Humbled by Nature

By Lauren Pacheco

On my first GCY trip, as we were going through a rapid in the snow on the Upper San Juan, I remember thinking how much I wanted to be at home under a blanket with my dog, but I pushed through the day. Looking back, those uncomfortable moments are perhaps my favorite, because I feel I have so much more respect for everything around me, and most importantly, myself.”

Last summer, on the Lower Colorado River, there was a big lightning storm. We sat on the rubber boats, listening to our guide, Maddie, read poetry between the loud screams of thunder. It was such a peaceful moment, despite all the energy in the sky. We were soaked from the rain, and nobody spoke except Maddie. We shared an energy I will never forget.


My most powerful connections to Earth happen when I am given the opportunity to row a boat. The water is so powerful, and when you enter the rapid, there is no going back. You have to go the way the water wants; otherwise it will rip the oar right out of your hand. I realize I can’t always be in control. I learn to focus on the present, and respect Earth’s movement. I gain confidence in myself when I come out the end of the rapid, when I am in harmony with the river instead of fighting against it.

Grand Canyon Youth participant rowing a boat
Lauren Pacheco takes the oars on the Colorado River. Inspired by her GCY experience, Lauren will be heading to Fort Lewis College this fall to study adventure education and environmental policy. Photo by Carla Roybal.

I think every young person deserves these types of experiences and the chance to grow in a way unique and empowering to them. 


My trips with GCY taught me my voice is needed in the Climate Justice movement. I need to protect these places that have been such a huge part of my life. In 2019, I found myself in charge of organizing the September 20 Climate Strike. After seeing the passion evoked in my peers, a group of friends and I created the Youth Climate Alliance (YCA) to share the youth voice and make more impact on climate policy. 


As president of YCA, as well as just existing as a youth in the 2020 climate crisis, I often find myself overwhelmed. One step outside —or ten days on the river — and I find myself even more stoked to vote, protest, get my peers stoked, and overall make solid change!

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