Wenatchee Latino Population Encouraged To Hike Outdoors For Health

Jun 13, 2014

Doctors in Wenatchee have been passing out some unusual prescriptions lately – not pills, but mountain hikes. It’s called the Foothills Hiking Challenge. Correspondent Anna King reports.

It might sound strange to people who get REI’s catalog dumped through their mail slot, but many people just don’t know what to do with the outdoors: What shoes to wear, where to go, what to bring, how to pack it out and how to avoid ticks and snakes.

Kimberly Carrillo and her friend Lily Esuivel were headed down Saddle Rock near Wenatchee. Carrillo says she’s been up on this trail many times, but this is Esuivel’s first time. Wentachee agencies have launched a campaign to get more Latino, low-income and children hiking on nearby trails here.
Credit Anna King / Northwest News Network

Anna King: “Oh, so this is the trailhead here?”

Mendez: “This is it.”

Marlen Mendez is taking me through a trail into the deep woods. It’s hard to believe we’re just steps away from a row of suburban homes in Wenatchee.

Mendez: “This is one of the most widely used trails in the Wenatchee Valley, and it’s called Saddle Rock.”

Mendez is an outreach manager for Columbia Valley Community Health. The health center provides care to everyone, but particularly underserved and underinsured populations like migrant farmworkers. She says a large percentage of the center’s clientele is Latino. This demographic is especially vulnerable to diabetes and obesity. Diet and exercise can help. Mendez says, that’s why the docs here are busting out prescriptions for mountain hikes.

Mendez: “It’s just getting that awareness out, that you can exercise, its free and it’s right in your backyard.”

The program is now in its second year. And Mendez says they are already seeing changes on the trails.

Mendez: “You definitely see a lot more younger families using the trails. Today, a lot more Latino families that are out there. Hiking is a family sort of thing to do.”

In fact, as we huff up a steep grade – two young Latina women skitter their way down.

Kimberly Carrillo is 19.

Carrillo: “I like coming up here. This is my first time this year, but I’ve came a lot of times.”

But for her friend Lily Esuivel -- it’s a first. She looks a bit out of breath …

Esuivel: “It’s tiring, but it’s good, a good workout.”

Moments later, Bob Bugert walks up the trail to meet us under a scaly-barked pine. He heads the Chelan-Douglas Land Trust.

Bugert: “Well Anna, this is the culmination of many years of work by the Land Trust."

Bugert guided the nonprofit campaign to preserve these three-thousand acres of foothills right outside Wenatchee’s urban core. His group partnered with Columbia Valley Community Health to help get novice hikers out on the trails.

Bugert: “It’s folks that really don’t have the means to get out into the backcountry, they can get out into these areas. To be with nature to be with each other.”

Bugert’s dream is to secure enough wildland so that no matter where people live around Wenatchee -- they’ll be 10 minutes from home to trailhead. And he’s welcoming the next series of hikes for health. That starts in September and October. Doctors ready your pens.

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