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Rue Mapp Blogs About KOA Kamping Experience

April 25, 2012 by · Comments Off on Rue Mapp Blogs About KOA Kamping Experience 

Rue Mapp with children

Editor’s Note: Oakland, Calif., resident Rue Mapp founded OutdoorAfro.com to promote camping among African-Americans. She maintains a website and posts stories about her camping adventures. Here is the introduction to her latest post.

Awesome! Fabulous! Wonderful!

These are some of the words that come to mind after such a terrific weekend at California’s Central Coast near Santa Cruz camping with KOA with my Arwen and Billy, plus family friend Milan Martin. KOA is a private campground franchise with over 475 locations around the country. As part of our partnership with Camp California to demonstrate the various ways families can choose to camp, we decided to try a KOA for our third RV experience.

Unique about KOA are the many options to experience camping. You can sleep under the stars in a tent, pull up in an RV, or stay in a cabin or lodge. Some KOA sites offer novel arrangements such as the iconic Airstream, a Tree House or a Caboose! In addition to the sleeping options, there are many recreational activities available on site, such as swimming, mini golf, banana bikes, a climbing wall, playground, horseshoes, basketball, volleyball, and outdoor movies during peak season.

Click here to read the entire blog.

Rue Mapp on Camping: Best Way to Connect with Her Kids

February 28, 2012 by · Comments Off on Rue Mapp on Camping: Best Way to Connect with Her Kids 

Rue Mapp

Rue Mapp of Oakland, Calif., knows from personal experience that camping can be the most affordable way to spend a week or even a weekend away from home.

But that’s not why she does it, according to a news release.

“I do it because it’s the best way I’ve found to connect with my kids,” she said, adding, “When was the last time you had a conversation with your children that wasn’t interrupted by a phone call or text message?”

But by taking her children to remote places, often in areas with little or no cellphone coverage, Mapp finds she can hold lengthy conversations with her children without interruptions from text messages or phone calls.

And when she involves her children in outdoor activities, such as hiking or swimming or climbing over boulders, everyday tensions, worries about school or work, disappear, and family can connect with each in ways they can never achieve at home.

“Being in nature, we unplug,” Mapp says. “We’re able to connect and interact with each other in ways we don’t get to a chance to do in our busy, daily lives. We can take our time. We can watch a sunset together, we can feel the warmth of a campfire and share a sense of wonder with one another as we look at the night sky.”

Camping and being in nature is also a wonderful way to find peace.

“There’s nothing like sitting on the edge of a riverbank and listening to the sound of the water moving over the rocks,” Mapp said, “or hearing the wind blow through the trees while squirrels, birds and chipmunks come out to greet us.”

Mapp also finds that these precious moments of quality family time with her children or peace in nature are moments she can take back home with her after the camping trip has ended.

“I find that in my daily life, I can call up those images, those experiences of peace, and it can really help to inform my daily life in a very positive and calming way.”

Mapp’s best childhood memories, in fact, are camping trips. She still vividly remembers a leadership development camping trip she took 20-something years ago when she was a teenager.

“I felt this incredible feeling of independence,” she said. “It was the first time in my life that I could experience the world on my own terms. It helped give me a sense of who I am.”

Camping, of course, is also a gateway to many healthy outdoor activities that can help improve everyone’s health.

“We’re facing a crisis of diabetes, heart disease and obesity in this country, particularly in the African-American community,” Mapp said.

And while camping in itself won’t cure these ills, it is a powerful way for people to decompress and get in tune with their minds and bodies in ways they can never achieve back home.

“Camping, and all of the activities that go with it, is something you can never replicate in a gym,” Mapp said. “A treadmill or stairmaster is never going to be a replacement for a brisk hike and the benefits you get for your mind and body.

Camping and being in nature also tends to bring out the best in people, she said. “You go to any campground,” she said, “and it’s like going back in time. People are friendly. They talk to each other and interact with one another in ways they don’t do even in their own neighborhoods back home. You see random acts of kindness we don’t even see enough closer to home.”

Mapp remembers pulling into a campground late one night and having trouble getting her tent set up. “I’ll never forget, there was a couple that came out of their tent and helped us get our tent set up. They gave us a hand. That small act of kindness was such a neat experience.”

Camping, in sum, is not only a way to improve one’s health and family relationships. “It also can be a way to restore your faith in humanity,” Mapp said.

Click here to read an earlier story at www.woodallscm.com about Rue Mapp. Click here to access her blog.

Website Reconnects African-Americans to the Outdoors

July 26, 2011 by · Comments Off on Website Reconnects African-Americans to the Outdoors 

Rue Mapp, founder of OutdoorAfro.com

When was the last time you saw African-Americans hiking, skiing or camping in a tent or RV?

They are out there, but not in the numbers that reflect their presence in the U.S. population, according to a news release.

Why is that?

And how can involvement in outdoor activities enhance the lives of African-Americans?

These are some of the questions Rue Mapp of Oakland, Calif., is exploring through OutdoorAfro.com, a website she founded to reconnect African-Americans with the great outdoors.

OutdoorAfro.com is filled with stories, photos, event listings and other resources that educate, motivate and inspire African-Americans in the Bay Area and across the country to enjoy the Great Outdoors with their families, friends and with others they meet in this unique online community.

Here you’ll find photos, videos and blog postings of African-Africans who enjoy bicycling, hiking, camping, birdwatching and outdoor photography as well as skiing, rock climbing, whitewater rafting and scuba diving.

Read through the discussion groups, blog postings and event calendar and you’ll quickly discover there are many African-Americans across the country who are eager to interact in nature with other African Americans. The challenge, of course, is to find them. But that’s where OutdoorAfro.com can help.

Here you’ll meet people like Winston Walker, an African-American hiking enthusiast from Colorado who frequently leads hikes to scenic destinations across the country.

Or people like Clifton Sorrel, who writes a blog called “Trekking for Life.” Or people like Jeremy Thomas, an African-American bicycling enthusiast who teaches at an environmental school in Portland, Ore.

Some of OutdoorAfro members even exchange healthy recipes with one another and share photos, videos and descriptions of their trips to scenic destinations as diverse as Belize and Denali National Park in Alaska.

“We’re like a platform where people can be visible to each other,” Mapp said.

Indeed. Since it was founded two years ago, more than 7,000 African-Americans have become active members of OutdoorAfro.com, and the numbers are growing.

All of them are passionate about the outdoors and are eager to find other African Americans to enjoy activities with.

Various members and groups with organized activities are also posting information on the site, which is unique in helping African Americans find outdoor activities with other African-Americans.

“Many of them are just like me,” said Mapp, who grew up in Oakland but spent weekends with her foster parents on a ranch in Northern California where she cultivated a passion for natural spaces, farming and learned how to hunt and fish.

In her youth, Mapp was involved in Girl Scouts and Outward Bound, which broadened her outdoor experiences in camping, mountaineering, rock climbing and road bicycling. But while she always enjoyed these endeavors, she seldom saw other African-Americans participating in these kinds of activities, a cultural phenomenon that has troubled her to this day. “I didn’t see a lot of people who looked like me,” she said.

In fact, when a friend asked her a few years ago what she would do if she had all the money in the world, she said she would use social media to connect African-Americans to the Great Outdoors. And herein lay the roots of OutdoorAfro.com.

So how did African Americans lose their connection with the outdoors?

It’s a tough question, but Mapp is gradually finding some answers.

“African-Americans are not necessarily disconnected, but somehow we’ve lost touch with something that’s already a part of us,” she said. “Many of us have grown up or lived in close contact with the land, such as in food and farming activities. So a relationship with the land was a natural thing for us.”

The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association reached out to the nation's African-American population in recent advertising. The photo shoot is shown here.

Many African-Americans, however, have not developed an interest in outdoor recreation. There are several factors that contribute to this phenomenon.

“The biggest reason for non-engagement is time,” Mapp said. “People don’t have a good sense of how much or how little time is really required to enjoy outdoor recreational activities. But beyond this, African-Americans often don’t know what groups to join or how to find other African-Americans to enjoy these activities with.”

But by serving as a social networking site for African-Americans with an interest in the outdoors, OutdoorAfro.com can move and inspire people to get involved.

“It’s imperative, not merely for the sake of enjoying the beauty of nature, but for our own health,” Mapp said. “Right now, we’re facing 30% obesity among African-American youth. In Oakland, it’s closer to 50%. So we’re looking now at a generation with lower life expectancy than their parents because they’re starting off on the wrong foot.”

Mapp concedes that efforts to reconnect African-Americans with the Great Outdoors will take time. But the benefits will be worth the effort.

“In my lifetime,” she said, “I’d like to see African-Americans enjoying the outdoors freely without inhibition and without spectacle and to be able to do so in a way where it’s no big deal to see African-Americans involved in recreational activities outdoors.”

Mapp’s efforts are already starting to generate attention – both in government and in the business community.

Last year, President Obama invited Mapp to participate in the White House Conference on America’s Great Outdoors. She was subsequently invited to participate in a White House brainstorming session for Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign, offering her ideas and insights on ways to engage Americans to become more involved in outdoor recreation activities.

The California Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (CalARVC) has also taken an interest in Mapp’s efforts, and, working with Auburn-based American River Sales and Rentals, has arranged to provide her with a free teardrop trailer rental for a mid-August camping trip to Ponderosa Ranch RV Resort, a Thousand Trails park on the South Fork of the American River in the Sierra Nevada foothills.

Mapp, who is expected to visit Ponderosa Ranch RV Resort Aug. 12-14 with her three children, plans to share blog postings about the trip and will also be available for media interviews.

For more information on OutdoorAfro.com and on Mapp’s upcoming camping trips, please contact Rue Mapp at (510) 913-6100 or email her at rue@outdoorafro.com. For more information on the California Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds and its efforts to increase the levels of African American participation in camping and RVing, please contact Debbie Sipe at (530) 885-1624 or email her at Debbie@calarvc.com.

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