10,000 Steps to Denali, Temescal Hike, and National Outdoors Day!

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It’s Alisha, Outdoor Afro Los Angeles Leader. This Saturday June 8th we had a Temescal Canyon Hike planned in the Santa Monica Mountains to support the first African American group to hike Denali. So our hike was in support of the 10,000 steps to Denali trek. Our hike also coincided with National Outdoors Day.
We started our day at Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook where there were activities planned for the kids. They had camping gear set up to show how to set up a camp.
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Along with camping gear lessons they also allowed children (and big kids like myself) to create buttons and bookmarks to show their support of 10,000 steps to Denali.
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From BHSO, we met up with another group of teens from Watts and Compton inner city program who have had little exposure to the outdoors. We were paired with them through the Santa Monica Mountains Conservatory to encourage them to get outdoors more. Santa Monica Mountains Conservatory provided a bus and an amazing guide Anthony to take us on our hike and explore the canyon.
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We got to Temescal and had a quick snack on the lawn, took a photo with both groups and paired off into two different groups to meet at the waterfall. There were so many of us we didn’t want to overwhelm the trail.
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On our way up we saw caterpillars, lizards, a garden snake and a red-tailed hawk. In true LA fashion we also saw a film crew filming a movie, haha. When we reached the top we sat for a bit and let the kids play around the waterfall which was dry. Anthony explained we’re in a dry season. We had to watch out for poison oak. Quick tip: if its three let it be. If you see leaves in clusters of three leave them alone.
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Many thanks to Kleen Kanteen and REI for keeping us hydrated. Thank you REI for keeping me warm and to Keen shoes for making my hike comfy. I also want to acknowledge Clif Bars for snack bars for the kiddos. We had an amazing time. Looking forward to many more collaborations with Santa Monica Conservatory, your rangers are amazing and knowledgeable. Thank you Anthony and Iann the volunteer.
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Oh yes on our way down the canyon we came to a beautiful open field and my sister and the kids decided to jump and play.
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Full Moon Hike

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By Los Angeles Outdoor Afro Leader, Alisha Pye
Watching the full moon rise into the sky is a beautiful sight. Hiking in nature while watching the full moon rise and the sun set is exceptional. It’s Alisha, Outdoor Afro Leader of Los Angeles. I was invited by the Santa Monica Mountains Park Rangers to attend the full moon hike.
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We went to the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook for a guided Full Moon Hike. We were lucky that the moon rose at 7:43pm and the sun was setting at 7:54pm. So as the sun set we were able to enjoy the full moon at its brightest. We almost didn’t need flashlights it was so bright.
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We were able to go into the theater prior to the hike to learn a few facts and about indigenous plants, animals. The guides were very informative even teaching us how to identify animals through their eye shine color. The kids in the group were fascinated.
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It did get chilly, so of course layers were necessary. We decided to snuggle to keep warm. We hiked a little over a mile and then decided to take the stairs back up to the top. We had a blast.
We’re going to try to go back every full moon for the summer. Just look at the view from the top, overlooking the city at nightfall. Spectacular views…
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Exploring Ruins and Playing in Waterfalls

Outdoor Afros in Los Angeles explored local African American history and nature over the weekend – read on!

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Alisha Pye here, I’m the Outdoor Afro Leader for Los Angeles. This week we decided to celebrate Spring by hiking at Solstice Canyon in Malibu which is located in the Santa Monica Mountains. It’s a beautiful hike with flowers in full bloom, waterfalls to enjoy, valleys and canyons to climb and picnic areas. We started on the stairs and continued on a steady incline until we came to an area of ruins that we felt compelled to explore.
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If you look closely between the trees you’ll see the ruins of a burned out house. It’s now a historic park of the Santa Monica National Recreation Area. According to the story this house was built by a renowned African American Architect Paul R.Williams in 1952. The area is susceptible to many fires so Paul designed the home for his clients with a fire protection system that would protect the home against fire damage. The waterfall and pool were designed to pump water in case of fire as a protection to limit damage. Unfortunately after the owners death the pumping system wasn’t maintained and the home was damaged by fire in 1982.
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The backyard of the home was a beautiful waterfall that was breathtaking. We decided to stay and climb a little. We ended up staying for 45 minutes exploring, climbing and playing in the waterfall. At the very top was an outdoor fireplace the family used.
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The view was so amazing we decided to take our group picture there along the rocks. If you look at the picture you’ll notice we had a very diverse group ranging from an 11 year old to a grandfather with a cane who served as motivation for us to keep climbing.
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Getting to the top we were able to see exactly how far we’d come. It was a great sense of accomplishment to get out explore and enjoy the ruins of the Santa Monica National Area. We plan on doing more exploring in the coming months so join us in our adventures.
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Games Outdoor Afros Play – Dominoes

Dominoes the Bajan Way (image courtesy of Lisa Overman)

As I read the proposed itinerary for the US Journalists Experiential trip to Barbados sponsored by the Barbados Tourism Authority, I got quite excited to see that we would “Learn to play Dominoes the Bajan Way” hosted by the Barbados National Domino, Whist and Hearts Club. The first thought that went through my mind was “Do they play bones the same in the Barbados as we do here in the States? Oh, boy, I can’t wait to find out.” I was also curious if the Whist in the Club name referred to a card game similar to Bid Whist I have played before. (I’ll answer that second question now. I didn’t get a chance to see or play a hand of cards. I explained to a nice Bajan gentleman our game of Bid Whist in the States and he told me yes, that is the game they call Whist in Barbados. The number of ways African-American and Barbados culture are alike are amazing. But I digress.)

As we unloaded the taxi before a small concrete building, I heard the unmistakable sound that told me, “Oh, but yes,” SLAM! SLAM! SLAM! and the boisterous laughter and chatter of old men playing dominoes. We were greeted by Ms. Suzette Hinds, secretary of the club that hosts rounds of play on weekdays and tournaments on Sundays. I felt instantly at home, well at least that scene of down-home like being at a family reunion in the park or out in the country or on the porch or patio at Big Momma’s house.

Outside of the Barbados Dominoes, Whist and Hearts Club

Similar to how we play in the States, Bajan Dominoes plays with a box of double six pieces, each player takes 7 pieces each, double six preferential starts the game, a round of play ends when the first player’s hand is empty or the board is locked, and players ‘wash’ the bones to shuffle them around before selecting pieces. Games can be played with three or four players and folks trash-talk, count pieces, and knock on the table to pass. And of course people SLAM bones on the table. But the pace of play and score taking is much different.

In the United States, points are claimed by players at each turn whenever the ends add up to a multiple of five. In a 3-man game, you don’t go fishing for a piece if you can’t play. Those extra pieces are simply out of play. Wins are a tallied according to who finishes the game first (domino!) or has the least points left in hand at the end of the game. I actually did quite well playing Bajan Dominoes because I employed the same strategy I use in American Dominoes – play the highest value pieces first. Points are tallied according to how many games you win (not the points you claim at each turn). As a result, rounds are very fast, on average 3-5 minutes. You mark your win on the table with a piece of chalk. The first person to win 6 total games wins that match. Several matches can be played.

Learning to play 3-man Bajan style Dominoes (image courtesty of Lauren Monitz)

Four-man dominoes is a team effort. The play is the same, except the winner of the previous round plays the first piece. Double six is still the preferred leading piece but if s/he doesn’t have it then s/he will play what s/he can. The first team to win 6 rounds wins the match.

It was quite a lot of fun. Our teachers were great sports and were quite patient with us.

Standing with our Bajan Dominoes teachers, John (second from left) and Michael (second from right) also in the picture Ramona Flume of In the Know Traveler

Of course, they were counting pieces and making plays before we could knock. I swear I was at a family reunion picnic. They were talking all kinds junk – with their thick Bajan dialects: “You no have no fives” Slam! Slam! “C’mon.” “Girl knocking.” “Ere go!” Slam! My only response was to reply “Get out outta my hand!” and laugh in full agreement.

Checking my hand (image courtesy of Lauren Monitz)

I had a blast and I actually like playing dominoes the Bajan way! I can’t wait to show off what I have learned at the next Outdoor Afro summer gathering with family and friends.

Games Outdoor Afros Play – Dominoes

Dominoes the Bajan Way (image courtesy of Lisa Overman)
As I read the proposed itinerary for the US Journalists Experiential trip to Barbados sponsored by the Barbados Tourism Authority, I got quite excited to see that we would “Learn to play Dominoes the Bajan Way” hosted by the Barbados National Domino, Whist and Hearts Club. The first thought that went through my mind was “Do they play bones the same in the Barbados as we do here in the States? Oh, boy, I can’t wait to find out.” I was also curious if the Whist in the Club name referred to a card game similar to Bid Whist I have played before. (I’ll answer that second question now. I didn’t get a chance to see or play a hand of cards. I explained to a nice Bajan gentleman our game of Bid Whist in the States and he told me yes, that is the game they call Whist in Barbados. The number of ways African-American and Barbados culture are alike are amazing. But I digress.) As we unloaded the taxi before a small concrete building, I heard the unmistakable sound that told me, “Oh, but yes,” SLAM! SLAM! SLAM! and the boisterous laughter and chatter of old men playing dominoes. We were greeted by Ms. Suzette Hinds, secretary of the club that hosts rounds of play on weekdays and tournaments on Sundays. I felt instantly at home, well at least that scene of down-home like being at a family reunion in the park or out in the country or on the porch or patio at Big Momma’s house.
Outside of the Barbados Dominoes, Whist and Hearts Club

Similar to how we play in the States, Bajan Dominoes plays with a box of double six pieces, each player takes 7 pieces each, double six preferential starts the game, a round of play ends when the first player’s hand is empty or the board is locked, and players ‘wash’ the bones to shuffle them around before selecting pieces. Games can be played with three or four players and folks trash-talk, count pieces, and knock on the table to pass. And of course people SLAM bones on the table. But the pace of play and score taking is much different.

In the United States, points are claimed by players at each turn whenever the ends add up to a multiple of five. In a 3-man game, you don’t go fishing for a piece if you can’t play. Those extra pieces are simply out of play. Wins are a tallied according to who finishes the game first (domino!) or has the least points left in hand at the end of the game. I actually did quite well playing Bajan Dominoes because I employed the same strategy I use in American Dominoes – play the highest value pieces first. Points are tallied according to how many games you win (not the points you claim at each turn). As a result, rounds are very fast, on average 3-5 minutes. You mark your win on the table with a piece of chalk. The first person to win 6 total games wins that match. Several matches can be played.

Learning to play 3-man Bajan style Dominoes (image courtesty of Lauren Monitz)

Four-man dominoes is a team effort. The play is the same, except the winner of the previous round plays the first piece. Double six is still the preferred leading piece but if s/he doesn’t have it then s/he will play what s/he can. The first team to win 6 rounds wins the match.

It was quite a lot of fun. Our teachers were great sports and were quite patient with us.

Standing with our Bajan Dominoes teachers, John (second from left) and Michael (second from right) also in the picture Ramona Flume of In the Know Traveler
Of course, they were counting pieces and making plays before we could knock. I swear I was at a family reunion picnic. They were talking all kinds junk – with their thick Bajan dialects: “You no have no fives” Slam! Slam! “C’mon.” “Girl knocking.” “Ere go!” Slam! My only response was to reply “Get out outta my hand!” and laugh in full agreement.
Checking my hand (image courtesy of Lauren Monitz)
I had a blast and I actually like playing dominoes the Bajan way! I can’t wait to show off what I have learned at the next Outdoor Afro summer gathering with family and friends

Show-Me Skiers of St. Louis

By Outdoor Afro Contributor Danielle N. Lee
My first time skiing was an experience. I’m from the south, so frolicking in the cold or snow wasn’t a bog part of my childhood experience.  However, I love the outdoors and I love trying new things, so I joined a group of friends who introduced me to the basics of the slopes.

Preparing for my winter time Outdoor Afro adventure with Show Me Skiiers

It was an adventure!  I was far from great at it.  But I wasn’t deterred. So when I was invited to a Beginners Ski Trip with the Show-Me Skiers of St. Louis, the verr first African-American Ski club of St. Louis, Missouri, I decided to go for it.  Since 1983, this group of winter outdoor recreationists have been planning ski and snow boarding outings for adults and families.
It’s a rather popular outing because there were two busloads of skiers of all ages headed to Sundown Mountain Resort of Dubuque, Iowa.  One reason was the affordability.  The group negotiated a package that cost less $200 person (on average) for the weekend.  Related to skiing, the cost of lessons, equipment rental, lift and access to the slopes for two days of skiing or snowboarding was $60 for the whole weekend!  I know, super affordable and a great incentive to attract anyone interested in skiing or snowboarding.

Fellow Outdoor Afros taking a break from the slopes

I decided to give snowboarding a try.  I was no better at snowboarding than I was at skiing.  Both require muscles that I obviously have no command over! LOL!
It was a fun time and I recommend Show-Me Skiers, skiing or the Sundown Ski Mountain to anyone, especially to a newbie.  Here are more photos from the Ski Trip.

Cleaning and Playing Along the Coast

Near where I live is a nook of the San Francisco Bay called Albany Bulb. The area is well known to dog owners who are able to let dogs run free and splash in the low waves in a part of the shore facing west toward San Francisco and Marin County.
The Bulb is also a nice place to catch a sunset, see a variety of shore birds, view the Golden Gate Bridge, or spot some innovative installations of outdoor art along its sandy trail edges.

 

Last Saturday, my two youngest kids and I came out to the area for the Coastal Cleanup effort happening all over the country, and in many other Bay Area locations, to pick up trash and debris along the shore. Among several volunteers, schools and organizations, we came across pounds of cigarette butts, plastic bags, Styrofoam, bottles, cans, and many other non-native objects over the two hours we were there.
While a lot of the debris we saw appeared to be deposited at the beach, a significant amount likely traveled from our streets as tossed trash that finds its way into gutters and drains. And it was nice to teach my kids in a concrete way where trash carelessly discarded can end up, and the impact it has on our shores and the wildlife who live there.
Learn more about this event and results of the effort by clicking HERE

Merry Christmas and Happy Kwanzaa


I don’t know about you, but I have been caught up in the exciting rush of holiday activities! Like Thanksgiving, I can’t wait to bring our family and friends together to catch up, eat great food, and laugh until our sides hurt. Unfortunately this means less time for writing, and I finally realized that it’s perfectly OK to take a little vacay from the keyboard – I just need to let folks know so they know I’m alright — and I am more than alright!
That said, I wish all Outdoor Afros (the coolest people on the planet), the experience of  love, peace, and blue skies this holiday season.
Be safe and enjoy continued blessings!
Rue

Couples Camping and Roasting Marshmallows

Etiquette Tips For Camping with Friends and Family

Couples Camping

Couples Camping © Steve Prezant/Corbis

You can’t change your friends and family, but you can change the way you camp with them. Some moderate planning can make a big difference in your camping experience together. Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your camping trips with loved ones:
Shared Space
In some areas, the outdoors still has boundaries, and it’s important to honor both the environment and neighboring campers. If you are planning to visit a drive-up or RV campground, make sure you have reserved a site that can accommodate your entire group plus equipment, to avoid encroaching on neighboring sites. It’s also nice to offer neighbors a hand with tents or with getting a campfire lit. Good stewards leave no trace of trash, but leaving a bit of firewood for the next group in your spot is always a welcomed gesture.

Morning Oatmeal: Dudley Edmonsdon

Morning Oatmeal: Dudley Edmonsdon

Food
Plan your meals together at home and share the shopping tasks so there are no surprises. Meat eaters might eat vegetarian fare, but don’t expect your vegetarian friends and family members to eat the steak and bacon you brought, even if it is free range and hormone free! Decide on meal plans that accommodate everyone.

Marva and Daughter: Marva Cherry Flowers

Marva and Daughter: Marva Cherry Flowers

Kids
If you have kids, and are planning to camp with folks without children, discuss logistics, such as the possibility of hands-on help with recreation or watching over little ones. If everyone is bringing little ones, get a watch routine together, so all the adults can plan for breaks in the action.
Music
If your camping mates are all persons of color, don’t assume folks want to hear Li’l Wayne on blast all weekend.   Bring acoustic instruments, like a hand drum or guitar that can be enjoyable and easy to play, even if you are not an expert. Singing or telling stories, while gathered around a campfire is classic, and timeless.
Booze/Drinks
Some drink, others don’t; some like Bud Light, others like Grey Goose. Discuss and get clear regarding alcohol consumption preferences, and know your campground policy on alcohol in advance (see Nancy’s comment below!).
Above all…just chill
Camping trips are a time to let go, and go with the flow. You might stay up ’til the wee hours to stargaze; your kids might eat a ton of s’mores, and all of you might laugh louder than you ever would at home after a long day at work. Enjoy it all! The best part of my own camping plan is to leave the city constraints behind and have fun!
What are some of your tips and experiences when camping with friends and family?

Chillin': Dudley Edmondson

Chillin’: Dudley Edmondson

Outdoor "I do"

Christine, Pastor Clark, and Antoine

Christine, Pastor Betty Clark, and Antoine

I have always thought of the outdoors as an ideal setting to wed, and last weekend my nephew Antoine and his lovely fiancé Christine embodied the magic of outdoor nuptials in a beautiful beach side ceremony. The two met and fell in love years ago as camp counselors at the Bar 717 Ranch Camp, located in Northern California.

My Growing Family

My Growing Family

The setting was a stunning public beach in Santa Barbara, located about an hour north of Los Angeles. In addition to the invited guests, scores of beach-goers out for a casual Sunday afternoon in the sand, watched and stood reverently silent during the ceremony, allowing the words of Christine and Antoine’s vows to soar with the sound of the wind and waves.

No less than a cathedral

No less than a cathedral

The newlyweds are now honeymooning and outdoor adventuring in Hawaii.
Congratulations Antoine and Christine!