Latinxhikers began as an Instagram account where Adriana Garcia, co-founder, and I would share personal experiences of being out on the trails. We wanted to create a space where we could share our stories as two Latinx women and provide advice for other Latinxs to go outdoors. I wasn’t always what one would typically consider “outdoorsy.” I am a first-generation daughter of two immigrants from Ecuador. Leisure time and family vacations were few and far between for us. This meant our vacations were usually staycations. We would do pig roasts at the lake or throw big outside parties with a lot of food. This was our way of being outdoorsy, and a lot of the Latinx community resonates with that version. It wasn’t until 2016 – after I unexpectedly summited 17,000-foot Vinicunca, Rainbow Mountain in Peru – that I started hiking. I say unexpected because I honestly didn’t know what I was signing up for. The guide told us to “just wear comfortable shoes.” It was one of the hardest hikes I’ve ever done. After doing that, I felt like I could do anything. I switched up my way of travel and started visiting as many national parks as possible.
By hosting a virtual hike during LCW, I encouraged people to get on a trail in their area and become aware of who maintains the trails they’re enjoying. I think there’s a common misconception that people get paid to do this work. Not many people know that the trails they recreate on are maintained by people like us – volunteers who help maintain and protect the paths that everyone can walk on. My hope was to inspire others to volunteer with the conservation organizations in their area (when it’s safe). The feedback and participation were tremendous. And people did their homework by finding out who maintains their trails. We had over 80 mini-groups all over the United States join and become informed. Not only did those individuals bring awareness to their small group, but they also posted about it on social media, which spread the word to their networks, families, and friends as well.
Another way we’ve been engaging our Appalachian Trail and Florida Trail lovers is by creating opportunities to share stories of amazing women on the trail. Wild East Women (WEW) is an affinity group created to help and encourage women to engage with trails in meaningful ways. The group’s goal is to create future women adventurers, stewards, and leaders in the outdoor community. WEW has been focused on hosting women’s workdays, while responding to COVID-19’s impact. Like the virtual hike for LWC, WEW is hosting a women’s walkabout for National Public Lands Day (on September 25) that invites all to get out for a walk, stroll, or trek nearby. Everyone is encouraged to incorporate a service component if possible. A virtual happy hour will bring everyone together to share the stories of the day and connect the community despite our current social distances.
There has been a greater appreciation for the outdoors during this pandemic. It is so inspiring to see people who previously had hardly ever gone outside now hit the trails and love it. With this new appreciation, we hope we can inform these newer hikers to join and to engage with organizations like the FTA and the ATC, and to learn about their efforts and hard work. Continuing with our focus to enhance representation, we are in the process of developing a Storytelling Campfire Panel and a cooking series in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 through October 15). We hope to inspire many new first-time volunteers in the near future. Even if we can’t be together, we’ll find ways to make it work. When it comes to the outdoors, let’s work together to change the stories, the connections, and the perspectives of the great outdoors.