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Loving Nature....When it all began.

Camping and exploring at a young age instilled a love of nature within me.

By: Jenn Gonzalez + Save to a List

You may not believe it but that's me in that feature photo. I was about four years old and standing at Lake Victoria in Jasper National Park. My father, an avid photographer at the time, captured a moment in time. While not a perfect photo it does show off the majesty of the area and my excitement of being there. I don't necessarily remember that moment but I do know that moments like that made me who I am today.

My family never had a lot of money while I was growing up. My father owned his own business and I had 3 siblings. Our family vacations always included camping. I didn't stay in a hotel until I was in high school. Thanks to these camping trips I saw Rocky Mountain National Park, Glacier National Park, Jasper National Park, Yosemite National Park and many more. I saw wilderness, wild animals, and fed prairie dogs. We traveled via a motorhome when I was older and my dad would certainly pull over if there was a chance to photograph a bear. As I got older our camping trips were often isolated to parts of Michigan where I grew up. I spent time hiking the woods and spending time at the beach working on my tan (as we did in the 80s). I never grew tired of it. 

Later in high school I embarked upon my first backpacking trip to the Appalachian Trail in New Hampshire. The next year we tackled trails in Canada and camped while backpacking. And then... nothing. I went off to college. I moved out to Maryland and then Virginia.  I became enthralled with other things - most notably - salsa dancing. Somehow the idea of spending time outside never crossed my mind. I visited places like Great Falls National park and Shenandoah National Park but never hiked. It wasn't that I didn't love nature I guess I just had other priorities.

Hiking the Appalachian Trail in New Hampshire

Then one weekend I decided to take my kids hiking in Shenandoah National Park. I knew nothing about the park or what trail to use or where to do. We picked one. It rained. We turned back. But I loved it. Finally, the nature lover in me had woken up. The next year I decided to take my kids hiking for spring break. It has now become a tradition. I think back to all the camping trips we took when I was young and now know that those times spent in nature is what made me who I am today. Now, I live for being in nature. I actively promote protecting nature. And I work to get my kids outside and experiencing nature as much as I can. 

My kids on the top of Brumley Mountain in Virginia

I will be forever grateful to my parents for using our family vacations as a way to introduce us to nature.  I look back on the old photos and just love the memories. If you have kids, get them outside! Hike with them. Even if it is a short hike. I promise it will change their live. 

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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