Rue Mapp is the founder and CEO of Outdoor Afro, the nation’s leading, cutting edge network that celebrates and inspires African American connections and leadership in nature. To find out more about Outdoor Afro, the nonprofit network that she created, follow this link. Rue will be honored at our annual celebration, Nature’s Inspiration, along with Steve Abbors.
So much of how I became who I am is because of nature. There are lessons that nature taught me that I wouldn’t have learned anywhere else.
I grew up on a dead-end street in Oakland, and the unused end of the block was claimed exclusively by the neighborhood kids. We’d pilfer wood and nails from our garages and build hidden perches in the oak trees that grew back there. My parents also had a small ranch in Lake County where we’d spend weekends and summer trips. Out there I could just be a kid. Ride my bike on country roads through those rolling oak woodlands, gave me such a sense of wonder and freedom. Endless afternoons playing in the creek watching tadpoles or catching frogs. Watch the seasons change and the wildlife come and go. This served as a first-rate environmental education. I was raised to be outside all the time—and frankly I took it for granted. As a child, being outdoors is when you really feel free. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized just how special my experiences were.
Hike close to home. You don’t have to drive three hours to find nature. Explore your city and state parks. You’ll learn how near we are to the outdoors in our everyday lives. Leona Canyon York Trail is one of my favorite local trails. This beauty is very short, but challenging in parts, with some scrambling. Views include lovely, rushing waterfalls and a panoramic view of the bay from the East Oakland hills at the summit. My pro tip is that this is ideal for older youths and more experienced hikers.