By Angelique Vasquez
Founder, Girls Who Hike FL
I was a tomboy growing up in San Diego, it was a time when children spent their majority of the day outside riding bikes and climbing trees. I remember playing games with my cousin Nicole. We loved things like making pretend soap from plants to wash out hands and saving the seeds from our fruit because we were going to grow our own trees so we could always have food. There were apple, kumquat, lemon, and orange trees everywhere in our neighborhood and we’d sometimes eat until we were sick on our stomachs. Our family road trips consisted of hanging out at the beach and piling up into a car and driving along interstate 5. We’d stop on the side of the highway and pick oranges from the orchards that lined the interstate, such a carefree life.
As I grew older I strayed away from thinking about those times. I lost touch with nature and how important it was for my well being and the necessity of peace. It wasn’t until 2012 that it was rediscovered after moving to Las Vegas. I like many others worked on the Vegas strip. I felt so claustrophobic because I didn’t smoke, drink, or gamble. I decided to rent a car and drive to Red Rock Canyon with my dogs LiLi and Peter Parker. This quickly became our place of happiness, hiking in the mountains. I found such peace there and it brought back memories of the freedom I had as a child. Hiking became my obsession! I moved back to Florida a few years later and wanted to continue hiking so I started a coed meetup group. Here is where I learned about the different ecosystems and waterways of Florida. I also noticed there were not a lot of women hiking together on the trails here in Florida and so I formed the meetup group Girls Who Hike FL.
We have become a movement that has brought likeminded women together from different ethnicities and backgrounds. Girls Who Hike FL has made a commitment to not only provide women with a safe space for female hikers but also to our communities here in Florida. We are dedicated to helping others learn about Florida conservation, our native ecosystems, and the preservation of green spaces. We achieve this by educating our members on ways they can improve the way they hike and adventure.
Florida is such an eco-rich state filled with amazing places to visit. The sad thing is many people do not respect its beauty. We are losing ground literally against developers and it’s crucial for our outdoor communities to stand together and fight for the future of our lands. Girls Who Hike FL wants to make sure our trails and waterways remain for future generations. This is why I created the group. I believe there is hope as long as there are people who care. I feel through dedication, education, solidarity and voting we can keep Florida wild.