Youth Leadership

Quarry Turkey Half Marathon Training

Running is going to be in my regular routine again.  A few of our current and former youth group students are interested in running 5K/10K/Half Marathon, so as a good youth leader, I will join them.  Two of the three youth leaders (myself and Nate) will be running a half marathon and I'm trying to convince my husband to run a 5K while pushing our double stroller with our tots in tow.

Photo Courtesy of Nate Rische
Last year, I ran the The Giant Race in San Francisco which was a very picturesque run which started at the San Francisco Giants Baseball Stadium, went along the Piers and Fisherman Wharf, Crissy Field down to the Golden Gate Bridge and back.  My first half marathon EVER. Never cared about time, I just wanted to finish it and not die.

Nonetheless now that I'm going to run my second half marathon, Quarry Turkey Half Marathon on November 30, 2013 (Yes that is the Saturday AFTER Thanksgiving) I need to compare my times and train so I can try to beat my previous times.

The Giants Race - September 16, 2012
Time: 2:24:32
Pace: 11:02/mi

This year I'm going to cross train with road biking as well as hiking on Saturdays when we can.  I will see how it goes but here is my tentative training schedule, with a weekend of backpacking thrown into the mix.

My only goals this time is to beat my previous race time and to motivate our youth who chose to participate to complete the training and actually run the race.  Personally, I think the training is harder then the intended race.  If you have any suggestions in my training schedule please leave a comment in the comment section.

Related Posts and Links: 
  1. San Francisco Giants Half Marathon
  2. Quarry Turkey 5K/10K/Half Marathon
  3. The Giant Race - SF Giants

Bears, Waterfalls and Decisions at Hetch Hetchy

Backpacking at Hetch Hetchy - Yosemite National Park this past June was certainly an adventure! We had programmed a Senior Backpacking Trip for our graduated high school seniors from our Spanish-speaking church where my husband and I are youth leaders.  Originally only my husband was going to lead the group but situations arose that I along with our two children were able to attend.

A huge heat wave had come over most of the West Coast but we were hoping that the temperatures would drop due to the higher elevation at Hetch Hetchy.  Temperatures were nearing 100 degrees in the immediate San Francisco Bay Area, so we hoped it would be cooler in Yosemite.  Alas, it was not cooler.

The Group
We planned to hike the Lake Vernon Loop, approximately 27 miles over a 3 day/2 night backpacking trip.  That is what we planned but things were about to change as we started out on our adventure!  It was all of the graduates first time to Yosemite National Park, and almost everyone's first time to this section (Hetch Hetchy) of Yosemite so everyone was very excited.

Backpackers Camp
We arrived Friday afternoon at Hetch Hetchy Reservoir Backpacker Camp, set up camp, had dinner and made our final preparations to start our trek the following day.

Setting Up Camp

Gear for Six Adults & Two Toddlers
A few of us went on a search for water, since all the bathrooms did not have potable water.  The bathrooms had sinks and flush-able toilets and even had a separate kitchen "washroom"  There were signs on the walls stating that potable water was located at the "Comfort Station" but the few backpackers we saw never heard of the elusive "Comfort Station".  We eventually drove down to the Hetch Hetchy Day Use area and found the drinking fountain.  It was still quite warm when we finished all our preparations that night, so we all climbed into our fly-less tents and stared at the beautiful starry night and drifted off to sleep.

Day 1 - Bears, Waterfalls and Decisions
The following morning we started our trek a little later than we hoped but everyone was in good spirits and we started our first day of backpacking.  Everyone gasped when we had our first view of the reservoir and Wampama Falls.  The youth were amazed that Hetch Hetchy Reservoir is one of the Bay Area's water source and that they were going to drink "their" water from the source.

View of Hetch Hetchy from Wampama Falls

We all happily hiked along the reservoir, crossing the O'Shaughnessy Dam into the tunnel, where we finally started hiking off pavement.  We all knew it was going to be hot but we never knew it was going to be scorching hot.  We calculated low 90's but in reality we were hiking in over 100 degree weather for large portions of the day, peaking at 105 at the hottest point in the day.

O'Shaughnessy Dam
About two hours into hiking, we were walking in an open rocky meadow when another hiker (not of our group) all of a sudden said, "Wow whats that?!" and low and behold it was a small California Black Bear and her two cubs! It happened so quickly that none of us reacted they way we though we would react.  It was the groups first time seeing bears in the wild, except for my husband.  I think we were all internally scared but after a few minutes had passed of the mama bear and cubs munching on some berries, we made a safe passing of them on the trail.

Mama Bear and Cubs
The bear sighting gave us an adrenaline rush and we made it to Wampama Falls, then Tiltill Creek Falls where we all happily hydrated.  We eventually made it to Rancheria Falls on our first day but just barely!  The hike itself wasn't technically difficult but with heat wave upon us made every slight uphill feel like a giant mountain.  We would all huddle around the shade like cows, drink water and have snacks.  There was one large non-shaded section between the two first waterfalls but thankfully that section was switchbacks going downhill.

Get ready, no shade here!
After hours and hours of hiking along the reservoir (about 8 miles) we made it to Rancheria Falls dehydrated and exhausted.  The heat made everything less enjoyable, but after we kicked off our boots, had some cool refreshing river water and relaxed at our gorgeous campsite by the river and as time passed all our suffering had been forgotten.

We had to reevaluate our trek at this point, for the following reasons:
  • Day two was scheduled to have two ~1500' climbs on exposed rock faces.
  • The members of the group where suffering physically, including myself.  Nausea, headaches and some "other" digestive issues had hit the group.  Thankfully it was all related to the heat, food change and not related to the treated water.
The leaders had a little pow-wow, figured out that our meals had not been affected and we decided we were going to camp at Rancheria Falls for the two nights with a day hike to Tiltill Valley, instead of the Lake Vernon loop.  Some disappointment was felt by all but we had to make the correct decision based on the circumstances we were in.  These are the great moments where we can use outdoor experiences to real life, especially for graduating students entering the military and college life.

After our bellies full of pepperoni bacon pizza, we taught the group how to properly leave a camp clean and bear safe, we had a water-filtering team down by the river and I laid in the tent with my babies relieved that the day had come to an end.

A few more pictures of the day...

To Be Continued! Coming up Day 2 and Day 3....

Related Posts and Links:
  1. Wordless Backpacking at Hetch Hetchy - Yosemite
  2. The Toughest Backpacking Cheese
  3. Latinas Outdoors
  4. Yosemite National Park -
  5. Backpacker Campgrounds at Yosemite -

Latinas Outdoors

In our most recent backpacking adventure to Yosemite National Park, we had the honor of taking almost all new hikers.  In particular Dixie, a graduating high school senior and Vanessa, our newest youth leader, both from our Spanish-speaking church.  We had done a few training day hikes but this was the ladies first time backpacking.

I originally was not going to go on this trip, but in the days before leaving we decided that I would go along with our toddlers.  Dixie and Vanessa were so relieved that I was going with them  that Vanessa even said, "I'm so happy, I don't know how we were going to do it without you...".

The ladies....
Those words stayed with me over the next few days and I also recently read Hiking Along: Backpacking: Is It Just a Male Sport?.  I realized how important it was to Vanessa and Dixie that I went not only because I'm an "Outdoorsy" woman but the only Latina they knew that truly loves the outdoors.

Where are the Latinas?

One question that I have wondered in the last few years being outdoors, is "Where are the Latinos?".  Not even in particular, Latinas in the outdoors but Latinos in general?  I live in one of the most diverse places in the world, the San Francisco Bay Area, where you can find almost every ethnicity in the world and it's still very difficult to find Latinos more yet, Latinas outdoors.  Here are a three aspects that might hinder Latinas to venture outdoors:

  • Traditional Roles:  The Latin culture usually maintains the "traditional roles" especially in 1st and 2nd generation Latinos.  Husbands work (white and blue collar) and wives stay home with the children and with that comes many obstacles that might prevent Latinas to even entertaining the thought going outdoors.  First time mothers might be very cautious or even afraid to take their children for example camping or hiking as a family, nevertheless by themselves.  I have nothing against traditional roles, I actually chose to leave my career to be a Stay-At-Home Mother but even I had reservations about taking my child outdoors when I first became a mother.

  • Pre-Conceived Notions:  The Latin culture has many mythical creatures and undocumented "medical tips" usually given by grandmothers and mothers to daughters.  One of my favorite medical tip is "Le entro el aire" (The air hit him/her) which "causes" sickness.  My son was a couple months old when I took him to an outdoor event, and I was very worried about the wind but he proceeded to sleep for 14 hours straight for the first time in his life.  I put that one to rest in my mind and actually encourage mothers to take babies and children outside. Some are legitimate concerns, for example when I visited my grandmother in Peru she was very worried of us catching a "jungle" disease during our jungle tour/hike deep in the Amazon jungle.

    Another pre-conceived notion are mythical creatures in the outdoors, which differ from country to country in Latin America.  My parents never tried to scare me with mythical creatures but I know a lot of my Latino friend's parents who did.  To read more about Latin mythical creatures, read Rena Payan's Overcoming My Fear of "El Cuycuy".

  • "Machismo": describes "machismo" as "a strong or exaggerated sense of manliness; an assumptive attitude that virility, courage, strength, and entitlement to dominate are attributes or concomitants of masculinity".  Machismo is an exaggeration of traditional roles that many Latinos might live through during their lives and if the patriarch of the family (father, husband or brother) doesn't like the outdoors, the family might not enjoy or even have the chance to explore the outdoors.  Machismo is indirectly related to the idea that Traditional Roles stop Latinas from being outdoors.  Machismo can certainly come from husbands, fathers and brothers but it doesn't necessarily need to come from Latino men.  Machismo is ingrained in the Latin culture and an outdoorsy Latina might be looked down upon from other women as well as Latino men.  Discouragement to enjoy the outdoors might even come from within oneself, if all someone has heard is "those things are for men". 

In honor of these great Latinas who put these aspects aside and attended the Graduating Senior Backpacking Trip, here is a little honor on each one on them!

Dixie at Tiltill Valley, Yosemite
Dixie, graduated high school this school year, the eldest daughter of four girls and a very strong hiker!  We nicknamed her the "Task Master", even though she was dealing with altitude sickness and nausea she somehow found the energy in her tiny body to not only hike but to keep the whole group at a good hiking pace.  After she got sick on some difficult switchbacks she just ate some trail mix and finished the hike with gusto!

Vanessa at Tiltill Valley, Yosemite

Vanessa, our newest church youth leader and current college student survived not only one bear encounter but TWO bear encounters!  Vanessa learned to control her fear during her second bear encounter at camp on our second day backpacking.  My husband told her that there was a bear behind her and after she realized it was not a joke she carefully walked away while he loudly clapped and said "Go Away Bear!".  Not letting fear over take her in this bear encounter will be something she will never forget and can apply it to the rest of her life!

Mountain Baby in Yosemite

Sophia, the littlest Latina (well half Latina) in the group! She continually teaches me and others that dirt does not hurt and there's nothing wrong with getting dirty.  Sophia was a little trooper on this trail that hardly sees toddlers and she had lots of dirt to play with!

Chasqui Mom - Melissa

This trip really did push me to my limits even for this so claimed "Chasqui Mom".  It was a hard hike due to the heat and somewhat difficulty of the trail but I knew I had to keep face for the ladies and motivate them to keep going.  After all was finished, I did tell them that I was deathly scared of the bears and that I did not want to finish our second day's hike.  I wasn't around the ladies when they arrived at Tiltill Valley, but another youth leader said the whole trip was worth seeing their reactions when they had their first glimpse of Tiltill Valley.  Just hearing about the ladies reactions gave me the energy to keep going.

So here's to my Latina sisters Vanessa and Dixie who encountered bears, fought off snakes in the river and trails, spent hours washing dishes, learned to filter their own water, built their own tents, watched out for animals during our bathroom adventures, and comforted each other when we wanted to vomit.  Thanks for stepping out of breaking down the barriers to enter into the wonderful world of the outdoors.  We can do it!

Related Posts:

  1. Wordless Backpacking at Hetch Hetchy - Yosemite
  2. Hiking Along - Backpacking: Is It Just Male Sport?
  3. Overcoming My Fear of "El Cucuy"
  4. Guest Post on Latino Outdoors: "Latinas Outdoors"

High Peaks at Pinnacles National Park

This is a continuation post of our Youth Group camping and hiking trip from April 2013 at Pinnacles National Park with eleven teenagers, four adults and our two toddlers.

Day 3, Saturday, April 6, 2013:

Bright and early, my husband was already up with the boy breakfast crew.  Apparently the girls pranked the boys by stealing their shoes overnight so the boys decided to retaliated while the girls slept in.  They also made breakfast at the same time.  The girls shoes were missing when they arose from their beauty sleep and let's just say teenage girls are not as forgiving as teenage boys.

What is it with boys/men cooking while camping?
After everyone had been fed, we packed up our lunches we started our enormous task of packing everything up. Some of our youth had never been camping or don't have any experience in properly packing and cleaning up a campsite.  It seemed like an eternity but we eventually got all the camping equipment back in the three vehicles.  There wasn't an obvious competition but the Boy Scouts group (our camp neighbors) were so efficient and fast, they made us look really slow. I explained to our group these Boys Scouts had been doing for years so they wouldn't be discouraged.  We also shadowed them during a good portion of our hike but they were doing their "30 miles in a day" hike and had done few miles in the morning before we even left camp.

Our First View of the High Peaks
Saturday was definitely more crowded that the previous day at Pinnacles! The park had shuttles running between the Visitor Center to the Bear Gulch Day Use Area. Our drivers dropped off our group and took the vehicles back to the Visitor Center and took the shuttle back to the Day Use Area.  I remained with the remainder of the group and had lunch while we waited for the drivers to return.

We finally started hiking and I was in front of the group with our youth student-leader Dixie.  My husband graciously took our son and daughter and hiked in the back of our hiking group. The condors were out and we could see them taking off from their nests. They look like little black specks in the picture above but those were condors.  I absolutely loved seeing so many condors because on our previous trip to Pinnacles we did not see a single condor.

There are a few switch backs on Condor Gulch but not anything difficult.  I was really amazed at the teenagers energy and enthusiasm, especially since most of these teenagers never go hiking.  It was one of our student's first time hiking ever and she was at the front of the line being very enthusiastic, motivating everyone to keep hiking.  At one point she said, "Come on guys! If we run that last two miles we will be done in 15 minutes!".  I thought to myself, maybe we got a future trail runner on our hands....

Overlook view of Condor Gulch Trail
Overlook view towards High Peaks
We took a longer break at the overlook and had a little hiking/backpacking survey.  The views were amazing as you can see from the pictures above.  If you look closely on the left side of the High Peaks the white marks (poop) on the rocks, was where the condors nests were located.  We saw many condors take flight from there homes and soar right above our heads down in the the valley, it was truly amazing!

We continued up Condor Gulch Trail which was a total of 1.7 miles until we reached High Peaks Trail.  During the remainder of the hike my daughter hiked with or at least near me being carried by one of the teenagers.  Of course having my daughter with me slowed me down, so my husband went to the front of the group with our son.  I spent the remainder of the hike at the back of the group but it gave me a chance to get to know that group of teenagers better.  Our normal youth group size at our church events are between 15-20 students so it's hard to get to know everyone.  Hiking and camping as a group gives us, the youth leaders, a chance to build a better relationship with our students.

Esperanza Viva Youth Group and Leaders
Some of the youth were very tired at the halfway point and I'm not going to lie, I was too.  There is a big difference when I am camping and hiking with my own family versus taking a group of other people's teenagers in addition to my family.  There is more planning, stress, constant teaching and motivation and I feel like I'm complaining but I'm not! It is so great to see our students grow, view the world in different ways and seeing them be open to the idea that the world does not revolve around them!  During a difficult part of the hike, one of our students asked if we brought them there to punish them! A little later he asked if we had brought him there to show him how insignificant he was! He asked the latter question after seeing the Balconies and the giant rock formations at the top of High Peaks.

Balconies View from High Peaks Trail

Dixie kicking butt on the trail!
Vanessa getting ready to climb up to the Peaks!
This is my California....
We had to teach a lot of our teenagers correct and safe hiking etiquette like not throwing trash on the ground, letting faster hikers pass by and in particular (my little brother) to not hike on the edge of a cliff trail.  Sadly my camera died soon after the picture above so I hardly  have any pictures from the actual High Peaks.

Photo Courtesy of Noe Garay
High Peaks was an adventure! Many of our teenagers said the felt like they were Indian Jones after we climbed up on the peaks and crawled on the very edge of a giant volcanic rock.  I am very glad that I was not with my husband when we went through the "treacherous" portion of the trail because my son told my husband that he was going to jump into the canyon so daddy could go rescue him with a Pogo stick like "Diego" and then tried to run towards the ledge.  I think I would have gone completely gray if I would have seen that.....

The one amazing thing I will remember for the rest of my life happened right after we finished getting through the difficult part of the peaks.  I was standing there with Dixie, Alexis and Manuel and a condor flew right by our heads, literally 10 feet from us.  None of us had our cameras but I'm pretty sure it's better in our memories then any picture that we would have taken.  Now I that have seen California Condors up close and personal, I have to see the Peruvian Condors as well.

We took another break with two miles left and everyone was exhausted.  Some of the youth didn't understand the concept that food and water is energy for their bodies, and that's when we realized some of had not been drinking or snacking like we had been telling them too.  That's when my mothering skills kicked and I knew it was time for "scare tactics" to make them understand the dangers of dehydration and made them understand that food is energy.  As well as letting them know if we didn't finish before 6 p.m. we would have to hike an extra mile back to the Visitor Center.  Then everyone quickly hiked down to the Bear Gulch parking and we made it to the parking lot before 6 p.m.


Apparently hiking with a group of teenagers is as slow as hiking with toddlers, approx. 1 mph.

Elevation Change was approx. 1300 feet, highest elevation 2,500 feet but it felt much higher since we were right on the edge of a rock.

Condor Gulch - High Peaks - Bear Gulch Trail

Overall, it was a great first youth camping trip and will definitely be doing more in the future.  With each trip we learn more and more about our youth and how to lead a camping group better as well introducing our church youth to the great creation that God made to enjoy.

Related Posts:

Youth Camping & Hiking at Pinnacles National Park

My husband, +Jesse Avery and I are youth leaders at our church, Iglesia Esperanza Viva in Newark, California so we decided to take our youth group (Jr. High and High School students) camping and hiking during their Spring Break to Pinnacles National Park.

Day 1, Thursday, April 4, 2013:
After squeezing all ten youths, four adults and two toddlers into a 1980's school bus and our Ford Escape, we left Newark towards Pinnacles National Park.  We stopped in Hollister for lunch at Neighborhood Pizza and gas, only to find out that the church bus wouldn't start.  It's been a recurring problem, but long story short we got the bus started and headed down to Pinnacles NP where we waited for replacement vehicles.

+Jesse Avery had recently taken Front Country Leadership Training, through the Bay Area Wilderness Training, which trains youth leaders to take youth outdoors.  Jesse directed everyone to setup camp which went pretty smoothly, after my 15 minutes of irritation that my toddlers where swimming in the dirt.  I just need 15 minutes to come to grips that my toddlers would be dirty the entire trip and then I'm alright.

Casa de los Avery's
It had been a long day, so there were no hiking trips or activities planned because it really takes an enormous amount of time to setup camp for 16 people.  The dinner crew started setting up for dinner which was pre-made chicken fajitas from Mi Pueblo in Newark.  I knew no one was going to have time to cut and prepare food, so I thought to get fajitas would be easy enough to just throw in the skillet!

Jesse taught the youth how to make fire, how to adjust their backpacks for the following days hike as well as how setup camp.  In the meantime I was trying to corral my toddlers and setup our mansion tent.  While taking a break, we happened to see Condors flying up above our campsite.  I was ecstatic because I did not see any Condors on our previous family trip to Pinnacles.

As always, everyone was excited to camp and not tired on the first night so all night I could here the youth girls tent yelling at the boys tent and visa versa.  Eventually everyone went to sleep, I think about 3:30 a.m.  It was a zoo all night long, frogs loudly croaked, owls hooted and there were even pigs fighting with what sounded like a raccoon, not to mention the girls laughing.

Day 2, Friday, April 5, 2013:

I tried to sleep in a bit but my daughter, Sophia was awake by 6:30 a.m. so we joined the breakfast crew and let our son, David sleep.  Everyone ate breakfast, packed our lunches and off we went to Bear Gulch Day Use Area so we could start our hike to Bear Gulch Caves and Reservoir.  We selected the Senior year students to be Leaders and Sweepers (End of the line leaders) and started hiking towards the Caves on Bear Gulch Trail.for 1 mile.

During that 1 mile we hiked through the caves which the teenagers and my toddlers thoroughly enjoyed.  Another adult hiker (not in our group), had hit her head on a low lying rock and was obviously in pain.  Everyone checked on her to see if she needed help but seemed more irritated as each passerby asked if she needed help.  Oh well.

The troops piling into the caves.
Everyone in our group emerged safely and we headed through one more set of caves that were "open" (sunlight lighted the way) and then up the stairs to Bear Gulch Reservoir for lunch time.  Originally we decided to hike to the Reservoir and back, but the kids were still enthusiastic about hiking so we decided to hike past the Reservoir towards North Chalone Peak on Chalone Peak Trail.

There were lots of wildflowers such as California Poppies, Indian Warriors, Shooting Stars as well as others that I don't know their names.  I'm a slow hiker because I'm a slow hiker and the fact that I'm usually carrying a backpack and one of my toddlers, so I take the time to take pictures of flowers, landscapes, etc.  The views of the High Peaks were amazing and we could see the trail that we would be hiking the following day but I didn't want to point it out to our youth because some of them were struggling or just not used to hiking.

My daughter fell asleep in my carrier for awhile which is always relaxing and this time I had company other than my husband to talk to.  One of the other youth leaders, Manuel found a baby rattlesnake during the hike up to the ridge.  Halfway up to the ridge a few of the youth were wanting to turn back but eventually everyone decided to continue up to the ridge, good peer pressure!  At the ridge the more adventurous teenagers wanted to continue to the North Chalone Peak which was at 3,304 ft, but after a long break at the ridge we headed back down the mountain.

We took another break at the Reservoir again and headed towards the caves.  I really didn't care for going through the caves again so I (along with Sophia) took the non-cave Moses Spring Trail with two other youths, Jose and Noe while the rest of the group went cave exploring.  We all eventually met back up at the Bear Gulch Day Use Area.

Everyone happily went back to camp, BBQ some Carne Asada, had some good campfire talks and went to bed.  My toddlers were exhausted and I fell asleep with my children.  I think I was partially dehydrated because I had a small headache and couldn't quench my thirst all afternoon, no matter how much water I had.  Just an extra reminder to continually drink water while hiking even if I don't feel thirsty.  Even the teenagers were really tired and everyone went to bed quickly.  It was a much quieter night except for some "ranchero" music playing in the wee hours.


Hiked 5.2 miles in 6:11 hours.  I thought we'd hike faster than when we hike with our toddlers but apparently we hiked slower, I guess 16 hikers take their time as well.  

Elevation Change of about 1,100 feet

Bear Gulch Trail to Chalone Peak Trail (In & Out trail)

More pictures!

View of High Peaks from Chalone Peak Trail
Evidence I can carry my enormous toddler (35 lbs, maybe more)
My daughter really loves dirt, I mean really loves it.....
Flowers, unknown name
Jesse carrying David down to Bear Gulch
Jose (one of the youth's) enjoying the rock formations.
Day 3 of camping was so awesome it needs it own post!