Viviana Reyes, Innovation Manager – Latino Community, Girl Scouts of Arizona Cactus-Pine
Some of my favorite memories with my daughter, Vida, have been watching her as she explores her surroundings and challenges her own physical limits. At four years old, she has become acutely aware of her environment, even showing concern for the smallest creatures and things. It was Vida, in fact, that brought our love of hiking to our family.
Quite simply, she asked if we could go on “an adventure.” When a small child makes such a big request, you really have no option but to pack a bag – complete with water and snacks and head out. In our case, we headed to Piestewa Peak to begin not only a day hike, but to begin our love for adventures in the outdoors.
As a parent, it is important for me to reinforce in my daughter a love and respect for nature and it is great to see how aware of her environment she has become. During one of our hikes Vida said “Sorry Mr. Rock” after stepping on a large rock on the trail. Even at a young age children can show concern for their environment. As parents, we can be instrumental in teaching our children how to respect and preserve nature. It’s important for their development and for future generations.
But as her mom, it was Vida who instilled in me what I now call “green therapy.” I grew up in Arizona at the base of South Mountain, the largest municipal park in the United States and, yet, it wasn’t until my adventures with Vida that I really explored my own state.
So far we have hiked trails at Papago Mountain, South Mountain, White Tank Mountains, Tonto Natural Bridge, Tom’s Thumb Trail at the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy, and Red Rock State Park to name a few. One of our favorite experiences was hiking West Fork Trail at Oak Creek Canyon in Sedona. We have also enjoyed exploring some of Arizona’s monuments like Montezuma’s Castle and Well and Tuzigoot.
Our favorite thing to do is simply explore and reconnect after a busy week. If it’s a long hike we usually pack a lunch so we can stop anywhere for a picnic. That’s key to hiking with young children: plenty of snacks and absolutely no time constraints. Children need time to explore and take in their surroundings on their own terms.
In addition to our own family, I have worked to ensure that Latina girls and adults have the opportunity to engage in new experiences while developing their leadership capabilities. In 2012, I began working for the Girl Scouts, the largest leadership organization in the country for women and girls ages 5-17. Working for the local Girl Scouts council affords me the opportunity to empower young Latinas to reach their highest potential in a way that impacts their lives and the lives of their families.
While I wasn’t a Girl Scout growing up, I am looking forward to enrolling Vida into a Daisy Troop next year and extending our outdoor experience to camping, fishing, and other activities. It’s amazing how spending time in the outdoors has drastically improved our well-being and taught me to just be in the moment with my daughter. Arizona has so much to explore and this is really just the beginning for us.
We have plans to visit Antelope Canyon in Page, AZ later this year, and other trails in the city in addition to adding badge earning activities to our trips through the National Parks Service’s Junior Ranger Program.
Our time together is priceless and I know this time won’t last forever. She will eventually be off on adventures in other places, with friends who she meets as she grows and learns. I know that our time together is preparing her for a lifetime of exploring and helping to protect the places that are so valuable to us – and to the generations that follow.
Whether Girl Scouts or your own family adventures, being outdoors will have a lasting impact on your life, the lives of children and the communities where they choose to live. Protecting those special outdoor places is essential for our family AND yours. Just remember to bring plenty of snacks! [Editor's note: For tips on how to get started read: Four steps to developing a lifetime habit of hiking and camping by Oz Benitez.]
Viviana Reyes is the Innovation Manager for the Latino Community with the Girl Scouts– Arizona Cactus-Pine Council. In this capacity, she helps develop strategies for engaging Latina girls and their families in Girl Scouting. Viviana believes in empowering young girls to discover their leadership capabilities through enriching experiences such as skill building programs, community service projects, and environmental stewardship. She and her daughter, Vida, enjoy exploring their state through their many adventures.
Photos courtesy of Viviana Reyes