By Terry Owen,
Military Outings Program coordinator
The Sierra Club Military Outdoors Program wants you!
We’re seeking active-duty military, veterans and their families, friends and supporters to join us for outdoor adventures. The mission objectives are to offer participants new experiences, learning opportunities and challenges in a safe environment.
Program leaders Terry Owen and John Link are Navy and Air Force veterans, respectively. We recently led an introductory snowshoe hike in the Sandia Mountains on a sparkling winter day in February. For several participants it was the first time they’d ever been in the mountains, and for many it was the first time they’d donned a pair of snowshoes.
Safety comes first, so we spent time with the group going over safely traversing through the forest, conserving energy, and staying warm and dry. I always try to share a couple of new skills with participants and I’m always paid back with learning new skills from someone in the group — and it helps me grow also.
The participants got an early start on the 10K Trail, which undulates along the 10,000-foot contour of the mountain. After a two-hour trek, the group was rewarded with stunning views from the top of Sandia crest all the way to continental divide.
Countless studies have shown that time spent outdoors fosters mental and physical health and aids in emotional resiliency. For many vets it has eased the transition to civilian life. Many veterans and their families miss the bonds they felt in the military, and few civilian occupations offer the same sense of mission. It’s the most natural and effective form of healing that many vets have found.
“It’s amazing to watch the camaraderie that naturally develops with a group in the mountains,” Link noted. The Military Outdoors Program offers participants a chance to meet others who might be dealing with similar issues in a safe environment, while engaging in healthful activities.
The Military Outdoors Program has several outings coming up, including an Earth Day hike on April 22, and for those looking for a major challenge, a June 24 climb of one of Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks, where participants will have the opportunity to camp the night before. There are plans for handicap-accessible outings as well as some service opportunities such as trail maintenance and other ways to give back to the country that we proudly served.