Northern California

Latinas Outdoors

In our most recent backpacking adventure to Yosemite National Park, we had the honor of taking almost all new hikers.  In particular Dixie, a graduating high school senior and Vanessa, our newest youth leader, both from our Spanish-speaking church.  We had done a few training day hikes but this was the ladies first time backpacking.

I originally was not going to go on this trip, but in the days before leaving we decided that I would go along with our toddlers.  Dixie and Vanessa were so relieved that I was going with them  that Vanessa even said, "I'm so happy, I don't know how we were going to do it without you...".

The ladies....
Those words stayed with me over the next few days and I also recently read Hiking Along: Backpacking: Is It Just a Male Sport?.  I realized how important it was to Vanessa and Dixie that I went not only because I'm an "Outdoorsy" woman but the only Latina they knew that truly loves the outdoors.

Where are the Latinas?

One question that I have wondered in the last few years being outdoors, is "Where are the Latinos?".  Not even in particular, Latinas in the outdoors but Latinos in general?  I live in one of the most diverse places in the world, the San Francisco Bay Area, where you can find almost every ethnicity in the world and it's still very difficult to find Latinos more yet, Latinas outdoors.  Here are a three aspects that might hinder Latinas to venture outdoors:

  • Traditional Roles:  The Latin culture usually maintains the "traditional roles" especially in 1st and 2nd generation Latinos.  Husbands work (white and blue collar) and wives stay home with the children and with that comes many obstacles that might prevent Latinas to even entertaining the thought going outdoors.  First time mothers might be very cautious or even afraid to take their children for example camping or hiking as a family, nevertheless by themselves.  I have nothing against traditional roles, I actually chose to leave my career to be a Stay-At-Home Mother but even I had reservations about taking my child outdoors when I first became a mother.

  • Pre-Conceived Notions:  The Latin culture has many mythical creatures and undocumented "medical tips" usually given by grandmothers and mothers to daughters.  One of my favorite medical tip is "Le entro el aire" (The air hit him/her) which "causes" sickness.  My son was a couple months old when I took him to an outdoor event, and I was very worried about the wind but he proceeded to sleep for 14 hours straight for the first time in his life.  I put that one to rest in my mind and actually encourage mothers to take babies and children outside. Some are legitimate concerns, for example when I visited my grandmother in Peru she was very worried of us catching a "jungle" disease during our jungle tour/hike deep in the Amazon jungle.

    Another pre-conceived notion are mythical creatures in the outdoors, which differ from country to country in Latin America.  My parents never tried to scare me with mythical creatures but I know a lot of my Latino friend's parents who did.  To read more about Latin mythical creatures, read Rena Payan's Overcoming My Fear of "El Cuycuy".

  • "Machismo": describes "machismo" as "a strong or exaggerated sense of manliness; an assumptive attitude that virility, courage, strength, and entitlement to dominate are attributes or concomitants of masculinity".  Machismo is an exaggeration of traditional roles that many Latinos might live through during their lives and if the patriarch of the family (father, husband or brother) doesn't like the outdoors, the family might not enjoy or even have the chance to explore the outdoors.  Machismo is indirectly related to the idea that Traditional Roles stop Latinas from being outdoors.  Machismo can certainly come from husbands, fathers and brothers but it doesn't necessarily need to come from Latino men.  Machismo is ingrained in the Latin culture and an outdoorsy Latina might be looked down upon from other women as well as Latino men.  Discouragement to enjoy the outdoors might even come from within oneself, if all someone has heard is "those things are for men". 

In honor of these great Latinas who put these aspects aside and attended the Graduating Senior Backpacking Trip, here is a little honor on each one on them!

Dixie at Tiltill Valley, Yosemite
Dixie, graduated high school this school year, the eldest daughter of four girls and a very strong hiker!  We nicknamed her the "Task Master", even though she was dealing with altitude sickness and nausea she somehow found the energy in her tiny body to not only hike but to keep the whole group at a good hiking pace.  After she got sick on some difficult switchbacks she just ate some trail mix and finished the hike with gusto!

Vanessa at Tiltill Valley, Yosemite

Vanessa, our newest church youth leader and current college student survived not only one bear encounter but TWO bear encounters!  Vanessa learned to control her fear during her second bear encounter at camp on our second day backpacking.  My husband told her that there was a bear behind her and after she realized it was not a joke she carefully walked away while he loudly clapped and said "Go Away Bear!".  Not letting fear over take her in this bear encounter will be something she will never forget and can apply it to the rest of her life!

Mountain Baby in Yosemite

Sophia, the littlest Latina (well half Latina) in the group! She continually teaches me and others that dirt does not hurt and there's nothing wrong with getting dirty.  Sophia was a little trooper on this trail that hardly sees toddlers and she had lots of dirt to play with!

Chasqui Mom - Melissa

This trip really did push me to my limits even for this so claimed "Chasqui Mom".  It was a hard hike due to the heat and somewhat difficulty of the trail but I knew I had to keep face for the ladies and motivate them to keep going.  After all was finished, I did tell them that I was deathly scared of the bears and that I did not want to finish our second day's hike.  I wasn't around the ladies when they arrived at Tiltill Valley, but another youth leader said the whole trip was worth seeing their reactions when they had their first glimpse of Tiltill Valley.  Just hearing about the ladies reactions gave me the energy to keep going.

So here's to my Latina sisters Vanessa and Dixie who encountered bears, fought off snakes in the river and trails, spent hours washing dishes, learned to filter their own water, built their own tents, watched out for animals during our bathroom adventures, and comforted each other when we wanted to vomit.  Thanks for stepping out of breaking down the barriers to enter into the wonderful world of the outdoors.  We can do it!

Related Posts:

  1. Wordless Backpacking at Hetch Hetchy - Yosemite
  2. Hiking Along - Backpacking: Is It Just Male Sport?
  3. Overcoming My Fear of "El Cucuy"
  4. Guest Post on Latino Outdoors: "Latinas Outdoors"

Outdoor Father Series: "Climbing Mount Emma" by Jeff Moser

In honor of Father's Day coming up on Sunday, June 16th, I will be featuring three outdoor father's favorite experiences with their children.  Second up! Jeff Moser has many family friendly stories, about hiking, backpacking, camping, road tripping, cycling, cave exploring, snowshoeing and much more.  Using Carson City, NV, as his base camp, most of his outings in Northern Nevada and California's eastern Sierras.  You can keep up with Jeff's progress at or follow his Facebook Page The Path Less Beaten.

Posted on September 11, 2012

We've had the mountain climbing bug lately, and so another day hike was planned for last weekend. On September 9th, we headed for Mount Emma on the northeast corner of the Hoover Wilderness. We got a horribly late start that Sunday, not leaving the house until noon, and not reaching the the trailhead until 2pm. Normally, eating lunch on the peak is a good idea, so you don't get in trouble with afternoon thundershowers and wind. The late start set the tone for a nervous hike, but also lowered the expectations if we didn't make the summit.

Mount Emma
Getting Started
Just south of the turnoff to Sonora Pass (State Route 108), and just as Highway 395 bends to the east to head to Bridgeport, Little Walker road leaves the pavement and heads south up into the mountains. Just stay on the same road all the way, crossing the bridge, and avoiding the left turn to the Obsidian Campground. You pass a Burt Canyon Trailhead pullout, and continue to wind up the mountain to Stockade Flat. The road gets rocky at times, but is probably passable in a passenger car if you're careful. 6.7 miles from the pavement, you'll reach the trailhead at a Hoover Wilderness sign.

Mount Emma
Almost to the meadow
Over the course of a mile, the trail climbs from the trailhead through trees, meadows, and barren rock before reaching Emma Lake. Emma Lake is a small greenish lake below the summit of Mount Emma. The outlet creek was still flowing, so it must be being fed by springs. We saw a couple anglers on the upwind side of the lake, and we found a decent camping spot on the northwest side of the lake in the trees.

Mount Emma
Across the meadow
The wind was blowing pretty hard at Emma Lake, so we didn't rest too long. It was getting late, but we decided to go for the peak anyway. The trail ends at the lake, so the rest of the way to the peak would be off-trail. We needed to get to the saddle to the southwest of Mount Emma, and by looking at the canyon above the lake, it was easy to pick out the best route.

Mount Emma
Starting to get rocky below Mount Emma
We started up a rocky drainage on the far side of the lake. It had looked hard from far away, but the rocks were firm and the footing stable. The steep climb wasn't so bad either. Sometimes it's nice to gain a lot of elevation quickly without a lot of walking. We all had our trekking poles too, which made the climb easier. Kristy led the climb, and found the best route up.

Mount Emma
Emma Lake
At the top of the first climb was a little meadow. It gave us a nice break and allowed us to pick out the next climb. The low point of the saddle was just ahead of us, not too far up a scree slope. We were starting to feel good about making it to the top now. Emma Lake was getting smaller below us.

Mount Emma
The Off-Trail section begins
I had looked at this area before coming out using Google Earth. It's funny how everything looks so smooth and gentle on the computer, when in reality, it's steep, covered in rocks, bushes, and trees. It's always much bigger and different than you imagine.

Mount Emma
Across a little meadow
We reached the top of the scree slope, and entered a little forested area that covered just the saddle between the peak and ridge to the west. Trapped under a downed branch at 10 thousand feet was a Mylar balloon. My son looked puzzled and wondered how it got there. Somewhere, someone let a helium balloon go at a graduation party. It's wild that it made it up this far! We stuffed it in my pack for proper disposal back home.

Mount Emma
Gaining altitude quick - Emma Lake below
We could see the peak through the trees, and the GPS said it was only a quarter mile to the top! We'd be at the top in no time. Or so we thought. After leaving the protection of the trees, the wind really picked up. The easy walking ended as we entered the final talus slope to the top. It was hard for us to keep our balance in the wind, and our little dogs were having a hard time negotiating the rocks. Eventually the Chihuahua had to be carried.

Mount Emma
Open bowl to the west
My son climbed on ahead of us and stood up on what appeared to be the peak. He held his arms up in victory. We slowly made our way up to him, and climbed over the last rock to join him. The strong wind now turned into a blast of air as we topped out. And not just periodic gusts, but heavy sustained winds. It was hard to even stand straight up. We held off the celebration of making the summit, because we weren't quite there yet.

Mount Emma
Leaving the saddle for the final climb to the peak
The real peak wasn't much higher, and maybe only 40 yards away. Maybe this was high enough. Nope. We all agreed we needed to finish. The dogs were shaking. They were either freezing or freaked out from the wind. Probably both though. Kristy huddled the dogs in her jacket while the boy and I finished the summit. We quickly signed the peak register, took a quick look around, then went back down to where Kristy was huddled between some rocks. I took the dogs, then her and the boy went back up to the top for a look.

Mount Emma
Getting late, but still enough daylight
Sometimes getting to the peak can be a relaxing. There can be time for lunch, sight-seeing, and photos. This was not one of those days though. I took a few obligatory photos, but looking around wasn't really on my mind. It was 5 pm, and all I could think about was getting the family back down the mountain before dark.

Mount Emma
Toughest part of the climb yet. Steep talus in the wind.
The howling wind got me thinking that you really don't "conquer" a mountain. The mountain doesn't care if you're there or not. It's been there for thousands of years through countless winters and summers. You merely get to visit these special places for a short amount of time before you need to get going.

Mount Emma
There's the top!
The wind was starting to chill us fast. I zipped my pant legs on, and got into my wind jacket. Kristy's fingers were starting to go numb. We had some water and a quick snack, then tackled the talus slope. We couldn't wait to get back down to the trees! My son led the way down, getting ahead of us a bit.

Mount Emma
Summit of Mount Emma in crazy winds
We slowly made our way down, being extra careful with each step on the loose rock. With the wind still raging, my son suddenly stopped and dropped his trekking poles. I watched with concern, hoping he was ok. When you gotta go, you gotta go. Concern changed to "oh no...", as it became apparent he was going to try to take a leak into a 50mph wind. It was a quick lesson. He twisted and turned as if he were trying to water the whole mountainside. On the bright side, it was a bit of comic relief in an otherwise tense moment.

Mount Emma
Emma Lake below
It was a big relief when we finally made it back into the shelter of the trees on the ridge. We took some time to rest, warm up, and rehydrate. After getting down that section, the rest of the hike seemed like it would be a snap.
Mount Emma
Back down the saddle
Recharged and ready for some more hiking, we made our way over to the scree slope. Going down was fairly easy, thanks to our poles and a fairly firm surface. No boots sinking into the sand and filling with rocks. We were back down to the lake in no time at all.

Mount Emma
Into the tress and out of the wind
We went around the south side of Emma Lake this time, a shorter route, crossed the outlet creek, then got back on the trail. The sun was behind the mountains now, only shining far to the east on the Sweetwater mountains. We were glad to be back on a fast trail with only a mile left of hiking.

Mount Emma
Down the scree

Mount Emma
Looking back at Mount Emma
As we drove down out of the mountains, we had a feast with all the food we had brought with us, but never really had time to eat. Crackers, cheese, salami, jerky, and trail mix. It was dark by the time we made it back to the pavement.

Mount Emma
Back at Emma Lake with the sun going down

Mount Emma
Tired Chihuahua
Cutting the hike so close to nightfall was a good lesson. I had even decided to cut "headlamp" out of my ten essentials packing list. Next time I plan to prepare more in the coming days before the climb, so we can just get up in the morning and go. I had left too much to do that morning. It's a lot less stressful during the hike when you know you have plenty of time to make the summit, and get off the top before the worst weather of the day hits.

Mount Emma
Back at the trailhead
Although the view from the top of Mount Emma was not as spectacular as some of the mountains I've climbed, it was still a great hike. The scenery along the way was beautiful, and the off-trail hiking section added a fun challenge. Looking back up at the peak from the base of the rugged north side really makes you think, "Wow...I just climbed that!".

More information:

ELEVATION Trailhead: 8,580
Emma Lake: 9,320
Mount Emma: 10,525
Topo Map: Fales Hot Springs, CA

Where Did We Go in 2012?

Two thousand twelve has been great! The only thing I wish that was different as many parents of little ones wish they could have was more sleep!! Praying that in 2013 my prayer is answered.  Here's a recap of what 2012 brought us.

January 2012 - Still trying to get the hang of being parents of two little ones, this was my daughters FIRST hike at Coyote Hills Regional Park in Fremont. She was barely three months old.

February 2012 - We headed out to one of the 60 Bay Area Hikes on our list. San Bruno Mountain State Park.  It was a gorgeous day, first time I was able to see the Pacific Ocean and the entire Bay Area.

March 2012 - Oh March, took us to one of God's most beautiful places in the world, Hawaii. I still haven't had a chance to blog about our Hawaii trip.  This is Beach 69 on the Big Island.  I fell in love with snorkeling.

April 2012 - My husband and I are Youth Leaders at our church, and we took our youth group an awesome youth conference called Planet Wisdom.

May 2012 - This year I turned 30 and loving it!!

June 2012 - We led a youth missionary trip to Ensenada, Mexico, where we served our fellow Mexican brothers and sisters.  We camped at at Rancho el Refugio for one week.

July 2012 - We enjoyed camping at Sunset State Beach over the weekend with our church family.

August 2012 - Brought us to Highland Lakes, where we camped and hardly hiked due to being so sick.  We later made up for no hiking at Highland Lakes with a hike at Jack London State Historic Park.

September 2012 - My first half marathon,  San Francisco Giants Half Marathon.  I don't even know my exact statistics but I think I finished in 2 hours and 25 minutes or something like that.  I was just glad to be finished.  It was really awesome.  We also celebrated my little girl's First Birthday!!

October 2012 - Hiking at my favorite hike of this year, Portola Redwoods State Park.  My kids LOVED this hike!

November 2012 - We found a little gem east bay park, Dublin Hills Regional Park.  It was amazing to see how many people loved this picture on Facebook and Instagram.  People thought I went out of the country, haha.

December 2012 - We went on a mini mission trip, where my husband did his Engineering work at Rancho El Refugio and we visited our local pastors.  We also had the joy of celebrating my little boy's 3rd Birthday!!  I also haven't had a chance to blog about our Disneyland adventure.

I always tell my husband that we need to travel more but as I write this posting I notice that we do travel a lot.  I guess we like to travel and have family adventures.  The one thing I can say is that God is very good to us by allowing us to see the world He created and I can't wait to see what He will have in store for us in 2013.  Happy New Year!!

Lower Highland Lakes Statistics

Here is the trail report for Lower Highland Lakes (distance, elevation change, etc).  Sadly what I thought was a two mile hike around the lake was actually a measly one mile hike.  I would say I'm disappointed in myself but I was terribly sick.  Now I feel like I have to go hiking soon so I can make it up to myself.

Lower Highland Lakes, 1.0 miles, Elevation Start: 8,500 ft - End 8,600 ft, Elevation Change 100 ft.

Highland Lakes Camping: Part 2

There were three things I wanted to do on this camping trip: relax, hike on the Pacific Crest Trail and run nine miles at high elevation. I accomplished none of them but I still had a wonderful time in a beautiful place.

As I wrote in my last post I was slightly sick with a cold and it got worse including lots of sinus pressure, body aches, chest and lymph node pain. Not to mention my toddler son also had the same symptoms but a day later than myself, so I didn't know he was really sick until we got to our campsite. Either way, my son and I were feeling pretty sick our first night plus the altitude was affecting us more than my husband and my daughter.

Highland Lakes Campground is a pretty remote campground in the High Sierra of California, off of Highway 4 in Stanislaus National Forrest. As our friend Nate said, "This is where I would come to hide if the Chinese invaded us!". The 4-6 hour (4 hours if you have no kids and don't stop) ride is worth the time for the beauty of this campground. It has many trail heads such as to the Pacific Crest Trail, Highland Lakes Trail, and trails to Folger Peak and others. Sadly, I was too sick to go on any trail and only hiked around lower Highland Lake a measly two-mile hike but it's scenery made up for its shortness in distance.

Camping with small children (babies/toddlers) is different than older children.  Babies and some toddlers still take naps and in this case a camping with a sick toddler, naps were definitely required.  Napping not the only issue at hand but what to do with a crawling baby that wants to crawl in the dirt and a sick 30 lb toddler who wants to be held. Well you do the following:

Thankfully my husband is a strong man to carry our toddler almost the entire camping trip and I have gotten over the fact that dirt does not kill babies.  I also carried my 11 month old daughter in a kid carrier, but she always falls asleep within 15 minutes of being in there.

This was our campsite, number 7 if I remember correctly and our mansion of a tent.  Looks huge but with all our our "camping stuff" it gets a little cramped for two adults and two children.  I really need to reduce the amount of things I take, something I'm working on.  Highland Lakes Campground had non-flushable toilets, but they are not port-o-potties, a water pump, and no showers and a fire pit at every campsite.

The one thing that did throw us for a loop was the weather.  We had rain, thunder, lighting, and hail storms and a few days of sunshine.  Not 30 second hail storm from the Bay Area, but a real hail storm.  Friday night I think I felt a river going under our tent, only small water leakage in our tent.  It never got too hot during the day, but a few nights it was cold.  I was sick so everything felt colder anyways.

Being sick and having a sick child during camping was not fun, but we made the best out of it.  First two nights were really bad sleeping nights for our kids, so I nor my husband slept either.  I think the altitude affected myself and my son the most because we were sick, so much that my son threw up the first night we were there.  I really wanted to go hiking but I just had no energy and my son was not himself either.  So we opted out for hiking around upper and lower Highland Lakes and searching for more firewood. Our friends, Nate and Michael went on their own hikes.  Nate hiked up Folger Peak and Michael hiked a portion on the Highland Lakes Trail.

Camping is fun, what I will remember most about this camping trip to Highland Lakes is the following:

  • Another camper, who owned a painting company, playing his guitar and singing his heart out on a rainy day as I laid in my tent with my sick son and my napping daughter.
  • Jesse, Michael and Nate working most of the camping trip trying to get a fire started or chopping wood down.  Michael blew on the dwindling fire and looked like a fire breathing dragon when the firewood finally caught on fire.
  • How still the lake was in the morning or if the wind died down, very mirror-like.
  • My children.  Sophia was a completely different baby, she was so happy being outdoors.  David, even though he was sick, loved throwing rocks in the lake.
So I leave you with some of my favorite pictures.

In conclusion, Highland Lakes was awesome.  God's creation is magnificent. Hasta la proxima.

Highland Lakes Camping

This weekend we will be going a our first family camping of four to Highland Lakes Campground in Alpine, California.  We've camped in Ensenada, Mexico for a week in June but it was for our annual mission trip, where camping was not our main focus.  We also camped a few weeks ago with our church family at Sunset State Beach in Watsonville, California, which was lots of fun, but food was provided to us and there were scheduled activities.

This will be our first real camping trip in over a year and a half, since we camped at Sequoia National Park, when David was 6 months old.

I've been debating all week whether to go or not because our two children, David (2 years old) and Sophia (11 months old) have been sick with fevers and sore throats.  They are on the mend and much better but of course I have caught the sick bug now.  We have been planning this camping trip for months so I'm just going to drink a bunch of orange juice, coffee and pray that I feel better tomorrow.  I'm just glad the kids are much better, now if my daughter could sleep then everything would be excellent.

This camping trip I hope to do a few things, such as rest, hike on the Pacific Crest Trail and crazy as it seems run 9 miles. I'm training for a half marathon in September and this week's long run is a 9 mile run, which normally wouldn't be a big deal since its only one more mile than last weeks long run but Highland Lakes campground is at 8,600 ft. I have a few days to acclimate to the altitude.

I'm just excited to get out in the mountains for a few days and hoping my cold goes away as soon as possible.