09/30/17

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

Aribba en el Cielo. Abajo en la Tierra. Afuero con Latino Outdoors.

 

I promised you more stories from the amazing Latino Outdoors leaders, coordinators and volunteers. This organization has provided us the space to grow and nurture nature in our own unique and individual ways. Nature knows no boundaries and how beautiful is that? Here we all are, hikers, bikers, mountain climbers, bird watchers, backpackers, environmentalist and the list goes on but our passion is the same … Tierra Madre! We have individually been called to nature in our own way and up next is the story of Ruby J. Garcia~Executive Projects Coordinator.

Ruby J. Garcia~Executive Projects Coordinator.

What are some of the earliest memories you have with a connection to Nature?

I remember sitting in my grandma’s little mint garden as a small child. I’d help her transform rocks into ladybugs with a little bit of paint. One of my favorite past times as a child was examining California burclover fruit; I’d unravel it and eat the tiny seeds inside. This activity was very soothing for me, and I can confidently say that it is the foundation to my connection with nature.

I also remember standing beneath towering nopales and being so awe inspired. I grew up in the country, next door to a ditch – yes, I played in it during summer months. There was a pond at the end of this ditch, with a tire swing hanging from a tree. The ditch itself was lined with eucalyptus trees and a few weeping willows. And there was a bridge, where I’d sit and watch the tadpoles before jumping in to catch them. I remember catching ladybugs in the adjacent open field. This was my refuge, and I revisit it from time to time.

At 30, I am still soothed by the tiniest details of my interactions with nature. In these moments, I am fully immersed in nature and the burden of being human leaves me; suddenly, I experience life as one with my environment.

Tell me more about who Ruby is and how you connect to doing what you do now in the outdoor space?

[Big sigh] I was at Fresno Community College, switching majors every semester, when I finally decided to visit the Fresno State website to browse their programs and find a career path that would maintain my interest. Scrolling, scrolling through the programs. Then I saw “Recreation Administration” and was struck with curiosity. As I scanned this major I was hooked by, Adventure” “Serve at-risk youth” and “Leadership.” I wasn’t much of an outdoor enthusiast at the time, but intuition told me that this was the path I needed to take. At this time, my connection to nature was fairly faint. My connection to the outdoors was simple: I liked to be outside, in the sun, surrounded by plants.  

A few years later, I ventured to Yosemite in a time of tremendous hardship and eventually fell in love with hiking. I say “eventually” because my first two or three visits to this park consisted of driving around the park, awestruck.  You see, I didn’t know what to do. I just knew that I wanted to be in that space. So, I sort of just drove around aimlessly; awestruck and taking it all in. Eventually, I brought a backpack with some food and water (my “day pack” – I know that now) and took my very first day hike to Nevada Falls. It was emotionally painful and awkward, because nobody on the trail looked like me; that’s super uncomfortable. And I was alone on this journey. Everywhere I looked I saw groups of happy White people with gear. I honestly felt like I didn’t belong there, and I felt like I wasn’t free to feel connected to that space. But at the same time, I was in awe of my hike. And it became clear that the only time I ever felt I had potential as a person was when I found myself on an outdoor adventure. And I remember thinking, “Why not?”

It would be a few years before I took my first Recreation Administration course, but, when I did, all of these connections came flooding in. I began to realize that outdoor recreation was my passion because I saw its potential as a tool for empowerment. I uprooted myself and my children from Fresno so that I could attend Humboldt State University; eighth hours away from home. Outdoor recreation became my go-to tool as I established myself as an independent, empowered single mother – a life changing endeavor. You see, I have experienced first-hand the benefits of outdoor recreation whilst learning the theory and practice behind such efforts. I have gained the confidence, empowerment, and resilience that comes with relentlessly pushing one’s boundaries. I have simultaneously witnessed, experienced, studied, and managed the power of recreation, emerging with an unbreakable faith that recreation is the antitheses to oppression. I advocate for this field with all of my heart, because it has allowed me to break cycles of poverty and oppression.

What is the connection that makes the outdoors so special to you?

Connecting with nature alleviates the negative parts of my human experience. It allows me to reconnect with myself and the world around me. I see my potential more clearly when I find myself in open spaces. I also use nature as a tool to accomplish my motherhood endeavors, teaching my children about the value of wonder, perseverance, environmental stewardship, and so forth. Outdoor spaces alleviate stress, encourage introspection, and promote well-being. We were meant to be outside.

How do you celebrate the connections between a Latinx identity and do you see yourself “counting” in the outdoors?

I highlight my connection between a Latinx identity and the outdoors with an unruly and celebratory rebelliousness, because this is my chosen avenue to empowerment, and I had to fight for it. I fought against the uncomfortableness of feeling unwelcomed in the outdoors. I stood against all odds and refused to fold in my pursuit of higher education. My experience has been that I make myself count in this field, as an outdoor enthusiast and recreation professional. And now that I’ve accomplished that, I seek to do the same for others as an extension of my own healing and empowerment.

How do you see it in others and the community around you?

There is a sense of comradery within the campus community here at Humboldt State. I see Latinx students making that journey to the outdoors together, venturing into an extremely culturally significant space which we’ve tradionally been excluded from as an act of resistance, self-discovery, and healing. It’s the adventure of a lifetime!

Why does what you do matter to you?

I wouldn’t be the empowered woman I am today without my unbreakable connection to nature. I couldn’t love myself, my children, or my community the way I do without having climbed this mountain. I believe in humankind’s capacity for growth, because I did it. Through my work I seek to create this opportunity for others.

It’s important that we use the outdoors to foster a connection between people and the environment. Yes, I want to promote environmental stewardship. Yes, conservation is of the utmost importance. I have heard a lot about providing outdoor recreation opportunities to underserved communities as a way of incorporating them into the mainstream conservation movement.

I’ve heard that people do not protect what they do not love. And I’ve heard the conservation movement needs all the help it can get. But my approach is this: Create outdoor recreation opportunities to uplift people first, and watch environmental stewardship come naturally. I don’t understand how we can expect populations that have been tradionally marginalized and excluded from the outdoors to even entertain ideas surrounding protecting our public lands, until they become empowered and make the journey to our public lands.

What three words best describe you?

Introspective: I learned how to love myself by spending lots of time exploring my mental and spiritual temples. This was my first step towards my journey to empowerment.

Open: Openness has helped me embrace vulnerability, practice honesty, and create pathways to understanding myself and the world around me. I am open and honest with myself and others on so many levels, and it has been so exhilarating to see the opportunities for growth this brings.

Resilient: My ability to thrive in unbelievably unfavorable conditions is something I have worked really hard for and am very proud of. At times I am in disbelief of my growth; it astounds me. The result is a profound belief in humankind’s capacity for growth.

The river or the beach?

Hands down the beach! The California Coastal National Monument is among my favorite places in California. I love to agate hunt, go tidepooling and watch the water in all its magnificence. Sometimes I visit Luffenholtz County Beach Park just to get quick kisses from my favorite place in Humboldt.

If you had one day to go outside where would you go and why?

The answer to this question is almost always the same. I would got to Humboldt Lagoons State Park to agate hunt by myself. I am a firm believer in self-care and spending time alone. Agate hunting couples nicely with this, because it is a passive activity which alleviates stress and promotes a sense of well-being.

The Family that Ruby built : ).

Thank you Ruby for sharing your story. A Latina Outdoors powerhouse and inspiration. The passion you have for the outdoors is now something your children will always associate with you. Couldn’t imagine better memories! Your on the right path Mamacita!

Stay tuned for more stories of Latino Outdoors “Yo Cuento Afuera”.

Southwest Ambassador for Latino Outdoors~Josie Gutierrez

11/4/15

Life Is A Beautiful Ride.

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A couple of months ago I decided to dust off my bike and add something a little different to my fitness routine. I recently met some ladies who bike for fun and they mentioned that “themed” riding is a happening occurrence….WHAT????

I attended my first bike ride nervously with a friend who actually has “biking” experience. I don’t think I’ve ever done more than 5 miles on my bike but in my head I did the math (the Josie way). My last run was a 10 miler and I had 3 thirteen milers under my belt this year so I figured, why not?? Silly girl.

What I should have done before I biked after a 5 year hiatus and hardly any bike experience : )).

  • Brake check
  • Tire check
  • Gear check
  • Light check
  • Helmet

The only expectation I had was to have a great time. I didn’t prepare for reality. Embarrassed to say I rode with my front wheel turned around for at least 2 miles before a sweet and kind rider mentioned this to me as he also noticed that my front brake was not connected. Let me not forget to mention that I had no clue what I was supposed to do with the gears on my bike (gears ?). I did however, remember to put lights on my bike and bring hydration : ).

Ten miles later and a tad deflated ego I can honestly say my expectation was met. I HAD A BLAST!!

The group I rode with was fabulous and not once did they make me feel like the silly non experienced rider that I was. They stopped to help me fix my brake (glad the bike has 2) and even helped with basic bike etiquette along the way. I quickly figured out how to use my gears with advice from my new friends and by the end of the ride, I just knew I’d be back.

Fast forward 4 months later…

 

Social and themed bike rides through downtown San Antonio are now just a weekly occurrence, the norm. I recently completed a 25 mile bike ride to all the Missions and felt amazing afterwards. The wind in my hair with friends and family by my side sightseeing the city we love.

I have associated myself with great groups who just like me want to ride because we can : ).

Here is a link on Safety & Education for Cycling in San Antonio.

Laws/Ordinances

Fitfunand … Safety first!!

 

 

 

08/14/15

Stay Wild …. Go Camping!!

Screenshot_2015-08-11-23-18-32_wm-1I have always had a connection with the outdoors. One can never have too much happiness and mine is found in the beauty of the WILDerness.

 

I partnered with REI recently for their #LETSCAMP & #HAZLOEPIC Summer Campaign. I was so excited to be a part of all the “coolness” that is REI and as a partner REI sent me an REI InCamp 4 Tent, a super light  Backpack and a really neat Campfire Rocker

 

It was going to be our granddaughter’s first camping adventure and in order to make it a memorable one for her we only had one place in mind….CONCAN,TX. It was the place the honey and I had taken our girls most summers growing up and it holds many special memories for us as a family. Madelyn has often heard us talk about camping and now that she was older the time was right. I am not sure who was most excited : ). 20150712_124056-1

 

I was so thrilled to be a part of making her experience a fun one and may it only be the beginning to many more with her.

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The hardest part was picking a weekend we would all be available since the girls are older now.  It had been some time since we had all gone camping together and we were all most excited for Madelyn. I had hopes that she would enjoy it as much as my girls did.

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Just like old times …. but with one more!! Friday couldn’t come soon enough. The honey and I went up a day early to set up the campsite. The girls arrived the following day and we headed straight for the river located just a few feet from our campsite at Mager’s River Campphoto 2 (21)

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Swimming and hiking are a perfect way to stay fit while having fun. The temperature soared and so did our appetites so after much swimming and exploring we decided to have Dad do what he does best….barbecue!!! Dinner was served and we headed back to the river once more (because we could) before settling in for the night : ). We had promised Madelyn a special treat once it got darkshe guessed it…S’mores : ).IMG_2638

 

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We had one more task to complete before calling it a night…..spooky stories, with a PG rating for our little 4 yr old.  Madelyn decided she would go first and we would all take turns holding her Hello Kitty lantern. The title of her story she told us was “The Midnight Creeper” LOL! We knew at that moment that Madelyn was officially a Camper Girl and I beamed with pride as she headed into the tent for the night.  The next day as were slowly getting ready to leave Madelyn said “I wish I could live here forever”,  MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.

I sat back and took it all in. I had shared my LOVE of camping with the girls and to know that they were happy and almost childlike again in that environment was a beautiful thing. The stars did shine brighter in the Texas Hill Country!

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Camping Do’s & Don’ts

  • Do call ahead to make reservations, especially if the place your going to is a popular one.
  • Do ask questions and let them know how “seasoned” you are …. or not! Most places are helpful in finding the campsite that is right for you.
  • Do your research ahead of time on what amenities and facilities the parks offer.
  • Do check the weather for the time you will be camping so that you will not be stuck in a crazy weather storm (unless you like living on the edge).
  • Do allow yourself to connect with the outdoors and always be courteous of your fellow campers.
  • Don’t LITTER!
  • Don’t go unprepared. Food,water,shelter and a great attitude.

REI PRODUCT REVIEWS

I was very impressed with the tent and how quickly it set up & the instructions are on the bag. Super light and very roomy.

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The campfire rocker instantly became Madelyn’s and she claimed it the moment we took it out of the box. It was love at first sight and it even made it to the river.

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My favorite turned out to be the backpack. It was extremely comfortable and light, perfect for the day and girly enough for me!IMG_2453 (2)

My REI journey has been AMAZING!! I have met people that I know will be in my outdoor future for a lifetime. I will be announcing an exciting opportunity that has come my way very soon  so stay tuned : )).

Fitfunand ….. the outdoors!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

07/19/15

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun!

 

 

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I found out a couple of my co-workers were planning a day trip to Concan,TX and I of course invited myself. Concan  holds many memories for me and I was more than thrilled to share my love of the outdoors with the girls. I was able to show them some of my favorite watering holes and sweet camping spots.

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We decided to go with Josh’s Frio River Outfitters for our tubes & shuttle. The place was super adorable with pretty much everything you would need to make your day or weekend a success in Concan. They also had pink tubes and the girls and I of course were super excited about that. We decided to do the almost 4 hr ride.  They drop you off at the beginning and pick you up when your done. There is plenty of parking at Josh’s but I do recommend calling before to check the river flow and try to be on the water no later than 11:00 due to possible crowding.

The girls and I had a blast as we tubed/swam and laughed our way down the Frio. The scenery along the way is breathtaking and there are many gorgeous spots to just pull over and have a picnic. I highly suggest packing your cooler with water/snack/fruit and your favorite beverages. NO GLASS CONTAINERS or STYROFOAM! NO LITTERING! PhotoGrid_1437324599343

The ride was over and we were ready to eat. We decided on Neal’s because of the location. It is about 1 minute away from Josh’s and we heard good things about it as well. The chicken fried chicken & the chicken fried steak were very tasty and the price was reasonable. Neal’s overlooks the Frio RIver and it was a great way to end the day, in the middle of the Hill Country.

Everything’s bigger and better in Texas so when we saw these huge Sunflowers on our way home we just had to stop and snap some pictures.

 

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I am thankful for the amazing day spent with wonderful friends making beautiful memories : ).

 

Gas for the day $20.00 (if that).

Pink Tube rental $10.00 (with head rest & cupholder).

Snacks/beverages $10.00.

Tube shuttle $4.00.

Lunch $15.00.

Memories PRICELESS!!

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Fitfunand ……..LIVE FOR TODAY.