Find Your Park Expedition 2016

As some of you may known already I was part of the Find Your Park Expedition or Encuentra Tu Parque held by the National Park Foundation this past month. The National Park Foundation is the official charity of this country’s national parks and nonprofit partner to the National Park Service. Along with the National Parks Service turning 100 this year, the national parks also held their second expedition involving eight social media influencers from across the country chosen from about four hundred applicants. Their mission was to bring us, a team of culturally diverse social media communicators, to the National Parks as a way to show us that we are part of this movement as well. The expedition was inspired by the @American_Latino Expedition, also known as #ALEx, a public education and awareness campaign with the intention to bring the national parks to multicultural communities across the country. Our adventure included exploring the beautiful city of San Francisco and Yosemite National Park with visits to National Historic sites such as Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park and other iconic Californian destinations. I was lucky enough to take on this journey with seven other amazing and talented people who I now consider friends. The trip only lasted a week, but to me it felt like a month of exciting and unforgettable moments shared with the other participants, the National Parks Foundation team and sponsors. Our interactions and impressions of each other radically changed over the course of one week and that to me meant a lot.

 A shot of Half Dome during our hike down 4 Mile Trail. 

A shot of Half Dome during our hike down 4 Mile Trail. 

The #FYPx team was made up of Victoria Ramos, Victoria Gonzales, Jacob Fu, Juan Flores, Faith E. Briggs, Edgar Woo, Erin McGrady, and me. Each finalist resides in a different city in the US ranging from coast to coast. Brooklyn New York, Asheville North Carolina, and Indianapolis Indiana to name a few. Besides us, the National Parks Foundation team and sponsors contributed immensely. Their presence made every welcome to every place more meaningful. REI, Columbia, Aramark and Subaru were among these amazing partners. The National Parks Foundation team who made everyday easier and enjoyable helped us understand the meaning to everything and everyone we encountered.

Breakfast with the Subaru team, ferry to Alcatraz, bike rides around San Francisco with REI, getting to drive some awesome Subaru vehicles across the state, long hikes at Yosemite, more bike rides but with the Aramark team, and one of my personal favorites, a hike on Mist trail. All of these moments and more made up the experience along with the rest of the team. 

I’d never been to California, let alone the west coast, and once there I realized it was bigger and better than I’d imagined my whole life. The challenge of being a minority growing up hardly ever gave me the chance to imagine myself traveling to places such as Yosemite. As I grow older I've come to accept and appreciate every aspect of being who I am; the oldest, gay, proud, son of a first generation Mexican- American family and with opportunities like these, it only gets better.

I am forever grateful for this experience and thankful for everyone who made it possible. Coming back to Austin Texas I am more wiser and filled with so many stories and lessons learned, which is why during these next few weeks I will be sharing highlighted moments that truly impacted me. And as always, I'll also share some of my own footage through pictures of the beautiful state that is California. 

If you want to learn more about each individual and what they do, visit this link to the National Parks Foundation website, which includes bios including mine. And don't forget to follow on all of their other adventures by visiting them on Instagram and on some of their other social media accounts. So stay tuned for more blogs over my experience with the National Parks Foundation Find Your Park Expedition. Who knows, maybe you’ll be a future participant of the #FYPx.