12/2/16

Latino Outdoors in Texas: Opt Outside/Vamos Outdoors

                 

 Will you go OUT with me?

Friedrich Wilderness Park

This year Latino Outdoors in Texas joined in on the movement … #OptOutside & #ViernesVerde!

Last year REI the nation’s largest consumer co-op and specialty outdoor retailer made the brilliant decision to close all of their stores (143 to be exact) and pay it’s 12,000 employees on the biggest shopping day of the year (Black Friday)! They basically said Opt Outside! Hike, bike, snowboard, camp, kayak … just go!  Well you don’t have to tell me twice : ).

                      On black Friday in Texas, we went Hiking!

Friedrich Wilderness Park

With some grant funding fom REI I knew exactly where I wanted to go for our 1st annual event in Texas. With over 10 miles of Hiking Trails Friedrich Wilderness Park in San Antonio,Texas was the chosen destination.

Friedrich Wilderness Park Facts:

  • The park was developed with a grant from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and was dedicated on August 31, 1978.
  • The park is in the transition zone between the flat South Texas region and the Texas Hill Country.
  • It is internationally known for bird watching, with nesting sites for two federal listed endangered species of birds: the Black-capped Vireo and the Golden-cheeked Warbler.
  • Handicapped accessible trails.
  • No Fires and no smoking.
  • To protect the endangered species … Pedestrians only! (no pets)

Friedrich Wilderness Park

It’s moments like this. In Nature we Nuture the soul.

 

The weather was perfect, the smiles were endless and the talks on the trails were heartfelt. You could sense the confidence building! We had a wonderful guide Nicole who shared her wealth of knowledge on the plants and wildlife at Friedrich.

Friedrich Wilderness Park

  Latino Outdoors In Texas.

 

I wanted the 1st Annual Vamos Outdoors/Opt Ouside event to be successful. I wanted my group to be inspired and excited to be outdoors. The event was to share and showcase the beauty that is nature. Hiking locally and finding a great park to get lost in together was just the start for us. We made memories and then captured it on canvas. Art in the park : ).  

 

Latino Outdoors at Friedrich Park

The importance of the day was spending quality time Outside and we did just that! In San Antonio we represented proudly and fearlessly.

A park, a picnic, some painting, and for dessert … Pan dulce (sweet bread)!

Latino Outdoors at Friedrich Park

Fitfunand … Take a hike : ))!!

Friedrich Wilderness Park

 

10/16/16

Estamos Aqui Documentary: Latino Outdoors at The White House

Latino Outdoors at the White House

                “Estamos Aqui: We are here”.

 

A few weeks ago I was asked to join Latino Outdoors at the White House for a very special screening of “Estamos Aqui~A Celebration of Nature y Cultura”. This film was directed by award winning filmmaker, guest speaker and founder of The Nature Kids Institute Mr. Kenny Ballentine. Estamos Aqui is co-produced by Kenny Ballentine and Jose Gonzalez. Gonzales is the founder of Latino Outdoors and a member of the Latino Conservation Alliance.

The Latino population is the fastest growing American demographic. They are also among the most under-represented groups in conservation, outdoor recreation, and environmental education organizations – Latino Outdoors.

 

What are the causes and consequences of this divide? What are the challenges and opportunities? Latino families and individuals from all over the United States are already connecting with their history, their culture and their communities. In the Estamos Aqui documentary you get to meet these inspiring people, hear their stories and discover how our connection to nature simultaneously makes us unique and brings us together.

 

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Familia- Latino Outdoors

The film would not only make it’s premiere at The White House but during Hispanic Heritage Month. To recognize and celebrate the contributions and the importance of Hispanic and Latino Americans to the United States and highlight our heritage and culture as we diversify the Outdoors. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity for us all. The mission and goals of Latino Outdoors to be visible with top-level conservation leaders as well as members of Congress is exceptional. The film was beautiful and it made me proud to be a part of this story. The story of Latinos and the relationships we are building with Nature and not leaving our Culture at the entrance of a trail but making it part of the journey.

Here is a link to the speakers and panel that occurred right before the screening. Enjoy!

Latino Outdoors Panel & Speakers

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Latino Outdoors at The White House!

 

The opportunity also included a tour of the East Wing at The White House and WOW! The rooms are rich in history and we took it all in. We individually absorbed the day and how special it was. It’s not everyday that these moments happen. The smiles were endless and the energy was amazing.

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Once we actually made it pass all security checkpoints we were allowed to do a self-guided tour of The East Wing. Welcome to The White House! We were allowed to take pictures with our cell phones and off we went. Exploring the East Wing was a surreal experience for us all. The wing had a Green room, a Blue room, a Red room and the opulence and history was definitely felt as we walked the corridors.

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The East Wing has nine rooms and as you exit you have a great photo op under The United States Seal.

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In my wildest dreams I would not have imagined that my love of Nature would have blessed me with a beautiful Outdoor Family and a trip with them to The White House. I recently celebrated one year as Ambassador for Latino Outdoors~Southwest. We are volunteers, active stewards and advocates for natural spaces. The importance of sharing our stories and empowering the next generation of Latino leadership in the outdoors is evident in this organization.

Dream. Believe. Achieve. 

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 Fitfunand … Estamos Aqui: The White House with Latino Outdoors.

07/31/16

#Latino Conservation Week: Inks Lake State Park, Texas.

The Latino passion for the Outdoors was in full swing. A week showcasing our fearless spirits and beautiful selves engaging, experiencing and advocating for the great Outdoors.

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Inks Lake State Park, Texas

Latino Conservation Week took place July 16 to July 24 2016.  This Nationwide initiative provided an opportunity for Latinos to come together and to demonstrate their passion for the outdoors, both for enjoyment and preservation. Highlighting our lands and the spirit that stirs the Latino souls. Disfrutando y Conservando Nuestra Tierra!

In its third year, the week as grown to more than 100 events nationwide!

I had an opportunity to host an event at Inks Lake State Park. A hill country gem perfect for a day trip or a weekend getaway. Because the lake’s level usually stays constant, you can play here year-round. This would be the place to perfect our kayaking and canoeing skills.

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July 23rd was the day to gather new friends and old friends at Inks’s Lake State Park in honor of Latino Conservation Week. Many of us had no clue what our journey to the final destination aptly named Devil’s Watering Hole would include. The name alone should have scared off my tribe, LOL. Devil’s Watering Hole is a place where many daredevils take a plunge from the cliffs into a deep sink hole, YIKES! No worries, it really is a pretty safe place.

I couldn’t wait to get into the water to try the kayak and listening to the nervous chatter and laughter around me I knew I wasn’t the only one!

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I am extremely happy that my group trusted me in guiding them to a location that I just knew would take us out of our comfort zone but in the greatest way. We engaged, we explored and we even walked a little taller exiting our kayaks & canoes. Every day is a chance to be greater than the day before. Mission accomplished for Latino Outdoors Southwest!

A special thanks to Sean D. Jones our Park Ranger Interpreter, Jasmine Scott with Texas Parks & Wildlife and to the sweet volunteer Allicia. Jasmine was my first point of contact and was excited to hear about the initiative and the event and even volunteered to come in on her day off to be with us, wow!

Exploring every chance we get. Mountains, Hills, Rivers, Lakes, Trails … here we come, Latino Outdoors.

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Fitfunand … Afuera!

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07/19/16

#TexasParks: Take a Hike Y’all!

I love Texas where just about any road trip leads you to a nearby river, lake or spring. The Texas heat can get pretty brutal so a park with water to dive, dip or swim, is a must for me. Thank you Texas for having some amazing watering holes!

The National Park Service turns 100 on August 25, 2016. This centennial will kick off a second century of stewardship in America’s parks which will engage communities through recreation, conservation, and historic preservation programs.

We have all been invited to Find Your Park on a national level and to explore programs in our own backyard.

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My “backyard” is the Texas Hill Country. Texas is my state, born and raised!  A 25-county region of Central Texas and South Texas. The Hill Country reaches into portions of the two metropolitan areas, especially in San Antonio’s northern suburbs and the western half of Travis County, ending southwest of Downtown Austin.

A perfect road trip would include family, friends, hills, river fun and if i’m really lucky a winery or two : ).

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Dry Comal Creek

I do have some favorite parks that made the “must visit because Josie said” list : )! These beautiful outdoor parks are in no particular order because each park is unique in what is has to offer. Local Parks, State Parks, National Parks or the ever popular Texas watering holes. I am happy to share some of these outdoor gems with you, because after all … Sharing is caring! 

Texas Parks

Garner State Park

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Pedernales State Park

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Guadalupe River State Park

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Enchanted Rock State Natural Area

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Hamilton Pool Preserve

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San Antonio Missions National Historical Park Texas

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Mission San Jose

Krause Springs

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Comal Springs & Landa Park

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Mitchell Lake Audubon

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Big Bend National Park Texas

 

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Texas parks have my heart. I am never disappointed but I would be if I hadn’t wandered. Big Bend was the biggest and definitely the most challenging for me so far in terms of the terrain but it left me wanting more. I know in my heart I will be going back and I will set no boundaries for the open spaces that nurture my soul and make me smile ear to ear : ). The more I discover the more I uncover … my happy place, Outdoors!

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Big Bend National Park Texas

Latino Outdoors ~ Josie Southwest Ambassador

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Malibu Creek State Park – California

Take the Pledge to Take Care of Texas and receive a FREE Texas Parks & Wildlife State Park Guide and a FREE sticker!

Free Texas Hill Country PassportVisit 18 or more of the 24 Hill Country destinations. Have your passport stamped at each location and then win tickets, outdoor adventures, tours and more.

Join us in Celebrating Latino Conservation Week at Inks Lake State Park.

For additional information email Josie@latinooutdoors.org

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Fitfunand … Parks!!

 

 

 

 

03/6/16

Together-Nature Bird Walk at Mitchell Lake Audubon Center w/Latino Outdoors

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A Nature Bird Walk at Mitchell Lake Audubon Center was to be the first stop for 2016 and being the Southwest Ambassador for Latino Outdoors I now have more of a platform in sharing adventures and organizing group activities to connect Cultura and the outdoors.

My 1st event had to include kids. I have a 5 year old granddaughter and she thinks anything outdoors is a LO event, I love that! My granddaughter and I became familiar with Mitchell Lake about 6 months ago at one of their events.

The Mission of the Mitchell Lake Audubon Center is to connect people with nature through conservation and community education focused on birds and their habitats.

I met Patty (my guide) on a butterfly tour that she was leading at Mitchell Lake and was impressed by her knowledge and enthusiasm for wildlife & plants. It became apparent to me when she pronounced the names of the plants in Spanish that she was the guide for me. Screenshot_2016-03-06-15-02-47-1

A couple of months later I decided to organize my first outing for LO. The idea would be a Nature inspired Bird walk at Mitchell Lake. The young ones are the next generation and they would be my inspiration. We kept the group small since we only had 1 Patty : ).

Patty provided us all with binoculars courtesy of the Audubon. Who knew you could check them out during your visit there? I know now : ). We walked, we talked, we learned and most of all we connected,

The Audubon is a wildlife center for thousands of birds/plants and wildlife. They have acres of land, a duck pond and even a lake (not for swimming).

Patty is a wealth of information on plants and wildlife. The kids and the adults had a wonderful time playing with the binoculars, spotting birds and seeing wildlife in a whole new way. Seeing their smiling faces and asking questions made my soul melt. No texting, no talking on cell phones and no one cared about social media if only for a short time. I felt I had succeeded in connecting Cultura with Nature. We all left wanting more … mission accomplished!

There was one more surprise, Patty mentioned that she had documented the birds we saw and wanted to know if we wanted to be a part of Cornell Lab of Ornithology with ebird.

A real-time, online checklist program, eBird has revolutionized the way that the birding community reports and accesses information about birds. Launched in 2002 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society, eBird provides rich data sources for basic information on bird abundance.

The answer was a simple YES from the entire group. I couldn’t have imagined a happier ending. I was hoping to inspire at least 1 sweet soul and I was the one who was inspired by them all : ). I can’t wait for the next outing so stay tuned.

 

Fitfunand … AFUERA.

 

Mitchell Lake Audubon Center

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