05 April 2024

What is Your Relationship with the Outdoors?

Written by: Megan Gaitan

What was your first outdoor experience? 

That was the ice breaker posed to us at a staff meeting with our partner organization. I told the team about my first family camping trip in Santa Cruz, California when I was about 12 years old. We had a good time playing on the beach all day and having s'mores by the fire. My family wasn’t much for outdoor activities, though, so I was surprised by how smooth the trip went.

In my first month as a Resource Assistant with the Continental Divide Trail (CDT), many of our discussions have made me think about my connection to the outdoors, especially in relation to public lands. Thinking back, I always liked playing outside as a kid, but I didn’t really develop a bond with nature until I was an adult. 

It started during my undergrad when I was a research assistant for an ecology lab at Sonoma State. I helped graduate students with their research by measuring shrub cover and identifying plants at Point Reyes National Seashore. Before that I didn’t even know a National Seashore existed!

I fell in love with it all: hiking to research plots while hearing the ocean roar at our side, being able to work outside all day in the beautiful coastal grassland, even driving the winding roads out to the coast. I developed a personal connection to Point Reyes through my research, and I began to understand the value in preserving natural landscapes and resources.

Since then, I’ve been fortunate enough to continue participating in research on public lands. While working for Arizona State University, our research team conducted herpetofauna diversity surveys in Tonto National Forest. That’s where I saw my first diamondback rattlesnake. Just a few weeks later, a bald eagle passed over our heads as we were walking to our study plots. Being a field biologist had its perks!

Outside of work, I’ve been lucky enough to camp on public lands in El Dorado National Forest, Death Valley National Park and Zion National Park. I have also visited Yosemite National Park once or twice. 

So, after some reflection, I can say that I do have a relationship with our nation’s public lands and the outdoors. Even though I don’t get out as often as I’d like, working with the CDT has inspired me to visit a national park (or seashore) and get in a few hikes by the end of the year. I might even hop on the CDT in years to come!

What activities do you have planned for yourself this year? How do you connect to our public lands and the outdoors?

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Hispanic Access Foundation connects Latinos and others with partners and opportunities to improve lives and create an equitable society.

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