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

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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.

Full Moon Hike

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.
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.
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.
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…

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.
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.
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.
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.
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.

We did it again, this time with a challenge…

By Alisha Pye, Los Angeles Outdoor Afro Leader
So we went hiking above the Mountain Gate Country Club again, but this time we decided to mix it up a bit. So we decided to go off the fire trail and hike the hills. This was a great hike although we had fewer people we had a very diverse group, ranging from a mom wearing her 6 month baby, to a 9 year old cross country runner.20130303-194553.jpg
This hike was particularly challenging for me because I’m very afraid of heights and cliffs, both of which we encountered. I would love to post pictures of the cliff but I was nearly paralyzed with fear. So here’s to embracing fear and moving forward! Because of the challenge that I experienced, I think I enjoyed the hike more.
Overall, we hiked 11.3 miles, every time I even thought about complaining about the distance I looked up and saw this mom wearing her baby, a 9 year old and a grandmother or two chugging along. The diversity in this group was motivating to say the least. We didn’t get a chance to stop and take a group picture, but we had a great time. The sun was shining, the sky was blue, the weather amazing and the scenery was breathtaking.


Hiking and History: Honoring the Legacies of Port Chicago and John Muir

A foggy morning turned into a beautiful afternoon for a late November hike up Mount Wanda at the John Muir National Historic site.  Twenty-five outdoor afros and Cody the dog were treated to an enjoyable afternoon of history, community, and smiles.

Before we began our hike, Raphael Allen, Park Ranger at Rosie the Riveter/ World War II Home Front National Historical Park, welcomed everyone and provided a thorough presentation on African American of History Port Chicago. Ranger Raphael explained that Port Chicago, visible from the summit of Mount Wanda, was the site of a deadly explosion on July 17, 1944.

320 men, including 202 African American men, were killed due to unsafe conditions at the port. Following the explosion, 50 African American men were charged and tried for mutiny for refusing to report back to work. According to Ranger Raphael, this injustice caused African Americans to organize and to whisper among themselves  “Thurgood’s Coming” in reference to NAACP lawyer and future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall’s involvement in the case. Ranger Raphael concluded his presentation by distributing trading cards to Outdoor Afro hikers and emphasizing the national park’s commitment to ensuring that Port Chicago is not forgotten.


With Port Chicago on our minds, we began our ascent up Mount Wanda.

Everyone settled into their own pace, with faster hikers taking the lead and the others keeping a moderate pace.  While the beginning of the hike was mostly shady and cool, the sun broke through the trees to warm us up as we got to our midway point.
Outdoor Afro Leader Cliff Sorrell pointed out the different trees on the hike including fragrant California Bay Trees and various oak trees, including the coast live oak and the blue oak trees. Cliff explained that you can tell the difference between the trees by noticing their leaves.
Several outdoor afros noted that we were joined on our hike by different bird species, including turkey vultures, Downy Woodpeckers, and a hummingbird.  We also discussed the legacy of John Muir and his significant role in ensuring that we can continue to enjoy national parks like Mount Wanda and Yosemite.

Outdoor Afros Carmen and Toure were the first to reach Mount Wanda’s summit.

As other members joined us, Outdoor Afro Leader Zoë Polk pointed out the location of Port Chicago.  She asked members to think about what the landscape looked like in 1944 and to think about the different reasons African Americans joined the Navy during that time. Zoë referenced Professor Robert Allen’s celebrated work, Port Chicago Mutiny, and noted that some of the men were outdoor afros of their time, joining the navy out of a sense of adventure and longing to experience the world’s natural beauty. She also asked hikers to contemplate what outdoor recreation activities the men of Port Chicago participated in, given that they had little ability to travel to Oakland, San Francisco, or other bay area culture centers for entertainment. Hikers took a minute to contemplate this history and the beautiful surrounding landscape before descending Mount Wanda.
We finished the afternoon by stopping by the John Muir House. The wonderful staff at the visitor center screened Into Forgetfulness, a short documentary film about the Port Chicago disaster and legal battle. The staff also led tours of John Muir’s house.
The Outdoor Afro leadership team celebrates all of the kind folks who joined us on Mount Wanda and looks forward to seeing everyone again at the next meet up!
For more information about honoring the legacy of Port Chicago, connect with the Friends of Port Chicago.

Cayman and John Muir

Atlanta Outdoor Afros Hike-Inn!

While I was celebrating with the Root 100 last week, Outdoor Afro Atlanta had the opportunity to gather up by invitation at the Len Foote Hike Inn!


About 20 Outdoor Afros showed for an autumn retreat, some traveling from as far as Florida to enjoy a day and night hike, delicious dinner, and breakfast the following morning. It is noteworthy these dedicated Outdoor Afros took time off work mid-week to make time for nature – what a treat!

 Atlanta’s Outdoor Afro super-star leader Reginald Mitchell said, “This was a great deal, and everything was just wonderful – we felt so welcomed.”
Another Outdoor Afro, Nellie said, “I had a great two days of hiking, staying at the wonderful Len Foote Hike Inn (superior service), eating great food and having some of the most interesting conversations I have had in years! Great memories made… Can’t wait for the next hike!”
Located near Dawsonville and Dahlonega, the Len Foote Hike Inn at Amicalola Falls State Park is a back country inn with 2-person private rooms with comfy bunk beds; hot showers, sinks, and compost toilets in the bath house; and prepared meals served in their dining room.

The Inn is accessible only by foot over a moderate 5 mile hiking trail which originates at the top of the Amicalola Falls. The hike takes from 2 to 4 hours, and the beautiful trail is entirely within the Chattahoochee National Forest and Amicalola Falls State Park.
Guests only need to bring personal items, including clothing, toiletries, and food and water for the trail. Bed linens and towels are provided and a family style dinner and breakfast are served. There are great porches with rocking chairs, and indoor and outdoor gathering spaces, along with books and games.
The buildings are awesome, beautiful, green, and LEED Certified Gold! You can learn more about it at their website.
Thank you Eric Graves at the Len Foote Hike-Inn for your wonderful invitation and hospitality for the Outdoor Afro community!

December’s Bird of the Month

Douglas “Birdman” Grey, Outdoor Afro Contributor
As one who spends a lot of time outdoors, I’ve noticed that nature seems harsh at times. Even with birds, their lives can sometimes seem brutal. And some birds even appear to be equipped with “Weapons of War”. Keen and intense eyes, swept-back wings, sleek aerodynamic bodies, razor-sharp talons and menacing beaks.
But the Bird of the Month for this month, doesn’t possess any of these weapons of war. This month’s bird is the common, but not so commonly known, Ruddy Duck.
When it comes to ducks, we as humans typically consider them to be …”cute”. We are usually introduced to ducks even before we can speak. They animate our baby books. They cover our baby bibs. They float in our baby baths. They’re symbols of cheer for us, usually from an early age. And this is probably because they’re just so ding dang …”cute”.
The Ruddy Duck is an odd bird but it is, in my opinion …”cute”. I find the rattling sounds this bird makes during courtship a bit odd … but cute. During the breeding season the male’s bill turns a bright blue. I find a blue bill on a bird a bit odd … yet cute. They have an odd looking spiked tail, which is often times held straight up, which makes them look even more …”cute”.
While checking out a very large retention pond a few weeks back, I noticed a number of different species of waterfowl out on the water and among them were about 80 or so Ruddy Ducks. I spent almost an hour observing them, all the while thinking, “Awwww…those Ruddys…they are just soooo cute!”
(Just then a Bald Eagle swooped in, snatched one right out of the water, and carried it off for consumption. The life of birds can seem brutal at times.)

By Lynne Arrowsmith

Douglas “Birdman” Gray has been birding almost all of his life. He grew up on a family farm near Clarksville, Tennessee, where they grew crops ranging from apricots to wheat, and most things in between. They also raised chickens, guineas, pigs, horses, and a cow named…….Apples. Doug’s grandfather identified the birds they would see daily on the farm.

Doug now resides in Indianapolis and works in Parenteral Engineering with Eli Lilly and Company. Most of his current birding takes place in Indiana, with a concentration on Central Indiana, where he leads bird walks for “Backyard Birds”. Doug can be reached at 317-255-7333.

Tips for Cold Weather Hiking

Inspired by recent Outdoor Afro Facebook and Twitter conversations, Virgina State Parks let me know about a recent article they posted, written by John Gresham, about how to enjoy the wonderful changes in the weather — thanks VSP for allowing us to share such a timely post — read on:
For many people, the season to enjoy the state parks is over.  The thermometer barely hits 50 degrees on a warm day.  Snow is in the forecast as early as Thanksgiving in some places.  It seems that the best way to enjoy the outdoors over the winter is to watch ESPN on Saturday mornings.

But, have you ever noticed deer and waterfowl hunters?  Sometimes they come home empty handed and talk about what a great day they had.  There is a special beauty and peace in the solitude of outdoor winter activities.  As an outdoor photographer, I look forward to the colors of fallen leaves among evergreens, snow, and waterfowl that only visit us this time of year.  The key to having fun outside in cold weather is to stay warm, safe, and sensible.

Stay Warm:  Hypothermia (lowering of your body temperature) is the killer of the unprepared

  • Wear a hat or hood- 40 to 50% of your body heat is lost through your head.
  • Wear mittens, waterproof boots, and a windproof jacket- protect the rest of your body.
  • Wear wool or synthetic fabrics- when cotton gets wet, it pulls heat from your body.
  • When hiking, move slow enough that you don’t sweat- sweat is how your body cools off.
  • Don’t sit on cold rocks- they will draw heat from her body.
  • Eat high energy snacks- nuts and dried fruit will fuel your body’s “furnace”.
  • If you start to shiver, head for the closest warm place.

Stay Safe:  Guard against falling on slippery surfaces.

  • Be careful where you step- exposed rock or bare ground is far safer than packed snow or icy surfaces.
  • Don’t step on wet wood or icy, sloping rocks- you could slip and get injured.
  • Choose trails wisely- If a trail gets too slippery, turn back or take a different trail
  • Leave your dog at home- Dogs pull on their leashes and you.  This increases your likely-hood of slipping or stumbling.

Stay Sensible:  Your mind is your best safety and survival tool.

  • Drink water- to avoid dehydration.
  • Wear sunglasses- when the sun glares on snowy ground.
  • Bring a whistle- to use if you become injured or lost.
  • Stay alert- for signs of cold exhaustion in yourself or hiking partners.  Shorten a hike if necessary.
  • Hike with a partner- reduce your risk and enjoy the outdoors with someone.
  • Carry your map and car keys in a place where they won’t get lost.

Stay warm when hiking outdoors.  Stay alert too.  You never know what nature has to offer this season.

How did an Oakland girl like me come to love getting her camp on anyway? Pt. 3

After getting married and starting a family of my own, camping took on a new meaning. For just a short drive and little money, I found camping was one of the most economical ways my new family could take a vacation. During these years I collected essential camping gear, like our first family-sized tent and propane stove from local garage sales and eBay — my family still uses these items today.
But as my family grew, so did the effort of camping. Thus the city of Oakland’s Feather River family camp, situated about two- hundred miles north, became a very attractive option for us. For about $75 per day back then, our family could camp at their beautiful developed site where: three delicious meals a day were prepared (and announced with the toll of a bell), a kind nurse dispensed an endless supply of band-aids, platform tents and cots were already set up, and a refreshingly cool swimming hole was observed by attentive lifeguards. Another bonus of family camp, were the many fun, organized activities and special relationships we developed with the other Oakland families we joined each summer.
Now my children (ages 12, 7, and 6) love the outdoors and every February they begin humming camp songs around the house and double check with me to make sure we are registered for the upcoming summer season!
Aside from our annual Family Camp, we also venture out on local hikes or family bike rides at least monthly. My eldest son is a Boy Scout and he is now developing outdoor skills and going on camping trips with his peers just as I did at his age. I recognize that the fun my kids have now in the natural world is the foundation for a love and engagement with nature that lasts a lifetime and is likely to be shared with their own children.
I still do enjoy tent camping sometimes, but I find that as I approach the big Four-O, I more frequently choose to balance comfort with my outdoor fun — nights of sleeping on just a tarp under the stars have passed me by. I now fantasize often about a future of creeping along the highways in a well-equipped RV, enjoying each state of the Americas, one campground at a time.
Catch-up!: Part 1, Part 2