I Never Leave the Park
“With shared experiences with my family and friends, I never leave the park,” he says. The park stays with him.
As an Outings Leader for Latino Outdoors, Eduardo González loves sharing the incredible power of parks with people in his Sacramento community. We recently had the opportunity to chat with Eduardo about some of his most memorable park experiences and what it’s like to see others experience the forest for the first time.
How do you find your park? What are some of your special park experiences?
Though the idea of solitude is often associated with the wilderness experience in America, I find the park experiences I value most and hold dear are those spent entre familia y amistad. The image of wide open meadows at Carson Pass in the El Dorado National Forest are forever engrained in my mind. Subalpine lakes lined with Aspen and Lodgepole. The sweet smell of butterscotch from the Jeffery pines as you graze the bark with your pack. However, beyond the beauty of its landscape, the foundation of my love for Carson Pass, and parks like it, runs deeper. It is where I backpacked for the first time. It’s the home of the famous flip-flop hike, as my friend Henry forgot his hiking boots in the trunk of his car when we transferred gear to carpool.
This is the place we would return for my brother, sister, and cousins to experience their first backpacking trip. The place of the famous rock comal used to heat tortillas for quesadillas around the campfire.
Compassion for one another, sharing extra pairs of socks and hats in the battle of the elements. Lost in laughter, stories and surrounded by nature, you quickly forget about the busy life that awaits you back home. Upon returning to the rhythm of our daily lives, we often long to return. Though physically it may have to wait for better weather or time off from work, we can always return through the sharing of stories of our time shared with others. Simply ask “Te acuerdas…?” The parks truly are a story of people and place. With shared experiences with my family and friends, I never leave the park.
What’s a unique way that you express yourself in a park/connect with parks?
I connect with the parks through learning. I am a naturalist at heart and learning about a park’s natural history excites me. There is something special about learning about the geology and native plants of a park. It puts you in a time and place on a planet that is very much alive and changing. More so than the learning is the ability to share that knowledge across culture and language with people.
How does it feel to be one of the first leaders for Latino Outdoors and be profiled on Latino USA on your first outing?
Being profiled for my first outing was a rather intimidating experience. Days before the outing I was wondering if I would have any families come and participate. Then, I get a call telling me I should await our reporter Angela at the trailhead. Nonetheless, the profile affirmed that what was happening was something of importance. It assured me that what we were doing through our work was needed. Calaveras Big Trees State Park is an extraordinary place with one of the few old growth Giant Sequoia groves left in the state. These are natural wonders people often only associate with the Mariposa Grove in Yosemite and the Redwoods of the coast. Here, a mere couple of hours from Sacramento is our very own grove just waiting to be discovered. Yet, its existence is still relatively unknown to a lot of Sacramento’s Latino population, much like other parks surrounding cities through the U.S. It is a privilege to be able to connect people with these parks and hope they return with their families.
What has been your growth as a leader in this space?
José González once told me leadership is not so much a trait, as it is a mindset. I often thought it went against my very nature as a person to lead. I am very much a follower and comfortable being so.
However, comfort is not a catalyst for change. In the realm of getting Latinos outdoors, perhaps that same passive mindset in comfort is the same that keeps us from these spaces. There is a need for people to take that role as leaders.
With guidance and support from others in Latino Outdoors, one finds the strength to do it. I have been blessed with many individuals in my life that have mentored me and provided opportunities to move forward and grow. It is my hope that through this space we as Latino Outdoors can continue to foster new leaders in the field and continue to provide opportunities for young leaders to flourish. I leave you with these thoughts: recognize the importance of empowering youth and believe in their abilities and what they have to offer.
What is your favorite part about working with Latino Outdoors?
Latino Outdoors is a space where my identity as a Latino and an outdoorsman can exist and is validated. Here, I feel welcome and part of a much larger community who share the same vision and passion. It truly is a family in itself, built from love for the outdoors and connected through culture. Most of all, it is about the joy one receives from seeing others experience the forest for the first time.
If you had two sentences to entice somebody who’s never been to a national park to visit, what would you say?
What are you doing next weekend? Vamos a conocer, juntos.
Eduardo González is a student of the natural sciences at California State University, Chico. Born in Sacramento, CA, he is first generation Mexican-American. His parents hail from the state of Jalisco in México. Eduardo began working with youth as a student naturalist at Shady Creek Outdoor School in 2009, leading experiential education programs for 5th and 6th grade students. Eduardo has also worked for the United States Forest Service on the Plumas National Forest as a Forestry and Hydrologic Technician, working on various restoration projects and surveys. Having recently completed Leadership Training through Bay Area Wilderness Training (BAWT), he is excited to take on new challenges and adventures in leading group trips to the backcountry.
As Outings Leader for Latino Outdoors in Sacramento, Eduardo hopes to continue to provide opportunities for Latino families and youth to experience the outdoors by organizing and leading day hikes, overnight camping, and backpacking trips, in the hopes that these experiences help (re)connect the people to the outdoors.