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Military Family Outing in the Organ Mountains

On October 20th, Sierra Club Mission Outdoors and Resilient Habitats programs walked the walk: we took several military families from Fort Bliss and White Sands Missile Range on an overnight outing in the Organ Mountains of New Mexico. By far, this event has been the best part of my Apprenticeship.

It was great to be on the ground and in the mountains fulfilling our mission. I had an amazing weekend P1000170 connecting with the families and giving back to those who give so much to their country. We know that the stress of moving from base to base and readjusting to life during and after deployment can be difficult. By offering events like this one, we hope to provide an outlet for these families: a place where they can relax and unwind, spend some time with their kids or on a hike, and meet other families in a similar situation. It was great to see the friends who came together and even better, to watch new friendships form.

Our Conservation Director, Sarah Hodgdon, and Mission Outdoors Director, Stacy Bare, kicked off the day by talking about the importance of providing opportunities for active duty families to unplug and reconnect. They also spoke of the unique landscape of the Organ Mountains and the value of protecting it as a national monument.

IMG_9834Literally overlooking White Sands Missile Range and a short drive from Fort Bliss, the Organ Mountains are the crown jewel of the southern Rockies. The jagged peaks and rugged canyons are home to a rich diversity of life, including plants found nowhere else in the world.

The kids at our outing were full of energy and took advantage of the rugged and beautiful landscape. One of the BLM rangers entertained them with a tarantula while others climbed rocks. As half of the

P1000159 children settled into coloring books, the adults and older kids set off on hikes. I led a two mile hike and had a fun and challenging time keeping ahead of two excited boys, Michael and Issiah, who were tearing up the trail. After a mile of steep rocky terrain everyone was tired and dreams of climbing the 9,000 foot peaks faded, to be replaced by dreams of returning to our group shelter and lunch.

IMG_9939Over a dinner of barbecued chicken and burgers, the soldiers shared stories. Most notable: a rabies
outbreak caused by stray cats in Afghanistan; another about getting stuck in a tree for two days after a training jump. As it got dark I taught a few of the kids how to make a fire. I think the highlight of their day was burning sticks and making s’mores.

I’ve been on quite a few camping trips over the years, but I will always remember this one. I’m excited to join a few of the service members and spouses again in North Carolina for our Outings Leader Training and look forward to seeing them continue to get even more families outside.

A special thanks to BLM, Friends of the Organ Mountains, Blue Star Families, Armed Services YMCA, Furr’s Catering, WSMR Outdoor Recreation, Fort Bliss Southwest Adventure and REI for their support and donations.



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