Nonprofit Spotlight: Preserving the Arizona Trail

Image credit: Grand Canyon National Geographic Visitor Center


Moving to Arizona has been an adventure much bigger than I could have ever imagined. Since I spent most of my life living in predominantly green areas near the Atlantic Ocean, moving to a landlocked state out west was a great opportunity to see/do/explore a completely different landscape.

WHAT AN UNDERSTATEMENT.

AZ Trail - Click to enlarge
Rocky deserts and cacti? Arizona's got it. Canyons galore? Yup. Mountains, waterfalls, lakes, pine trees, snow. Check. Many don't expect such diversity when they think of the Grand Canyon state. And that brings me to the Arizona Trail - an 800+ mile recreation trail from Mexico to Utah that connects mountain ranges, canyons (including the Grand Canyon), deserts, forests, wilderness areas, historic sites and communities. According to the AZtrail.org, you can find dayhikers, backpackers, equestrians, mountain bicyclists, runners, cross-country skiers, snowshoers, mule and llama packers on the trail at any given moment. How awesome is that?

Visiting the Grand Canyon with four-month-old bump, Oreo and lots of water


If you follow me on Instagram, you already know how thrilled I am about partnering with outdoors gear giant REI for their #letscamp summer campaign. Last week I had the chance to tour my local REI store and learned a lot about the co-op. For instance, did you know they rent out camping, backpacking, and snow gear, have a bike repair shop in-store, hold free classes including Camping & Backpacking Basics, and offer plenty of local outings and volunteering opportunities? 

Of all the company's green and community initiatives, the one that caught my attention the most was the REI Grant Program. I got to meet Bob Bruce, an REI sales manager and Steward for the Four Peaks Wilderness section of the Arizona Trail, who told me more about the program. He explained that in 2014 REI donated a total of $40,000 to keep our local trails and state parks in shape. The Arizona Trail Association (ATA) alone received $25,000 of combined grant from REI Paradise Valley, Tempe and Tucson to rehabilitate trail segments badly damaged by forest fires and a subsequent flood. 
"One of my favorite things about our grant program is that we not only donate money, but our staff is committed to putting in their personal time to support the areas we love," said Bruce. "Last year, REI employees put in 300 volunteer hours on our section of the Arizona Trail alone."
The ATA is a membership organization, seeking supporters of the Trail, coordinating volunteers, and providing other essential services to the Arizona Trail Project. Since 2003, the ATA has received 12 REI grants in support of the Arizona National Scenic Trail. According to their website, volunteers with all levels of skills and abilities are needed to help with kiosk installation, directional and interpretive signage installation, trail maintenance, clean up, gate installation and trail crew support.

Image credit: REI
Volunteering is a great way to get outdoors, learn, make some friends, and help preserve some of the most humbling and awe-inspiring natural treasures in the country. If you are interested in volunteering, contact your local REI for more information.

Ps. Stay tuned for a sweet REI giveaway at the end of the month! (In partnership with REI. #sponsored)

Have you ever visited the Grand Canyon or other parts of the Arizona Scenic Trail?

The Selim Family Raasta

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About the Writer

I'm Louise, a Tampa Bay based Brazilian-American travel blogger. Join us as we learn and share the ins-and-outs of traveling with a toddler and our sweet rescue pup Oreo, while promoting local nonprofits and wellness along the way.