “what a lucky man”! LO would not be the same without you and you are right … Estamos aqui!!

Josie Gutierrez~Program Coordinator San Antonio, TX

 

 

 

08/4/18

“Yo Cuento Outdoors” ~ The Stories of Latino Outdoors. Part 7

The stories continue for “Yo Cuento Outdoors”! Next up … me  : ).

In the last few months I highlighted some of the personal and inspiring stories of Latino Outdoors Volunteers and Leaders. They let us into their lives by sharing the first time they connected to an outdoor space and what it meant to them. One thing they all have in common is their love for La Madre Tierra.

Latino Outdoors is a unique Latino-led organization working to create a national community of leaders in conservation and outdoor education. As part of this work, they focus on expanding and amplifying the Latino experience in the outdoors; providing greater opportunities for leadership, mentorship, professional opportunities and serving as a platform for sharing cultural connections and narratives that are often overlooked by the traditional outdoor movement. It is a space for the community to be present, share their voices, and showcase how conservation roots have been ingrained in Latino cultura for generations.

LO is my familia and has been since 2015 when I became the Southwest Ambassador in San Antonio, Texas.

Hola, my name is Josie Gutierrez and here is my story.

What would be my earliest memories in the outdoors with a connection to Nature?

I guess this would be my first connection to the outdoors, learning how to walk on the grass at my abuelita’s house. My first adventure with the wind in my baby hair and a smile on my face, lol. I grew up in the 70’s and the outdoors for me was the place I connected with my friends and countless cousins. Rollerskating, biking, hide-n-seek, climbing trees, making up cheerleading routines and running around till dark were just a few of my favorites. Good times from sun up to sun down. This was my foundation and one that I will forever be grateful for.

I loved the outdoors and growing up we would go to local parks but it wasn’t until the age of twenty that a friend suggested we go to Garner State Park. I am always down for an adventure so off we went. I never expected that weekend to hug my soul the way it did. The most beautiful river flowed right through the park with endless trails to explore. This was to be my first adult connection to Nature “my happy Place“.

Garner State Park, San Antonio, TX

How do I connect what I do now in the Outdoor space?

Soon after that trip to Garner State Park I became a mother and my primary focus became that. To be the best Mom I could be and that meant I really had to grow up quickly to provide all I could for my daughter. Parks like Garner were but a dream as I had my second daughter a few years later. My partner and I bought a small house to raise our girls in and settled into our lives. The girls were getting older and since a real vacation was not in the budget I suggested Garner State Park. I called and found out it was totally within our means to camp out for the weekend. The only problem was gear. I don’t really remember where we found our first tents but we did. We loaded up the family truck and off we went, into the Texas Hill Country.

This park became a yearly tradition for many years. We were happy there and that’s all that mattered. We would tube down the river for hours and enjoyed the time with the girls and the nephew and nieces that we sort of adopted as our tribe for these adventures.

The girls got older and these trips to the park became non existent. High school and sports took over then graduation and college came soon after. The kids no longer needed Mom and Dad as much and we now had more time for ourselves. I took up running to shed a few pounds and that meant running outside at different parks around the city. I felt happiest outside and I knew I needed more. Social media was the tool for the next chapter in my life.

I meet a local Latina blogger who inspired me to start my own blog. I started Fitfunand.com – Fitness, fun and life! Because life is too short for regrets and what a great way to share information and success. The need to explore my city and share outdoor recreation led me to some amazing opportunities. I was ready for more but wasn’t sure what was next. Then along came Latino Outdoors. I felt totally labeled in the best way possible! Two words that connected me instantly. Their Instagram and Twitter pages were full of Latinos being highlighted in nature. I tagged myself in more than a few pictures and was excited to show support from Texas.

A few weeks later, I get a message from LO in regards to becoming an Ambassador in Texas. Totally shocked and a call or two later, I was officially announced the new Southwest Ambassador. What would this mean and how would this change my life? LO was growing as well and I had no connections to any Nature groups in town. They connected me to my local REI store and their Outdoor Programs and Outreach~Jeanette.

I cannot begin to tell you how many connections and people all over the city of San Antonio she helped put me in contact with. I will forever be grateful to her for wanting to see LO be a force in Texas. Lucky me, a female Latina who knows every outdoor group in and around her city. With her continued help and support I have been able to build a solid foundation. Our Texas group is continuing to grow with at least one outdoor event a month. Hiking, bird watching, kayaking, camping and much more.

I have found myself on a trail with endless possibilities and no way out. Just the way it should be : ).

What makes the outdoors special to me and do I have a favorite hike?

 

It is special in the way the wind plays with my hair, the way the sun lights the trails, the way the river hugs me as I swim, the music the birds make as I explore and the feeling of being present in the most purest way possible.

My favorite hike to date would be walking along the Santa Elena Canyon Trail at Big Bend National Park in Texas with my family this year. This was a little more special because we have a granddaughter now who shared this adventure with us as well. Three generations making moments.

It has only been in the past few years with LO that I have given myself space to grow in the outdoors and to feel more comfortable and vulnerable. These past few years have taught me that I am capable of more than I ever imagined. Latino Outdoors is a platform to share our stories and let our voices be heard. In a full circle kind of a way I know this was where I was meant to be.

Love what you live!

Josie~Southwest Program Coordinator

 

04/5/18

Afuera con Latino Outdoors and Texas Land Conservancy

Texas is my home! I grew up in San Antonio with the Texas Hill Country just a road trip away. Outdoor adventures are what the weekends were made for! I love exploring new spaces and connecting with organizations that share the same passion and love for Mother Nature.

A few weeks ago Latino Outdoors in Texas went on a guided hike with Texas Land Conservancy to Bear Springs Blossom in Pipe Creek, Texas. This property is home to multiple nesting pairs of endangered Golden-cheeked Warblers and rare hill country plants. Bear Springs Blossom is an oak/juniper woodland along limestone slopes. A magical place that someone calls home.

Keep Earth Beautiful

Keep Earth Beautiful” is the mission of Bear Springs Blossom Nature Conservation. A special thank you to the landowners~Peter and Marianne Bonenberger for their work in conservation. It was so easy to get caught up in all they had to share with us about the land, space and wildlife. You can learn more about the 1000+ articles they have written and shared on their site here at Keep Earth Beautiful. Yes, 1000+ articles : ). Learning from the past for a better future.

 

This would not have been possible without Texas Land Conservancy  TLC is a non-governmental, 501(c) non-profit organization dedicated to protecting land all over the state of Texas.

They help landowners find an economical, realistic alternative to selling their land to a developer that allows ownership to remain in their hands and puts the responsibility of conserving the land with TLC. Many of these properties are working farms or ranches, while others contain important habitat for wildlife and native plant communities. All of these lands are beautiful examples of Texas’ natural heritage. TLC’s work ensures that economic viability and growth is balanced with what makes us Texan: our rural heritage, our open-spaces, our farms and ranches, our scenic vistas, and our natural resources.

You can sign up on their web site to get more information on how you can get involved in land conservation or attend an event at Texas Land Conservancy

Maren Mclaughlin-Klots~ Director of Partnerships & Outreach, thank you as well for arranging this for us. You planned the party and we just showed up. This was one of my favorite hikes to date and I think we all walked away with a new respect for the land we love and the land we live in.

“Learn how to live with the land, not off the land”~Peter Bonenberger.

We heard about the endangered Golden Cheecked Warbler, a species of bird that breeds in Central Texas. If we were lucky we would spot it!  Stephen Ramirez~TLC Stewardship Director and also fabulous photographer called out the elusive bird throughout the hike. Of course the bird teased us along the way and only made an appearance at literally the end of our hike. Thank you Stephen for not giving up. The Golden Cheeked Warbler magically appeared and perched right on top of the tallest tree for what seemed like forever and after we all had a great view it flew away back into the hills. What a great way to end our day. Lucky us : ).

In honor of Women’s History Month in March we thought we would honor the “La Mujer”. Check out all of these amazing Chicas blazing trails at all ages, sizes and color! Together we can conquer so much more.

Until the next time. Take a hike!

Fitfunand~Josie Gutierrez

02/22/18

Getaway 5K/10K at Mission County Park

Registration is now open for the Getaway 5K/10K .

This post is Sponsored by Vocalpoint and Getaway 5k/10k but no worries all opinions are my own : ).

The Getaway 5K/10K is a new race series that is hosted in various cities across the US. If you weren’t lucky enough to run it last year there is still time to sign up for it this year. This year’s race will be held at Mission County Park and that means plenty of FREE parking!

I can’t even begin to tell you how fun this race will be. They even have a Kid’s Fun Run and everyone gets a Custom Finisher’s Medal as long as you run, walk, skip or crawl across the finish line. With a beach themed celebration happening before, during and after the race.

Race Swag (not kidding)

  • 10K participants get a 1/4 zip pull-over jacket as their premium
  • 5K & kids race get a high quality soft cotton t-shirt
  • 2 beers (must be 21)
  • 2 tacos
  • Shaved ice in a color changing cup
  • A Custom Finisher Medal that doubles as a bottle opener and magnet (YEP)

This race is partnered with the San Antonio Food Bank  and will be making a donation to them at the race. So let’s getaway together.

 

I discovered the love of running a little over 10 years ago. I can honestly tell you I was hooked from the first 5k I ever did. I never in my wildest dreams think I could even walk 3 miles much less run them. With plenty of practice and fabulous running buddies we have run just about every trail in San Antonio : ). Well, maybe not every trail but just about, haha! If you need a running buddy just find me at the race. Disclaimer: I am not fast!!! I consider myself a social runner. I’m in it for a good pace but not too fast that I miss anything along the way. See y’all there!

Follow them on Facebook for all event updates.

#SUNFUNRUN #GETAWAY5K #ad

Fitfunand … FunSunRun.

 

 

 

01/30/18

Remarkable365-Feel Good Formula

Full Life Formula is an all natural supplement blend, made from plant ingredients to help you make everyday Remarkable365.

The plants used in Full Life Formula have been used for thousands of years to improve physical and mental well being. These ingredients have been well researched and tested for unwanted toxins.

Reduce Anxiety. Increase Energy. Improve Focus.

I am always on the go and the older I get the harder it is to find the energy that came so easily as a child. Life as a full time worker and Mommy of two with a huge passion for the outdoors requires me to have a never ending supply of energy and focus. Because LIFE happens and I sure hate to miss anything. So when I heard about a natural supplement blend called Remarkable365 that helps improve mental and health well-being, I was happy to try it out!

My thinking was to try it out over the craziest holiday and for me this would be Christmas. I decided last year that I was going to stop drinking energy drinks. It was time to stop chasing my lows with a caffeine filled drink. I just want to be me and not a silly wound up version. If I was going to try anything it would be natural supplements.

Remarkable365 contains zero stimulants or unnatural supplements.

  • 100% Natural
  • Gluten free
  • Dairy free
  • Soy free
  • Grain free
  • No sugars
  • No artificial preservative or fillers

I can honestly tell you that I felt very safe taking these supplements and never once did I feel like I was chasing a low. Energy seemed to naturally be present and my mental clarity appeared great! The pills were easy to swallow and the only thing I noticed was a little more thirst for water than I typically drink. Great think about that is that who doesn’t need a little more H2O in : )? I am in no way a certified doctor just a happy blogger, mom and outdoor girl who just wants to continue exploring the world 365 days a year, with focus, energy and clarity.

There are no side effects or interference but always do your own research and check with an expert you trust.

Remarkable365 is not sold in stores to keep costs down and provide the best quality ingredients. They only sell directly from their website at Remarkable365.

If you still have questions, they would love to answer them. Please send all questions, comments or compliments to info@remarkable365.com.

FitfunandLiving my life my way!

(This is a sponsored post, but no worries because all opinions will always be my own.)

 

01/18/18

“Yo Cuento Outdoors”~The Stories of Latino Outdoors. Part 6

“Yo Cuento Outdoors” is back!

 

Latino Outdoors is a wonderful Organization that provides many of us Volunteers and Leaders with a platform to amplify the Latino experience in the outdoors; providing greater opportunities for leadership, mentorship, professional opportunities and serving as a platform for sharing cultural connections and narratives that are often overlooked by the traditional outdoor movement. It is a space for the community to be present, share their voices, and showcase how conservation roots have been ingrained in Latino cultura for generations.

My pleasure to highlight Maricela ‘Marci’ Rosales~Outdoor Brands Coordinator for LO.

I had the pleasure of meeting Marci last summer and if I had to sum her up in three words they would be … passionate, energetic and fearless, she is a Force of Nature no doubt!

“It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.”

– Edmund Hillary

What are the earliest memories of you in the outdoors with a connection to Nature?

My earliest memory was swinging on a hammock looking up and looking at the two different trees, the sun was peeking through both trees creating shapes and bringing in glimmers of light. I remember the trees swaying and rustling. I would take naps outside because I loved the way the wind and trees made music together. I noticed that the hammock was being held by these two trees and my curiosity convinced me to climb the Palm tree. I was maybe 4 or 5 years old. I like climbing things.

How do you connect to doing what you do now in the outdoor space?

I have a long story. Haha. I will say that growing up I was disconnected to outdoor spaces. I never thought that my backyard was an outdoor space. Schools didn’t go to State Parks or the Angeles Forests, there were no community gardens, and there was a lot of concrete. Los Angeles at the time lacked safe outdoor spaces. My family worked a lot so we really didn’t recreate. I was also bit sheltered because of my disability. I would sit in my room and look at the national geographic books my dad used to collect. While looking at the amazing images in my mind at a very early age, it was something that I always wanted to do but didn’t know how to get there, where to start looking or what would be “my thing”. In my teens, we moved out of the inner city and in the Latino Suburbs is where I realized there was less trash, more parks, and green lawns.  At my new high school, I took AP Biology and really liked it. I was convinced this was the way in to find my calling. When I got accepted to UC Riverside as an Environmental Science Major. It didn’t take long for me to switch majors I couldn’t pay attention at the time. To many things were happening, my dad’s health was declining, I was commuting from Riverside to LA county regularly to help my dad and to work, and I was in physical pain that kept me from focusing on my studies.

Something happened when I switched my major to Sociology/Law & Society, different sociological phenomenon’s, demographics of communities, disparities and crime opened my mind to the world. It blew me away that so many things were interconnected and not one thing moved on its own when it came to our social world. At the same time, I got the help I needed to improve my well-being and got involved in the outdoors by getting a job at the Challenge course on campus. My dreams started coming together in different ways and I loved where things were going. I got into rock climbing and that in itself became a huge part of where I am today in life. Because of my experiences I have become an advocate and invested volunteer. Giving time to organizations like Latino Outdoors, Access Fund, and Nature For All has opened many opportunities for me and the surrounding communities I work with in Los Angeles. I am but one person but my goal is to share what I have with others so they too can benefit from outdoor spaces, access, and wellness. I want them to be volunteers, to get those jobs in the Outdoor Industry and I want the community where I come from to be champions of the land.

What make the outdoors special to you and do you have a favorite hike?

The outdoors is a special place for me because it’s a place to heal, to explore, to protect. It could be your back yard, your local park, and your rivers and forests. I connect while I’m climbing outside. I don’t have a favorite hike but I do like venturing into the San Gabriel National Monument. I really like the Horse Flats Campground area.

How do you celebrate the connections between a Latinx identity and the outdoors?

Some of the folks that venture on outings in Los Angeles are doing it for the first time. Making them relatable and inclusive is important. Partnering with other organizations and rangers to translate builds trust. Making the outdoors relatable is important to celebrating diversity. Bringing in culture and storytelling helps celebrate the identify of people participating.

How do you see yourself “counting” in the outdoors and in the community around you?

In the summer, LO Los Angeles had their first campout and it was a lot of fun. We went to Malibu Creek State Park where we played in the water, went to the visitor center, saw some planets with a very big telescope, and we all made dinner together. On the last day, we talked about the importance of protecting places and picked up trash along the way. Families who participated mentioned their desire to get involved in their local communities; having a voice and amplifying the importance of what they felt mattered to them. To me it’s about leading and having others come into your place collectively using each other’s strengths to make things happen for the greater good. Maybe it’s not huge change but impacts come in all shapes and sizes.  As a woman of color with my experiences I feel inspired and responsible to be a part of change. Not a bone in my body is doing this for the wrong reasons.

Why does what you do matter to you?

It matters because I believe all communities benefit from outdoors spaces, from access to recreate, it creates sustainable communities.

Muchas Gracias Maricela for sharing what the outdoors means to you. I love the fact that you are not just hiking to the mountain but climbing it as well. You are truly a Latino Outdoors inspiration and may you continue to pave new paths on your aventuras Amiga : ).

 

Everyone has their own story on what they love most about Nature and what keeps them there. What is it that draws you to the wild open spaces?

Fitfunand  … Latina Outdoors.

 

 

12/13/17

TheCozy and a Road trip

I love a great road trip and when I see the opportunity, I seize the moment! The weather was great and the amazing Selena was available with only a day notice. Selena is a dear childhood friend of mine who is always up for an adventure. So I packed some snacks and a new product I had for review-TheCozy Pocket Blanket and off we went, into the Texas Hill Country.

I realized the weather was going to be perfect to visit a favorite spot of mine, Hamilton Pool Preserve.

Hamilton Pool Preserve was designated a nature preserve by the Travis County Commissioner’s Court in 1990. Located 3/4 mile upstream from its confluence with the Pedernales River, Hamilton Creek spills out over limestone outcroppings to create a 50 foot waterfall as it plunges into the head of a steep box canyon. The waterfall never completely dries up, but in dry times it does slow to a trickle. However, the pool’s water level stays pretty constant, even during periods of drought.

 

I think you can understand why this place is a favorite on my list of “magical outdoor spaces“. The pool trail is 1/4 mile in length and includes a series of rock steps descending into the canyon.  The trail is rugged and steep.  Sturdy foot gear is recommended. Visitors with physical disabilities can arrange assistance into the canyon by requesting a ride by preserve staff.  The ride takes a visitor into the canyon, but not all the way to the pool, since no vehicle can make it to the pool.

Make sure to check out the website for do’s and dont’s and frequently asked questions.

I thought this would be a perfect place to test out TheCozy Pocket Blanket. This was actually very easy to carry since it literally weights 7.5 ounces and fits right in the palm of your hand. I love how easy it was to pack and set up. TheCozy is water resistant and this is great for me because my favorite Texas travels usually include a river.

TheCozy Blanket comes with 4 ground stakes and a nice colored orange bag to put it back into. The material is high quality water resistant and we had no problems setting it up and putting it back in the bag. This is definitely a new addition for me and I am sure you will see it on some of my future adventures.

A perfect stocking stuffer or just a nice gift for yourself. Practical and chic with a great price. Check out TheCozy at Amazon. Keep it simple, keep it real!!

Just for the Holidays use LATINOUT for a 10% discount. Valid until 1/1/2018.

Hamilton Pool Preserve

FitfunandJosie reviewed and approved!

(I was given TheCozy for a review but no worries all opinions are my own as are my adventures).