Born in Zacatecas, Mexico and raised in Colorado, Natural Leader Maricruz Mosqueda describes herself as “the proud daughter of immigrant parents Jose and Hilda, older sister to Jose Jr, Gustavo, and Analucia whom I love very much!”
While interning at Colorado Canyons Association (CCA), Maricruz discovered her passion for sparking a love for the outdoors in kids who had never set up a tent or hiked before. A few weeks ago, Maricruz left for a trip that her family and friends describe as “crazy”: a solo through-hike on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), a 2,655-mile journey from border to border.
Maricruz hopes the trip will inspire more youth, particularly diverse youth, to get outdoors. In a blog post about her plans she writes (with great humor and spirit) of her parents’ reaction to her PCT plan: “This wasn’t the vision they had for their little girl when they migrated to America,” writes Maricruz. “I grew up in a low-income home and English is my second language. We didn’t spend time or money on the equipment to go camping or hiking, it just wasn’t something we did. My parents worked hard to provide a warm home for us so that we didn’t have to sleep outside in the cold. Not to imply that my childhood wasn’t wonderful, it was just that our views on the outdoors were culturally different. Now that I am older, I have been able to take my family out more and it’s been wonderful to share new experiences with them.”
Maricruz says that her background as the child of immigrants comes with great responsibility. “My family and I migrated to the US when I was three. We did it like many others that came before us and how many continue to do so today: by walking. We walked for days because it was necessary. Now I am walking for fun because I have the privilege to do so. With that privilege comes great responsibility. A while back, I was listening to an NPR talk on diversity and the outdoors. They talked about a study done by the University of Wyoming. It found that 78% of visitors to America’s national parks and forests are white, compared to 9% Hispanic and 7% black. I am sure these numbers have changed a bit but there is still a huge gap. As a Mexican-American woman, I would like to try to fill the void and encourage others to go out and explore. “
We wanted to know more about this fascinating trip— and inspiring young woman. Just as she was working out the final details, we asked Maricruz about the genesis of the idea for the trip and her hopes for the journey.
Nearly 3000 miles hiking as a sole female with a single backpack. This is an ambitious trip. Why do you want to do this?
There is a mantra that I really enjoy: “Do it scared.” The PCT terrifies me, therefore, I must do it. I need to do it. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be satisfied with myself. I’m also doing it for new mountains to climb, for starry nights, for mental and physical changes my body will have to go through. I am doing it because my dad doesn’t think I should. And I’m doing it because of the people that think I will succeed. I have not even started the trail and I have already made so many wonderful connections with encouraging people. I know that I’m making on impact on others as well.
Why has this trip been a dream for you?
I don’t believe in dreams, I believe in goals, A dream is something that sounds unattainable, and I label it that way you are more likely to fail. The PCT became a goal of mine after learning about through-hiking— the idea of living out of a backpack and walking for months on end sounded crazy, and that fascinated me. I had never met anyone who did this. And after several days of researching and watching youtube videos, I decided I wanted to try it.
What do you hope for at the end of your journey?
At the end of my journey, I hope to be in good health physically and mentally. And I hope I will have made many new and wonderful friendships. I also hope that my journey may inspire others to get outside.
How does this trip tie into your work as an outdoor leader?
Originally I was just going to do this trip for fun. I had just graduated from college, which his where I discovered my love for the outdoors. I was ready to take on a new adventure in the wilderness. Then I accepted an internship at Colorado Canyons Association, and everything changed. My work for CCA involved taking students into national conservation areas, teaching kids about the land, vegetation, history of the area, among other wonderful things. This was perfect because it allowed me to play outside and to build my resume.
CCA is part of the Inspire Initiative, which is a Great outdoors Colorado grant designed to get kids outside. Through the Inspire Initiative, we worked with underserved communities, specifically the Latino community to get kids outside. I am Mexican so was incredibly happy working with the Latino community, sharing my love for the outdoors. We live in Grand junction and have three national conservation areas in our area, with abundant free space to explore. Yet, some of the kids I was working with had never even gone on a trail.
There are many reasons for this: lack of knowledge, lack of transportation, English as a second language. The reasons are economical and cultural. Sometimes kids come from single parent households and their parent doesn’t have the time to take them to the park. Or maybe they live too far away and can’t get there. Or the outdoor area closest to where the kids live is unsafe. Sometimes the act of hiking or outdoor recreation is labeled as a white thing to do.
What does it take to prepare for a trip like this?
This trip requires a lot of preparation! You may think “well hiking is free how much can you need?” Here are a few things to think about:
Home expenses: You are about to embark on a 4- 6- month journey. This means you will most likely not be making any money. So what are you going to do about your apartment and other bills?
Gear: If you already have gear, then this won’t be too costly. But if you are starting from scratch or trying to go ultra light, you may need to replace or buy new gear. This can be as affordable or as expensive as you make it. Sometimes you can find decent gear that is lightly used and very economical. Or you can splurge and get all the ultralight name brand gear you want. My gear solution was to get a job at REI so I could take advantage of the discounts and perks of working for an outdoor retailer.
Resupply strategy: You will be hiking from town to town, so it is possible to buy as you go but you also run the risk that there will not be what you want or that you will pay $5 for a bag of Idaho potatoes. Some people send themselves packages on the trail, dehydrating their own food and avoiding overspending in trail towns. On the other hand, you will have to pay shipping cost. Each has its pros and cons so you’ll need to figure out what works best for you. I did a combination. I’m sending myself 12 boxes of provisions to towns where I know I won’t have good resupply options.
Trail towns: You are out there for 5 months so you are going want to take a few zero days. These are days when you don’t hike at all, usually taking in towns. Of course, you will be spending money on these days at restaurants and hotel. What you spend in town is up to you.
On top of the expense aspect, you should mentally and physically prepare. Read as much as you can about the trail, learn how to read a map and a compass, know where your water sources will be, and train and practice with your pack.
How has your training as a leader in the outdoors helped prepare you?
It has given me a lot of practice! By leading trips for youth, I need to think about their safety, food consumption, whether they had the right gear. Know I only have to think about myself.
At the Natural Leader training camp I attended, I was inspired by Luis Benitez. His wonderful presentation reinforced my ideas and encouraged me to put them into action I’m not sure of my next career goal but I know this trip can play an important role in it!
Additional Reading & Resources from C&NN
HOW TO BECOME AN EARTHLING
MAGIC IN THE SAND: With Her Students, a Teacher in Riyhadh Comes to Love the Desert
CONNECTING WITH NATURE & OURSELVES: Reflections from Colorado Legacy Camp
MAKING FRESH TRACKS: Natural Leaders from the Arctic Circle and Urban Los Angeles Partner Up
NATURAL LEADERS LEGACY CAMP: One Young Man Decides to Give Back the Way His Father Did
BEYOND LEGACY CAMP: What C&NN’s Natural Leaders Do When They Get Home
WE’RE READY! C&NN’S Natural Leaders Pledge to Support National “Every Kid in a Park” Initiative
THE LIGHT OF NATURAL LEADERS: Young People Move the New Nature Movement
SAVE OUR RED ROCK LANDSCAPES: Discovering the Desert’s Magic Through Play
Photo Credit: Maricruz Mosqueda
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