“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!

“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.



“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





“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



“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.




“Yo Cuento Outdoors”~The Stories of Latino Outdoors. Part 4

The stories continue from our amazing volunteers at LatinoOutdoors. This week we have Laura Torres~Social Media Contributor in Los Angeles, CA. I met Laura a little over a year ago and her kindness and authenticity is what drew me to her. Here is Laura’s story on her connections to the Outdoors.

Laura Torres~Social Media Contributor Los Angeles, CA

What are your earliest memories with a connection to nature?

My earliest memory of the outdoors is connected to living in Georgia and having fruit trees, growing some veggies, and a pond within walking distance of our home. It was great to have access to fresh fruits, especially when they were used to make dessert! I would also feed fish in the pond throughout the year and go fishing once they were big. My mom cleaned them and cooked them. Food is very important in my family and I think the Latino Culture in general. There were only two other Latino families in our community at that time and that we knew, and sharing food is one way we bonded.

What is your story in the outdoor space?

My story is one of learning to connect with Nature wherever I am. Whether I am in a rural space or a sprawling city. I have spent most of my life in Los Angeles and know firsthand the benefits and needs of regular access to nature. Making time to connect to nature is a priority. I am fortunate to currently work as the Field Representative for the National Parks Conservation Association. This allows me to connect with others in advocating for the protection of Natural Resources, increased access to the outdoors for everyone and increased representation of Latino Heritage in the National Park System. Volunteering with Latino Outdoors allows me to contribute to increased Latino Representation in the Outdoors and support other developing leaders on outings.

Photo credit- Laura Torres

What is it that makes the Outdoors so special to you?

It’s the place in which I feel most free, most at peace and humbled. I have a connection to the outdoors, as my place of grounding, my place of creativity, and my place of building memories with my partner. A place to reconnect with friends and family. Every day I am thinking of the need for supporting others in building their own unique connection to the outdoors.

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

I think about how my ancestors had a daily connection to the outdoors, that is far beyond my current connection. Nature is culturally and historically present in celebrations, survival and spiritual practice. By connecting with the outdoors I am active in strengthening my relationship and understanding of the earth. My Latinx identity goes beyond the snacks or clothes I wear when outdoors. It’s connected to supporting my community to have more access to the outdoors. “It’s connected to pushing my self to be in spaces that have predominantly been occupied by white males”. It is also about taking the time to learn about the native communities in an area I am enjoying and looking at the plants and researching on their multiple functions. I have much more to learn about my indigenous roots, while also learning how to take my nature adventures to the next level. It’s about making time to develop my relationship with the outdoors at my own pace and on my own terms. I started using Instagram to make sure I was being seen and that I could see others like myself in the outdoors. It was a way to connect and support each other. I think it is a great tool to feel empowered and have self-representation. I think it is working because I am starting to see mainstream media pay attention and acknowledge a need to include more diversity communities in our public lands and open spaces. I see myself “counting” as both a privilege and a responsibility. I have the privilege to have access to transportation to the great outdoors, having access to information and a basic understanding on how to prepare for the outdoors including securing permits when needed so that I can enjoy some truly magical places. I also have the responsibility to engage my representatives in issues of access to public lands and long term protection of natural resources.

Photo Credit-Laura Torres

How is this represented in the community around you?

I see that there is a growing interest in open spaces. many are starting their connection with the outdoors as a form of recreation and are willing to learn how they can not only bring others but also protect the local and national outdoor spaces. I am happy to see more meet-ups for hiking and seeing them expand. Among my friends, family and community I see an increase in yearly camping trips. I am also participating in conversations about the importance of more diversity regarding environmental education, health benefits and policy to keep our open spaces protected and accessible.

Why does what you do matter so much to you?

On a selfish note, I go kind of crazy when I don’t have regular access to nature, it’s my healthcare. I want access to nature in a fun and fulfilling way to be a given for my community. If I have children I want them to have beautiful, magical spaces to grow in and to have an opportunity to continue connecting with our heritage. It’s the best way to rest and refuel.

Photo credit-Laura Torres

Favorite hike to date and why?

My favorite hike was in Pinnacles National Park January 2016. It was my first over 3 mile solo hike in a new place. I usually hike with my friends or partner. This day I hiked a little over 6 miles in a trail that looped. This was on a whim while driving up to Pescadero to visit a friend that works on a farm. On the way up I took a detour. I had never visited the park before and only recently realized it existed. I thought this would be a great way to test my map skills and made sure I had my ten essentials and most importantly, checked in with my partner so he was aware of my location and hike. It felt great to know I had the freedom to be spontaneous. I was transitioning from one job to another and this was a great time to reflect and sow intentions for my career. This allowed time for myself and provided much increased confidence.

Favorite park and why?

My favorite place is Hierve el Agua in Oaxaca, Mexico. This is a magical place! It’s the place where my mother and I hiked together for the first time. It’s a beautiful place and knowing that I am getting a tiny glimpse of the beauty of my Mom’s home state fills me with pride. This deepened my connection with my Mother. When she agreed to go with me I felt she was showing me trust and openness to building a healthier relationship. The park is full of natural elements I love, a majestic view of mountains, water to take a dip in and relax and an interesting mix of plants including agaves and cacti. It is a place that reminds me of my ancestors and their connections to nature. Visiting Hierve el Agua was a long time desire I had. I was undocumented for over twenty years so when I finally gained legal status and went to visit in 2010 it was truly magical. 

I love sharing these stories. Thank you Laura for not only being a beautiful friend but for also believing that you can and doing so as well. You are smart, sweet and inspiring Chica and I can’t wait for your next Texas trip.

Fitfunand … Afuera!


“Yo Cuento Outdoors”~The Stories of Latino Outdoors. Part 3

It’s a wondrous thing how the wild calms the spirit within us. The “feels” we get when we know we are right where we are supposed to be. This then turns into what more can I explore, what more can I do and then how can I share this with others. The “feels” become so much more that it becomes part of your existence. For some it leads to a career in the outdoors and for some just a personal joy to share with others. Latino Outdoors has allowed more opportunities for us to experience and share what we love to do and in the process we have become a family. My pleasure to introduce New Mexico Coordinator~Gabe Vasquez.

What is the story of Gabe and the connection you have to the outdoors?

Well, it actually goes back to the story of when I first experienced the outdoors. When my family and I first got to Caballo Lake in New Mexico we threw our lines in the water and it wasn’t long before a Game & Fish officer came to check on our licenses. Because it was our first time fishing and we were from Mexico, we didn’t realize we needed a license. The officer claimed he couldn’t understand what my Dad was saying, so he called Border Patrol. Border Patrol detained my Dad that afternoon at a county jail in Truth or Consequences. They released him several hours later because he had not done anything wrong. Despite that harrasement, my dad told me to stay strong and that the outdoors were a place for everyone. We got our fishing licenses that afternoon and went back to the river. Since then, I’ve tried to spread the same message … the outdoors are for everyone.

How did this connection to the outdoors connect you more with Nature?

Fishing with my Dad and brother. I grew up in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, an industrialized border city. There weren’t many places to play outdoors and we lived in the inner city, so we were mostly surrounded by concrete. So when my Dad took me and my brother fishing as young kids, it meant a lot. My whole world changed. He took us to southern New Mexico, to a place called Caballo Lake, about two hours north of Juarez. We camped by the Rio Grande, fished for catfish and went to sleep counting the stars. I had never seen the stars that bright in my life.

What is it about the outdoors that make it special for you?

It’s a place of healing, a place of reflection, and also the world’s biggest classroom. The outdoors teaches us that we can’t just take, we have to give, it teaches us about balance and equality. We’re all the same on the trail–nature doesn’t judge–it doesn’t matter how much money you have, what color you are, gender or sexuality, we are all having the same experience outdoors.

How do you celebrate the connection between a Latinx identity and the outdoors and how do you see yourself “counting” afuera?

I helped start a youth outdoor recreation and education program in my community to help Latinx youth and people better understand their history on this land, in southern New Mexico. we celebrate our history here, not just as Latino’s but as Mestizos, as people with mixed indigenous blood, roots and beliefs. We count here because we’ve been on this land for thousands of years, we’re not outsiders here.

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

In the world of outdoor recreation and environmental advocacy, there is a pretty homogeneous community that dominates both spaces. Much of that has to do with wealth, the people most prone to go outdoors or become advocates for their environment are people who have had the time to have the opportunities to experience recreation outdoors. We’re changing that one person at a time every time we get a new young person of color on the trail, we create more balance in those spaces.

Why does what you do matter to you?

Because it helps me find meaning in life and it connects me spiritually to the creation and his creation. Working and volunteering as an outdoor advocate is what makes me happy, and my parents always said to do what makes me happy. They were right … nothing compares!

Describe your perfect day?

A perfect day outside is sitting in silence at the top of a mountain in Mesilla Valley, watching and listening to the wildlife and seeing the clouds roll in. I think about how many other generations before us have sat on the same spot and observed the same beauty?
What has been your favorite hike?
My favorite hike to date was hiking Tonuco Mountains with my girlfriend. Tonuco Mountains is a sacred site dotted with petroglyphs and full of rich, rare earth minerals. We hiked for about nine miles that day in the middle of the fall, bushwhacking through mesquite, devils thorn and cacti to get to the very top, where an old mine shaft exists. After the sixth mile we looked at each other and wanted to turn back every 10 minutes or so, but we kept going, because getting to the top was just as important for both of us. The views of the Organ Mountains at the very top paid off. We will both never forget that hike.
Do you have any traditions outside?
I try and follow in the footsteps of those who came before us, not just indigenous communities and people, but my own father, grandfather, and ancestors. I remember them when I hike, hunt, and fish. It makes the experience sacred for me. Of course, after every hike a need a cold beer to reflect on the outing!
A huge thank you to Gabe for allowing us to share more about what a genuine and legit soul he is. Gabe is that guy you just want to know more about. His kind heart is evident from the moment you meet him. May your journeys be many my friend and keep being an inspiration to many. How lucky is New mexico and Latino Outdoors : ).
For more info about Las Cruces, New Mexico and what is happening afuera check out … Nuestra Tierra.
Josie Gutierrez ~ Southwest Ambassador

“Yo Cuento Outdoors”~The Stories of Latino Outdoors. Part 2

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