For this month’s Community Spotlight Blog, we met Kerri Hooper and her daughter, Kaila, at Granada Park in Phoenix, Arizona (because Saturday mornings at Echo Canyon can get busy!) Kerri is the Facilities Coordinator for Northern Arizona University and an avid hiker
One of the greatest strengths of our Camelback Community is our combined Culture… the coming together of so many varied and different beings; all bound by our desire to witness beauty, go further, be better and make it to the top! Kerri and Kaila embody these strengths
A Native American, of Navajos and Cherokee descent, Kerri was born on a reservation north of Phoenix. Her family moved to Phoenix, near Camelback Mountain, when she was kindergarten age. Long before Echo Canyon became as popular as it is today, she played on the trails and at the trail head. Her father enjoyed doing the Camelback yo-yo (starting at one end, going over the summit to the other end and back). During these times Kerri’s Aunt would watch her and her cousins play among the red rocks, creating cities with cars and Barbies. Truly enviable childhood memories!
Kerri grew up, her interest led her away from Camelback and hiking. She married her husband, Mike, and they began a family. Then, about 9 years ago, she was inspired to hike CB again! Even though her first ascent didn’t lead to a personal record, she did get a taste again for the Mountain, Culture and Community. On this first hike back, Kerri got lost going to the peak; fortunately, she met another lost hiker and they journeyed back on the summit trail together. It took 2 to 3 hours, but she made it and she was hooked!
Kerri knew she had to introduce the joy of hiking to her oldest daughter, Kaila. Kaila’s father is Thai and Cambodian; this blended with her mother’s Native American culture and genetics has created capable, courageous and beautiful offspring. Talk about mixing it up! Now, at 14, Kaila has been hiking since age 6. She loves it so much that she even chose to begin her birthday celebrations on the summit! Who doesn’t want cupcakes at the top? But even without cupcakes, the view is sweetness enough for Kaila, “My favorite thing about hiking Camelback is the view, by far!”
Kaila believes hiking adds a uniqueness to her life that many kids her age don’t get to experience. She enjoys sharing her adventures at school with fellow hikers, like teacher Mr. Lilly, and to hopefully inspire more peers. A real confidence booster and great exercise, she recommends it to other youth and young kids. Kaila encourages kids to get outside and share with others through hiking and nature. Her advice to those just starting is to “power through” and have someone with you to encourage you to go all the way; like her mother does for her. Of course, her mom also recommends lots of water, snacks and cookies, to sweeten the rise
When asked what her favorite thing is about hiking Camelback Mountain, Kerri doesn’t hesitate: the sunrises. “That’s why I hike… I like to chase the sun and try to beat it before it actually comes up,” she says with a satisfied smile. She admits to having bad days, like all of us. Days where she thinks she’ll just go half way… but then the endorphins kick in and she can’t help but go all the way to the top!
The Hooper family tries to make sure they summit CB at least once a month along with other trails around Arizona. Their hikes are opportunities for bonding and teaches them all how to persevere together. Both mother and daughter recount, with large grins, a hike along Wet Beaver Creek after a hot afternoon at the swimming hole… all was not going smoothly. Their dog had been swimming in the water for so long that its pads were soft and it was unable to walk. Kerri was carrying the dog on her back and having to stop more often. Distracted caring for the family pet, she failed to notice a cactus before she knelt to give the dog some water and sat right on it! Not to be broken down by this occasion, the family dissolved into laughter. “It really broke the ice… everybody was just laughing,” chuckles Kerri. Way to find the fun in the challenge of life Hooper Family!
So what does Camelback Culture mean to someone so closely connected to the Mountain? Community, is her answer. Theres “definitely a lot of love on the trails out there,” Kerri says smiling. Its about regulars and newbies cheering each other on. She sums up the Culture talking about our shared experience: when you crest that final rise to the summit and see everybody standing there, taking in the view. “That moment… it's amazing. Everyone’s having that same feeling at the top”
Kerri loves to take her children up Camelback and witness them enjoy it as well. Another generation growing up in the Culture, adding to the Culture. Both mother and daughter would like to remind us to care for the trails we love. They volunteer with @KeepNatureWild to clean the trails, picking up trash. It’s important for us all to do our part to keep the parks clean; especially during the government shutdowns.
Camelback Culture would like to thank these two inspirational ladies for sharing with the Community. You can watch the full interview here
Photos provided by @featherednotdot
Wishing each and everyone of you a Super day! Check back by for future Camelback Culture Community Spotlight Blog posts and follow us on Instagram or Facebook for more Culture - Clothes - Community
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