Exploring the Outdoors with Elisa Lopez
Elisa Lopez leads bilingual snowshoeing and hiking trips as project director at Team Naturaleza, a Wenatchee organization connecting diverse communities to trails and wildlands in Washington’s Central Valley.
Her love of being outside stems from her upbringing surrounded by Wenatchee orchards. Now Lopez welcomes families like her own to public lands to encourage outdoors experiences, appreciation and conservation.
“A lot of the families that we work with are agricultural workers, so they know the outdoors, but … it’s new scenery. It’s the pine trees, it’s the shrub-steppe,” she says. “They say, ‘Wow, I’ve lived here 20, 30 years and this is my first time here.’”
Because of COVID-19, please take recommended safety precautions if you are planning a future trip, and always check the availability of services, events, amenities and other details before you go.
Where would you take someone for a winter outing?
“My favorite place for snowshoeing is on the grounds of the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery. It’s flat and you get these amazing views of mountains covered in pine trees, and the Icicle River flows through there. You’re going to see wildlife and tons of birds. I think that’s the best snowshoeing trail for families.”
What’s something special you’ve seen there?
“The snowshoe hare is almost like a mythological creature because they’re so hard to see in the winter. We saw just the little pink inside their ears and their little black, beady eyes.”
Where are your favorite Wenatchee-area hikes?
“The Jacobson Preserve Trail — that belongs to the Chelan-Douglas Land Trust — and Clara and Marion lakes are our go-tos. They’re local, everyone can drive to them, they’re not bumpy roads, so they’re super-accessible, they’re family safe and they’re both 3 miles long. At the Clara Lake and Marion Lake hike there is a mammal called the pika, a little round fluffball with perfect, circular ears. There are not very many populations of them left in Washington. The most accessible trail is the Apple Capital Recreation Loop Trail. It’s a paved trail but it takes you through parks and right next to the river.”
What do you love about the shrub-steppe?
“It has a lot of color during the spring when everything is blossoming. You’ll get small shrubs and tall grasses, and also the big shrubs. The big sagebrush in early summer has a minty smell, so if you’re a fan of mint or natural scents or incense, you’re going to love hiking through this.”
Where should we plan to go this spring?
“The Chelan-Douglas Land Trust Sage Hills Trails are really good for late spring/early summer when balsamroot blooms. It’s kind of our precious, iconic Wenatchee plant. The Icicle Gorge Loop in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest is beautiful, easy and rewarding. Silver Falls in Entiat is a beautiful waterfall. When everything’s melting, that’s when it’s really rushing down.”
Before You Go
Lopez recommends having a backup hike in case the trailhead parking is full at your first choice, and to research your hike and check trail conditions through resources such as the Washington Trails Association, Wenatchee Outdoors, TREAD Map and AllTrails. Always practice “Leave No Trace” principles when enjoying the outdoors.
– Written by Maria Dolan
– Top photo courtesy of Elisa Lopez
This story originally appeared in the January/February 2021 edition of the AAA Washington member magazine, Journey.