RV Weekend Getaway to Yosemite National Park: Part 2

Yosemite Never Disappoints
I’m a sucker for wilderness anywhere, on any day of the year, but I am now totally sold that autumn is the best time of the year to visit Yosemite National Park, having visited in all four seasons. Our trip timing bypassed the swell of summer visitors (estimated at over 600,000 in August alone) to less than half of that number in October, just in time for the fall colors that showed up and showed out in waves of yellow, reds, and ocher blanketing the landscape all around. And there were no winter road closures or snow chains required.

Beautiful Yosemite

We were advised by the resort staff to leave camp for the park around 9am to climb ahead of fall weekend visitors, and help ensure we could find space to park our over-sized vehicle. Rodney did the driving the first day and now it was my turn to drive the motor home.  With me behind the wheel, Rodney and the kids were able to enjoy the panoramic views out of the big front window. The meandering drive and stunning vistas of the valley approach were breathtaking.
Rue Mapp Driving the RV
Yosemite Views

After paying $30 for our week-long pass at the park gate, we wound easily down into the valley, stopping to take photos at the most iconic views of the Yosemite landscape. Within an hour, we arrived at Half-Dome Village (Curry Village) and parked in the adjacent parking lot, taking up two spots vertically (and legally!) -- we then ran into a friend of Outdoor Afro who remembered us from our epic leader training weekend back in 2016.
Reuniting with Old Friends

From there we took the free park bus shuttle that stops at all the major valley destinations and many hiking trails beyond. Our afternoon filled up nicely with a delightful, casual lunch at Degnan’s in the valley, followed by leisurely hiking and slow time spent in the visitor center to learn more about the formation and history of this important and beloved national treasure; it’s native people the Ahwahnechee; the protectors found in its first park rangers the Buffalo Soldiers, wildlife such as the adorable pika, and the tensions between our modern, ambitious love for this land within its need for protection and stewardship.
One of the Many Hikes

Before we knew it, our Yosemite sun began to set westward, and without quite getting our fill of the park and its trails and stories, we reluctantly decided to get back on the road to allow plenty of time and light to re-connect our RV to camp, and enjoy our planned Taco Night dinner on board with all the fixings -- and of course, more s’mores!
The Perfect Marshmallow

By the time I headed to bed Saturday night, I could not believe our trip was coming to an end the next day, just at the moment we got accustomed to the rhythm of the RV lifestyle.  I knew we could have easily stayed another two nights -- or more!

Our 5 Tips For RVing Weekend Warriors

  1. Plan for a long weekend if you can - consider the journey and destination in your RV as a total adventure, and take your time along the way!
  2. Choose an RV Resort with amenities for everyone, such as recreation rooms with WI-FI, swimming pools, organized activities and park model cabins - perfect for those who want to try out the RV lifestyle, but aren’t ready to buy.   
  3. It’s all about preparation. Just like with any camping experience you’ll benefit from advance meal plans, prepping fruits and veggies, marinating meat, etc.  All help to save time, and bring only what portions of dry goods you need from home to reduce waste #Grits
  4. RV’s have plenty of storage:  Grab toys and games from home such as balls, board games, and cards for those down moments, especially before bedtime for all ages.  
  5. Eat lots of s’mores!

Thanks to El Monte RV, Dublin, California, and Go RVing for making another delightful and memorable weekend my family will treasure always!
To plan an adventure of your own, visit Go RVing for info on how to get started, how to choose the RV that’s right for you, where to go, and so much more!

Check out part 1 of Rue's Yosemite Adventure!

RV Weekend Getaway to Yosemite National Park: Part 1

As most folks know by now, I am all about helping all people positively connect with nature in any way they can. My travels as founder and chief instigator for Outdoor Afro have helped several thousands get their nature swagger back through outdoor recreation.  We have come to appreciate RV experiences over the years just as much as the back-country treks that allow you to carry all you need on your back.
We have had the pleasure to RV in California’s Sierra foothills along the American River with a teardrop trailer in tow, used a full size RV to camp the awe-inspiring Big Sur, and have been regulars at KOAs up and down the California coast. This time, we decided to grab a full sized RV again, and head to iconic Yosemite National Park!
RVs are simply a comfortable lodge on wheels from which to pursue a mind-boggling variety of camp destinations and public lands. You can just roll up, and anchor your family in nature and enjoy the pop-up community all over America!
My family is still chattering and reminiscing about our whirlwind recreational vehicle adventure that jumped off from our home in Oakland, California.  We wove our way through California’s Central Valley and scenic rolling woodland foothills to ascend the majestic forests of Yosemite National Park near our destination at Yosemite Lakes RV Resort -- our weekend basecamp.
Thanks to the folks at El Monte RV in Dublin, California, we were assigned a Class C-28 vehicle, suitable for our family of four -- me, my partner, the indomitable co-captain Rodney, with our teen roadies Arwen and Will. There was plenty of room for cooking, eating, lounging, and sleeping for all of us with room to spare for two additional younger sized youth with convertible tables and couches for night use.

This RV was the largest we have driven, yet it handled smoothly with great visibility and fewer blind spots than our SUV at home. Anyone who feels comfortable driving a truck or minivan will manage navigation with a Class C well, with no special licensing required.  Inside, we had all the comforts of home with a four burner stove, oven, refrigerator/freezer, and tons of cabinet storage that locked securely keeping our belongings tucked away in case of any bumps in the road. The rear contained a queen sized bed and upfront there is a full-sized cabover sleeping area. Adding to the convenience was an onboard shower and bathroom with a flush toilet  - so thankfully, no middle of the night, chilly treks to the bathroom for us!
Click to see more of the interior of this model
Before picking up our RV, we made runs to our local grocery store with lists for our carefully planned meals decided on by the family the night before. We also saved money by bringing a bunch of items we already had from home, like garbage bags, cleaning supplies, spices, pots and pans, bedding, linens; and other pantry items measured in just the right amounts for our favorite weekend recipes (can’t leave home without my grits!).
Rue’s Favorite Creamy Grits Recipe (from SpryLiving.com)

Grits provide a hearty and hot camp morning base topped with breakfast meats, eggs, shrimp, or sauteed veggies for a complete breakfast!

Leaving the early afternoon on a Friday allowed us to spend a leisurely four hours on the road from the RV pick up, and we used the WAZE app to weave around the usual traffic. By 5pm, we arrived at the resort with plenty of light on our side to tour the site, and selected one of their first-come-first serve spacious and shaded camp spaces.
Yosemite Lakes RV Resort sits in a prime location overlooking a beautiful river landscape, just minutes from Yosemite’s entrance with options for all style of campers. Guests can drive in and select a cozy yurt that overlooks the scenic river, stay in a park model cabin, or pitch a tent along the developed hillside if they don’t have their own RV.
The hospitality and check-in at the camp was warm, quick, and informative thanks to our cool camp ranger Jeremy. And at our site, we were able to get our water and electricity hooked up within minutes before we took off to explore the camp’s many other amenities. With a television and Wi-Fi in the main lodge, the teens and man were eager to unwind from our marathon preparations and drive, catch a glimpse of the Game 3 of the World Series, and share some of our adventure on social media before settling in for dinner.
By nightfall, we were more than ready to throw down on the grill some pre-marinated steaks, along with garlicky potatoes and asparagus, before the evening campfire with ranger Jeremy.

We finally tucked in for the night after the last toasted marshmallow was consumed, with lots of family jokes and giggles, excitedly looking forward to the splendor of Yosemite Valley the next morning.
Our adventure was well underway.  

Check out part 2 of Rue's Yosemite Adventure!


#HealthyHolidays: 11 Ways to Incorporate the Outdoors this Season

Join us in BEING INTENTIONAL about Black Family Health over the holidays!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year - a time when we gather at the ancestral lands of our parents, grandparents, and great grandparents, cook our favorite homemade foods, decorate our homes  with  greenery, fruits and fire, and sing of snow filled winters with our children.
In tribute to these traditions and in recognition of how a simple walk in the woods improves mental and physical health, Outdoor Afro invites you to join us in our #HealthyHolidays campaign.
We hope you and your family will deepen your connections to nature and to each other by incorporating the outdoors into your holiday festivities:

  1. Discover the Black History at your local National Park.
  2. Plan your summer camping or backpacking trip.
  3. Create your own holiday decorations.
  4. Reserve your family's summer campsite.
  5. Preserve fruits, jams, jellies, and other favorite foods in a family canning activity.
  6. #OptOutside on Black Friday with REI.
  7. Explore your family's land and document its history.
  8. Cherish the laughter caused by sledding.
  9. Incorporate birding into your family snow shoe.
  10. Cook collectively with whole foods.
  11. Start swim lessons and/or to support family members learning to swim.


Traveling out of state? Did you know that there are Outdoor Afro communities in nearly 30 states. Check out if there is one where you are headed!

snow collage

Holding Space When You're the Only One Who Cares - A Lesson from My Dad

“Dad, we need another adventure together. You’re not getting any younger!”
“I wouldn’t mind going back to the Grand Canyon, you just try to keep up with me. Where do you think you get your energy from?”  



That’s how our trek into Havasupai Reservation in the Grand Canyon, Arizona began. Havasu meansblue-green water, and pai means people. I didn’t know such beautiful, Caribbean like water is carving out amazing places right here in the US - and I had been there! When I told my mom about the trip, she quoted me from when I was nine years old during a family vacation to the Canyon: “Whoopee. A giant hole. Can we go back to the pool?”   
My dad often took our family fishing and camping when I was younger, and those memories stuck with me, pushing me to become the explorer and the Outdoor Afro Leader I am today. In turn, my “baby-girl-of-the-family” position and teasing helped him become more active outside, too!
Although he’d say I dragged him, I knew he was excited for our hike in Havasupai. It was  about 30 miles in the desert for three days in June. Yep, one of the hottest months of the year. Permits were sold out for April, and I convinced my dad that we’d be fine since there are waterfalls! Having little experience hiking and camping in the desert and needing the right permits, we reserved a spot with a guided tour company. They would provide the food, tents, poles and packs, so we could just walk, swim and enjoy, right?  
Our first day of the hike was the more challenging than I expected. We walked down into the canyon for a very steep mile and a half, then over small rocks and gravel, for another eight or nine miles. It was almost 100 degrees, but our hats, water, long sleeve shirts, water, lots of salty snacks, water, and short breaks in the shade made it bearable. I drank about 3 liters in eight hours!  

The tough part started when we passed through the Havasupai village.        
The Havasupai Indians have a strained relationship with well… everyone. Like most native people, they were displaced from their land. Local and federal government agencies and independent hustlers disguised as entrepreneurs destroyed their way of life, resulting in their tribe dwindling to less than 500 members. Now, the Havasupai own and operate all of the mule companies that transport items (and sometimes people) through their reservation. Although they have some protected land, they struggle to meet their basic needs, have limited access to poor education and some developers are still trying to push them aside.      
What was most shocking was how the guides from all groups hardly interacted with any of the Havasupai. Everyone seemed very guarded and you could tell that most of the white people were anxious to get through the village. We stopped in a general store, and the clerk warily asked my dad and I if we were in a group, making a face when we responded. My dad chuckled and said “I’m with you, man.” Things smoothed out as he told us about his frybread being the best around.
I wanted to learn more about the Havasupai, but our guide and group were eager get to Havasu Falls. Later during dinner, the guide talked a little about the people in Havasupai using phrases like “encouraged to move.”

I sneered, frustrated at how the truth seemed glossed over just so we can ignorantly enjoy the Falls, but my dad, always laid-back and reserved, pleasantly stated facts and asked questions to get to a more significant conversation. He asked more about what happened when the Havasupai were relocated, how they interact with tour groups and about earning a profit from the transport mules, and how private developers and the government treat them now. We learned about an entrepreneur fighting for Havasupai land to build a gondola that would bring visitors to the bottom of the Grand Canyon!
Thanks to my dad’s patience and getting to the root of issues, I realized more about how the present continues to reflect the past, and that just being there to hold space and enjoy the outdoors is an act of resistance. 
That night was way too hot for sleeping even though we camped near a creek, but I had an amazing view of the Milky Way while I stewed and reflected. We were out of our tents early to beat the impending doom of the sun as we explored some highlights in the area. We did a very steep, slippery section using steps, ladders and chains to get to Mooney Falls and took lots of pictures in grottos and creeks heading toward Beaver Falls. 
After a satisfying lunch, we hiked uphill to Najavo and Fifty Foot Falls, where we swam among tall reeds. My dad, who is 62 and a city-dweller, is hesitant of the water, especially when it’s not a clear pool with a level bottom, but it was so hot he jumped right in! He wouldn’t come out too far to the falls, but I was proud of what he did.

The heat had us all wiped out and we spent the rest of the day in the water, relaxing for our 3:00 AM ascent out of the canyon back the way we came. This would be the most physically challenging part: hiking in the dark, about 10 miles, and a mile and a half of serious switchbacks at the end with about 1,000 feet elevation gain. Our guide set a quick pace, but my dad easily kept right up. I trudged along, weary and cranky from lack of sleep due to the heat, while my dad seemed to glide over the rocks. When we arrived to the switchbacks, the last mile, we all went at our own pace.

Our guide told us as we started the ascent, “Sherpas on Everest rarely take breaks climbing up. They take tiny baby steps. With the little tiny steps, take deep breaths and you’ll be able to calm your heart rate.”
Of course I took off like Wonder Woman; I had to beat my dad! That lasted about 10 minutes before I found myself using the sherpa strategy. I eventually found a rhythm, turned a corner and there was the top! At 8:20, almost 5 hours since we left camp, I danced out of the canyon.    
After a little relaxing and we-did-it selfies with two of the other hikers, I did what any loving daughter would do; I tried to yell to my dad to hurry up! Since it was a Tuesday morning, I wasn’t too obnoxious and turned back down the trail to finish with him. We were proud that he kept up with the group, and he was all smiles as raised his trekking poles and high-fived everyone at the trailhead.

After this trek, my dad flew home and I drove to Utah to explore Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks, along with a few state parks. During eight days, I saw just four black people! Two of them were black kids with a white family. When I saw a black guy who looked about my dad’s age at Zion, it was like seeing a familiar uncle; we chatted and hugged farewell.  
The parks were magnificent! However, at times I felt isolated, out of place and frustrated - even invisible when people bumped into to me in the Narrows at Zion. Genuine words from an Outdoor Afro and picturing my dad’s proud expression as he strolled out of Havasupai helped me focus on the beauty and wonder in the Southwest. They reminded me that we matter and that nature is

for everyone!  

 Chaya Harris is a second year Outdoor Afro leader in Boston, MA. She studied journalism at Northwestern, and has been an educator for eight years. She is a bit of a nerd who enjoys traveling, adventures and learning new things.

Outdoor Afro Welcomes Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club, to its Board of Directors

Mike Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club & Rue Mapp, CEO and Founder of Outdoor Afro in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Salt Lake City, Utah – July 26, 2017 – Outdoor Afro, a national non-profit whose mission is to create and inspire Black leadership in nature, just announced its newest board member, Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club. Brune has been a long-standing supporter of Outdoor Afro.
“We are thrilled to have Michael join the board,” said CEO of Outdoor Afro, Rue Mapp. “His depth of knowledge and executive experience will be vital to our decision-making process and his national experience will be extremely valuable as Outdoor Afro continues to expand.”
Brune has served as Executive Director of the Sierra Club since March 2010. He has led efforts to organize volunteers for clean-up along the Gulf Coast after the BP oil disaster, overseen the organization’s Beyond Coal and Ready for 100 campaigns, promoted protection of natural resources and environmental justice, and led the push for justice and equity efforts within the Sierra Club. Previously, he was Executive Director of the Rainforest Action Network. His book, Coming Clean -- Breaking America's Addiction to Oil and Coal, details a plan for a new clean energy economy that will create well-paying jobs, promote environmental justice and bolster national security. Mr. Brune holds degrees in Economics and Finance from West Chester University in Pennsylvania.
“I have watched Outdoor Afro grow from a small blog to a national organization that is changing the face of conservation. Outdoor Afro is poised for an exciting future and I am thrilled to join the Board and look forward to helping the team accelerate growth and lead the way for inclusion in outdoor recreation, nature, and conservation for all,” said Mr. Brune.
Mr. Brune will be joining an experienced board with expertise in business, philanthropy, wildlife conservation and public lands stewardship.
About Outdoor Afro
Outdoor Afro has become the nation’s leading, cutting edge network that celebrates and inspires Black connections and leadership in nature by helping people take better care of themselves, our communities, and our planet. Outdoor Afro is a national non-profit organization with leadership networks around the country. With more than 60 leaders in 28 states, Outdoor Afro connects thousands of people to outdoor experiences, who are changing the face of conservation. For more information, visit www.outdoorafro.com.
About the Sierra Club
The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 3 million members and supporters. In addition to helping people from all backgrounds explore nature and our outdoor heritage, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit www.sierraclub.org.

REI Outessa Rocks for Women

Rue with Angela from KEENRue with Angela from KEEN

It’s been a week since I had the chance to visit Kirkwood, California at the Outessa event, hosted by Outdoor Afro partner REI. In collaboration with several outdoor brands, this was a curated weekend of activities geared toward women of all abilities in California’s beautiful Sierras. After a scenic beautiful drive several hours from my home in Oakland, I was glad to arrive and represent KEEN footwear as a KEEN ambassador and to present on the topic of getting kids outdoors.
From morning to night in the Outessa village there were delicious, and healthy meal options served family style. And over meals I had the chance to make connections with women who trekked from far and wide (the farthest participant I met was from Mexico City) to find encouragement and inspiration to try as many outdoor activities possible.

Activities began early with 6AM sunrise yoga, an inspirational talk over a delicious breakfast, and then participants could head out to take on an outdoor adventure. Outessa women could choose mountain biking, hiking, camping, climbing, stand-up paddle boarding and many more courses organized throughout the day. The KEEN booth was a popular gathering place where participants could “check out” a pair of Terradora shoes to scramble trails for the day.
Many participants had never tried outdoor activities like those hosted at Outessa, while many more were intrepid adventure travelers, ultra marathoners, triathletes, and more.

Trying on KEEN shoesTrying on KEEN shoes

Outdoor brands showed in up in force, providing lectures such as fellow  KEEN ambassador and environmental leader Meg Haywood Sullivan on stewardship, to workshops teaching skills like how to build a fire using simple tools, cook outside using cast iron, hydration strategies, or even learning to hula!

Unwinding after an incredible dayUnwinding after an incredible day

Just before departing on Sunday, I slipped on my KEEN Whispers and managed to squeeze in a delightful morning kayaking trip with about a dozen women. A courtesy shuttle delivered us to our launch site at nearby Silver Lake, where helpful REI Outdoor School instructors taught us some great stroke techniques that had everyone gliding over the calm glassy lake under the mountains with ease.
For me, the sold out women-focused weekend was unlike anything I have ever experienced. It was well organized with the highest quality of support and outdoor leadership, making it so easy to feel confident, find camaraderie, and give oneself over to simply being #SweatyDirtyHappy.

Rue with Angelou, CEO of Greening Youth FoundationRue with Angelou, CEO of Greening Youth Foundation

I highly recommend an Outessa weekend!
I’m grateful for the vision to create an experience that welcomes more people into outdoor experiences, and I hope that my fellow Outessa alums join me in spreading a love of adventure in the outdoors wherever they go!
For more information about Outessa, visit REI or click here.