Parting Thought
Parting Thought
From left: Luz with friends Liz Maldonado and Paola Rodriguez at Blood Mountain shelter
From left: Luz with friends Liz Maldonado and Paola Rodriguez at Blood Mountain shelter — where they prepped for a chilly stargazing night — after a day of hiking along the north Georgia mountains. By Chris Gallaway/Horizonline Pictures
AS I LAY ON THE COOL, SMOOTH ROCK AT THE peak of one of Georgia’s highest mountains on the Appalachian Trail, I was mesmerized by the clear night sky and abundance of shooting stars. It was hiker’s midnight and my crew and I were stargazing, learning about the galaxy extending above us. I felt incredible comfort and appreciation knowing that I could access this natural gift just a few hours away from my home in the city. 

I spent three days backpacking with an astronomer, a filmmaker, and a group of my closest friends on the Appalachian Trail in north Georgia. Since working with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC), I have been provided so many unique opportunities like this one. My friends and I all live in Atlanta, so stargazing is not an opportunity we engage in often. Two of my friends have never even backpacked before, so sharing this moment and experience with them was invaluable.

When I first began hiking, seeing someone who looked like me on the trails was rare. This is why I, along with Adriana Garcia, started an inclusive community called LatinXhikers. The goal of LatinXhikers is to encourage and welcome those who look like us to feel like they too belong in outdoor spaces. We also wanted our forum to be a safe space for the representation of different body types, different skin tones, and different lifestyles that are not seen on marketing campaigns from mainstream outdoor retailers. Additionally, LatinXhikers was started to make others aware that they can have access to outdoor recreation, no matter where they live.

As a first-generation American and the daughter of Ecuadorian immigrants, the way I was raised is completely different than how my family was raised. My family viewed the outdoors as livelihood; it was survival, it was work, it was everything. Being born in New York City meant that I led a sheltered early life with minimal green space. I was raised indoors, unable to enjoy a backyard with trees, waterfalls, or opportunities for stargazing. It wasn’t until my college years that I started to enjoy the outdoors. I moved to Georgia and I learned about the Appalachian Mountains but I didn’t know until I grew older that there was also a trail that spanned from Georgia to Maine. In my position at ATC, as Latinx partnership coordinator, I get inspired every day by the stories I hear of the culture, wonderful people others have met, and invaluable experiences hikers have had on the Trail. These stories give me hope that community culture is possible and can flourish in our individualistic society. My dream for the future is for all people to feel like they are welcomed in spaces like the A.T. without hesitation and begin to feel part of the community that already exists.

We host hiking meetups around the metro-Atlanta area and have recently ventured into hosting opportunities in other states as well. Many people who join our meetups express how they are uncomfortable exploring the outdoors alone or feel deterred because of their lack of knowledge of opportunities. We are finding that hosting events and creating a community that provides these opportunities is something that so many hikers are seeking — beginners and novices alike. Ultimately, we want to inspire. If we can inspire a single person to go to their local trail or hike up a mountain just once, our purpose is served.

By Luz Lituma