Getting Wet, Getting Dirty, and Having the Best Time Ever With ICO


By Briana Okyere


Great work about our amazing volunteers in Harrisburg, PA!

A Great Day Outdoors with Military Families in Virginia


On Saturday, June 21st, Sierra Club Military Outdoors and the Bureau of Land Management hosted the "America's Heroes and America's Public Lands event at the BLM's Meadowood facility in Virginia. Steve Ellis, BLM Deputy Director, John Ruh, BLM Eastern States Director, Dan Chu, Sierra Club Wild Senior Campaign Director, and Allison Chin, former Sierra Club Board President joined over over 275 members of the military community and their families in enjoying activities such as as fishing, archery, hiking, rock wall climbing, and wild horses. These families were also able to connect to organizations such as Blue Star Families, National Military Family Association, US Fish and Wildlife, The National Forrest Service, Warrior Hike, and Team River Runner to find ways to continue to get outside. This event was the first conducted under our MOU with the BLM, signed last year to cooperate in serving the military community on public lands. We are excited for our next event, a wilderness trek in Cedar Mesa, Utah in October.

Enjoy the pictures




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Honoring Buffalo Soldiers on African American National Park Day


“Tell your friends and family to visit. This is their park.” Ranger Shelton Johnson told a large mostly African American crowd on Saturday June 7 in Yosemite National Park. Shelton has been a National Park Ranger for 21 years. He told us that every year he speaks to thousands of visitors from all over the world and wishes he saw more African American faces. He told us “This is a dream come true to see so many of our people in one place.”


We were there as a part of the second annual African American National Park Day founded by Teresa Baker from Outdoor Afro, a community focused on reconnecting African Americans with the outdoors and one another through outdoor activities. Last year, Teresa started the annual celebration as a way to encourage African Americans across the country to visit a National Park. This year, the weekend celebration went country-wide: from World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, to Yosemite to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, African Americans spent the weekend connecting to the outdoors and their heritage.


Outdoor Afros, park employees and the Buffalo Soldiers motorcycle club met that Saturday morning in the Presidio of San Francisco, to retrace the route African American soldiers from the 24th Infantry and 9th Cavalry took to get to Sierra parks in 1899, 1903, and 1904. These men (and a few women) were some of our first park rangers in the Sierra Nevada. They spent their summer building roads, making maps, extinguishing fires, and keeping poachers and loggers at bay.

The weekend festivities gave first time and experienced visitors the opportunity to get a “taste of the park” so that they stopover for a longer stay on their own in the future.  And what a taste! We sang under the trees with Sista Monica Parker, listened to great-great-grandson of John Muir, Robert Hanna, tell us about the history of Yosemite as we walked the Valley floor, and we cooked, ate and slept beneath a bright moon in Yellow Pines Campground.


The highlight of the trip was watching Shelton Johnson perform as fictional Buffalo Soldier Sergeant Elizy Bowman. The interpretive reenactment took us through time: from the sidewalk in the post-civil-war south to a summer in Yosemite, to modern day America. His performance tackled racism, discrimination, sexism, love, respect, loss and the healing power of nature. I encourage you to see it with your own eyes. Visit Yosemite. Visit all of the National Parks, for that matter.

Support the Buffalo Soldiers in the National Parks Study Act - a bill to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a study of alternatives for commemorating and interpreting the role of the Buffalo Soldiers.

What more?
Read Chelsea Roberts’ article, “Retracing History: Following The Buffalo Soldiers To Yosemite”  on Brown Girls Fly and check out James Mills’ commentary “Dispatch from Yosemite: Honoring national parks’ black heritage” in High Country News.

Join NPCA and special guests on Wednesday, June 25 for a Google+ Hangout discussion, The Legacy of Buffalo Soldiers and Our National Parks. This online discussion will feature an interactive Q&A with several panelists, including Yosemite National Park Ranger Shelton Johnson, African American National Parks Day founder Teresa Baker, and NPCA Cultural Resources Director Alan Spears.

If you are in The SF Bay Area On July 16, 2014, you can join the conversation at the California Historical Society with Outdoor Afro members who will talk about the June 2014 trip to Yosemite. 




Celebrating Father's Day with a Father and Sons Outings Leader Team | Sierra Club


Celebrating Father's Day with a Father and Sons Outings Leader Team | Sierra Club.

Washington Outdoor Task Force Summit Meeting


  On the approach

As a member of Governor Inslee's Blue Ribbon Task Force on Parks and Outdoor Recreation, I had the privilege to work with some of the best people and organizations in Washington State. Last week was no exception. Sierra Club Military Outdoors partner Outdoor Research generously hosted rrepresentatives of the climbing community from across the state to discuss issues ranging from access and permitting to climbing management and diversifying the climbing community in Washington. Doug Walker (Sierra Club Foundation and American Alpine Club Director), Dan Nordstrom (fellow task force member and President of  Outdoor research), and I joined with representatives from the Mountaineers, Sierra Club, American Alpine Club, Access Fund, Washington Climber's Coalition, Outdoor Alliance, AMGA, and professional climbers to formulate recommendations from the climbing community to the task force to include in its final report this Fall. This report, ultimately written by leaders from across Washington State's outdoor community based upon the input from private citizens, nonprofits, industry, and land managers, will advise Governor Inslee on how to leverage the power of the outdoors in Washington State.



The outdoor industry or community as a whole includes a wide spectrum of members that make it a critical factor to the public health, economy, and recreation of any state. Think about everything that goes into a Seattlite's weekend backpacking trip. The hiker enjoys public lands managed by local, state, or federal agencies. These lands are also promoted and protected by non-profits and NGOs whose missions range from access and recreation to conservation. The hiker may have hired a local commercial guide or attended a local outdoor school for technical or medical training, and she is wearing a clothes and using gear that was designed, sold, and even possibly manufactured in Washington. After the hike is over, she stops at a small town gas station and restaurant on the park boundaries, a town fully sustaining itself on recreation since the decline of the logging industry. Finally, the hike is part of her summer adventure series, which makes her healthier, happier, and an advocate of her wild places. That summer hike was not just a great summer adventure for our hiker. Its also the just one part of a multifaceted spectrum that benefits the states citizens, economy, and public lands. 


White Water Rafting for the Veteran and Military Community!


DSC_0393White Water Rafting in Dinosaur National Monument for Veterans, Service Members, and their Partners or Spouses!

From September 12th to the 15th, O.A.R.S. Canyonlands, Sierra Club Outdoors, and The University of Utah are teaming up to provide 25 veterans, service members, and their partners or spouses an opportunity to explore the wild, amazing Green River out of Dinosaur National Monument from September 12th-15th free of charge as the perfect lead up to the Sierra Club and University of Utah’s, “This Land is Your Land: Toward a Better Understanding of Nature’s Resiliency-Building and Restorative Power for Armed Forces Personnel, Veterans, and their families,” symposium September 17-20th at the University of Utah. This is also a great way to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act!

Participants will need to arrive on their own in Vernal, Utah the evening of September 11th by 7 pm and arrange their own lodging for the evening of the 11th and the 15th. At least one van will leave Salt Lake City by 3 pm on the 11th to take participants to Vernal, Utah. This same shuttle will return to Salt Lake City early in the morning of the 16th.

DSC_0280Campsites and lodging are available in and near Vernal. If there is enough interest, we may try and reserve a group campsite.

You will be responsible for whatever gear is needed on the trip. On a limited basis, the Sierra Club or the University of Utah may be able to loan some gear (tents and sleeping bags) for your use.

 More information on this amazing trip can be found below, or here.

If you are interested in applying for the trip, send an email with the subject line: ‘YOUR LAST NAME_FIRST NAME White Water’ to that includes the following information:

  • Name
  • Branch of service, rank, when and where you served (or are serving)
  • Who, if anyone will be accompanying you and his or her relation to you
  • Proof of service
  • Outdoor Experience (none is required) and other veteran / service member trips you’ve been on
  • Two sentences about why you want to go on the trip.
  • Where you will be coming from and if you need help getting to Vernal
  • Any physical or mental concerns you might have about your participation on the trip (we will aim to make this trip 100% adaptable to your needs)

We will let everyone know about their participation no later than August 10th, 2014.

Green River Rafting in Colorado: 
Gates of Lodore – Overview

Set aside as an American treasure in 1938 under the National Park Service, Dinosaur National Monument is an open-air archive of ancient Native American sites and far-out fossils unearthed by wind, water and time.  Within the monument, the Green River rafting trip winds its way through three distinct canyons: Lodore, Whirlpool and Split Mountain all of which contain geological curiosities and rich human history. Lodore was the first major canyon encountered by John Wesley Powell and his men on their 1869 expedition. At its start, the river twists through a catacomb of scarlet slot canyons, yawning valleys and lush ledges of emerald evergreen and brush. Exploration is the mission of the day as the Green promises dozens of side hikes, relaxing nights on the beach and moderate whitewater perfect for young families and laid-back vacationers.

DSC_0420Green River Rafting: Itinerary at a Glance

  • Scenic ride from Vernal, Utah to Dinosaur National Monument
  • Raft through the towering Gates of Lodore
  • Challenge some of the river’s most exciting and famous rapids like Upper and Lower Disaster Falls
  • Hike up Winnie’s Grotto to beautiful oases and side canyons
  • Sit back and soak in the remote splendor of Lodore – its soaring red rock cliffs sprinkled with deep green junipers and piñon pines
  • Feast on delicious meals, relax on sandy beaches
  • Charge rapids like Harp Falls, Triplet Falls, and Hells Half Mile
  • Hike to Rippling Brook -- the perfect place for a cooling shower
  • View petroglyphs at the confluence with the Yampa River
  • We pick up speed as we enter Split Mountain Canyon and the river’s gradient becomes considerably steeper. Four or five major rapids deliver plenty of whitewater excitement during our last day on the river

Shuttle from Split Mountain to Vernal

North Carolina Celebration of the Military Child Outdoors


Our adventure began with a barrage of challenges from our Sierra Club coordinator being detained, and the death of my (fully packed) van’s fuel pump 90 miles into the 200+ mile trip to Camp Lejeune. In classic Sierra Club style, these challenges were overcome, with me experiencing a much needed six hour break in a lovely piney wood along highway 74. This theme carried though during the battle of the wind on lovely Onslow Beach Friday night. Our group made up of Tom, Nancy, Kelly, Hollis, William and I, finally conceded to the wind and agreed to attempt this task again in the morning when our troop numbers would be increased three fold. The morning came with light winds, and cooler temperature for a quick and successful rally to be ready for the children and families to arrive. 


The Mission to Explore the Outdoors challenge was received and met by over 250 participants. The children checked in and were given their mission, which they readily choose to accept, and sent to explore. Each exhibitor had a stamp for the children to earn higher levels of exploration. 


Sturgeon City came with the great flounder petting tank and information about outdoor activities and their fabulous environmental education programming. Squeals of laughter and delight were heard as the children and family explored the opportunities to be outdoors. Next was the Sea Turtle Exhibit which included the nest beach protection, a skeleton, and a cool bag along with a great snake poster for the kids. Many families thought the display was live turtles that were just very still. 


Thrifty Adventures was next, coming all the way from Charlotte, to share the love of climbing and some super cool knots for our explorers to tie. The North Carolina Sierra Club Outings leader set up camp, literally with tents and gear. The kids got to explore inside to see what camping would be like. They also participated in a game using a compass that was theirs to keep. The club also raffled off a family tent to one lucky family. Possumwood Acres Wildlife Sanctuary came with Diana the coolest non-releasable marsupial around, along with a hawk, an owl, and wildlife information. 


The North Carolina Zoos’ own education director drove down to share great fossils found in the state the kids were fascinated by a huge sharks tooth. Camp Corral came to tell the families about their great programs that provide free camps for military children. USMC MCCS Outdoor Adventures brought the rock wall and personnel to have the explorers conquer the climb. Happily, they provided gear so even the older kids (adults) could attempt the wall.


This event was only made possible with the labor and perseverance of my E-Corps Crew of Wendy & Drew Foster, William, Hollis E. Parks, Mariah, and Andre and the North Carolina Sierra Club Outings Chair Kelly Mieszkalski, Nancy Card, and fellow veteran Tom Williams the Outings Chair for the NC Cypress Group. Onslow Beach Recreation area staff treated us as if we were family – providing lodging, labor and a fantastic site. Dion & Lloyd you are trulyappreciated.

- Karan Barber

Sierra Club Inner City Outings and Military Outdoors Volunteer Leader


Kick Nature-Deficit Disorder to the Curb: Celebrating Great Outdoors Month


Just for kicks, I googled fear of outside this morning. My search turned up 187 million results. For comparison's sake, I then googled fear of death and fear of the unknown, fears I thought were fairly common. To my surprise, there were only 84.7 and 73.5 million hits, respectively, and when combined, still fewer results than my first search. While the findings of my quick internet inquiry will probably never hit the annals of any reputable science journal, there is a growing body of evidence that America is becoming increasingly sedentary and spending a lot of time indoors (you can find the facts on the Children & Nature Network's site).


Thanks for reminding us how awesome Great Outdoors Month is Jackie!

Train the Trainer


On the weekend of May 17th, 12 Sierra Club Outdoors volunteers and partners met in Hampton, GA for our inaugural Outing Leadership Training-For-Trainers. This T4T was our first step towards reaching a new Sierra Club Outdoors goal of training 600 new volunteer trip leaders who will connect 3000 participants to the outdoors by the end of 2015.


Volunteer representing local Sierra Club Chapters, Inner City Outings, Military Outdoors program and partners from GirlTrek (a national organization that inspires and supports African American women and girls to live their healthiest, most fulfilled lives - simply by walking) came together to practice teaching core Outing Leadership Training 201 training sessions to their peers. Each trainer commited to facilitating two workshops this year: one for their own group and one for another group. Not only will more people get the training they want, but a larger community of leaders will grow.

The trainers in training hailed from Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, North and South Carolina, Maryland and Washington, DC. Each  brought their breadth and depth of personal trip leadership and group facilitation experience to create a powerful weekend of learning for all!


  • “I really enjoyed learning about how to tell my own personal story in order to help inspire trip participants to enjoy the outdoors.”
  • “Getting feedback from our peers - especially the areas needing improvement – was most important and valuable to me.”
  • “I enjoyed building relationships with folks I hope to teach with in the next year.”


-- Sascha Paris, Sierra Club Outdoors

Sierra Club Outdoors Receives Project Excellence Award


545341_10151056224433086_631953017_nCongratulations to the Sierra Club Outdoors team for being recognized by the Society for Outdoor Recreation Professionals (SORP) for a Project Excellence Award. Thanks also to Higher Ground, Wilderness Inquiry, Women's Wilderness Institute, and Wasatch Adaptive Sports, as well as the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment for making this research happen!

Since 1983, SORP has been serving the outdoor recreation profession. It is the Nation’s leading association of outdoor recreation and related professionals who strive to protect  our natural and cultural resources while providing sustainable recreation access.

The Project Excellence Award is presented annually to exemplary outdoor recreation projects. The award is presented to the collaborating agencies and organizations key to the success of the planning effort.  Selection criteria will include (a) unique or special circumstances, (b) problem-solving, (c) level of innovation and creativity, (e) impact or effect of project, and (f) collaborative team effort. The award may be presented to communities, special districts, public agencies, citizen groups (e.g., civic, church, youth groups, teams), private industry, non-profit organizations, cooperatives, land trusts, and other organizations who have contributed to an exemplary outdoor recreation project.

The write up for the award is below:

University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment and Sierra Club Outdoors: Exploring the Benefits of Outdoor Experiences on Veterans.

Dr. Rachel Kaplan, Dr. Jason Duvall, and Mr. Stacy Bare

“Exploring the Benefit of Outdoor Experiences on Veterans” is the first major research project for the current period of conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan community that analyzed the value of outdoor recreation on the veteran and military community. The purpose of the project was to analyze short and long-term benefits on social and mental health for veterans who participated in at least four days of outdoor recreation. Four organizations in different parts of the country led 12 trips impacting 98 veterans from various conflicts. Results of this project show strong support for outdoor recreation, even without a deliberate, therapeutic component, providing significant improvements in social functioning and increased positive life outlook and point to the strong need for increased and more broadly based, as well as specific, research to take place.

The photo is courtesy of Wasatch Adaptive Sports!

The full research report is here:  Download Michigan Final Research Report

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