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Meet Dani! Mountain athlete, climate advocate, storyteller, and Trail Butter Pro!

Hey fam!! I’m Dani Reyes-Acosta (@NotLostJustDiscovering)—mountain athlete, climate justice advocate, strategist, storyteller, and Trail Butter Pro. I'm being featured here on Trail Talk to share the meaning of collective communion in nature—and how self-care through outdoor recreation can be a path to healing, growth, and so much more.

Dani Reyes-Acosta scambles downhill on slate mountainside, in a type of running also known as "scree skiing."

Originally from Southern California, I've traveled through Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Peru, Andorra, Canada, and the USA building my mountain craft and nontraditional career as part of a bigger life reset I made in 2014 (when I graduated from corporate life and departed the USA with a one-way ticket to South America).

So first, what is collective communion in the outdoors? 

To understand this idea, first we have to wrap our arms around interdependence, a balance of both self and others' needs. Interdependent relationships—between humans, animals, plants, and even non-living beings—hold reciprocity at their core: one being needs the other to survive and thrive.

Let's dive into a common form of relationality and interdependence most of us will recognize: partner dynamics!

When the Trail Butter team hooked me up with legend @DanPatitucci, I didn't imagine in my wildest dreams that I'd get to go on the amazing alpine adventure he (and the rest of his team) planned out. 

As part of a broader effort between he, @janinepatitucci @kimberly.strom (pictured) and @hjordosrz , the crew scouted trails in California's famed Eastern Sierra that'll test runners' legs as much as their stomachs' strength. 

Two women run along an alpine mountain ridge in the Sierra Nevada, traditional lands of the Numu and Monache people.

On this day, I felt incredibly lucky to spend a full-value day with such kind, talented, and wholehearted mountain lovers. This day was definitely one of my favorites of this past summer: it's not often one gets to travel in the backcountry with such communicative individuals.

As we pounded through the miles up and down Mt. Dana and neighboring Mt Gibbs, I realized: this open communication, honest assessment of the conditions, and awareness of the objective hazards at hand were exactly what I seek in a big day out. 

Relationality reminds me: walking away from this day with a ridiculous grin on my face, it had felt just as good scrambling up Gibbs' chossy peak as it had snarfing fish tacos for precisely one reason: we'd all led with our strengths as much as our vulnerabilities. This was holding space. This is community. 

My partners on this day gave me an incredible gift: in sharing a piece of themselves, out here in these wide open spaces, I'd found the freedom to fly….

Erm, scree ski?! JK, same same, but really: confidence and connectedness were what this day was all about, and I can't wait to share more moments.

Latina AAPI athlete snowboards through a burned forest, remnants of human impact.

We've been talking about relationality and our connection to the world around us—which for so many of us is based upon our understanding of trip plans and their impacts (ie. landscape, weather, topography) or the partners we adventure with...right?

On this day, skiing through the remnants of a forest fire, aka "a burn" I couldn't help but think about the way this forest used to look, the animals that used to live here.

As we'd toured uphill, the creaking carcasses of trees whined and whistled: it was as if they knew we were there. As if they knew people had returned to do...something...as they had so many years before, the day that forest changed forever.

That day with the @outlierfilmseries crew, our conversations centered identity—who we are in the world, and who we wanted to be. Trees, silent, listened.

Finding the lines we wanted to ski, the sun popped through dawn clouds to greet us: it was time. The forest opened to show us a path. And yipping, we slid through snowy channels meant for each one of us. I sighed: the satisfaction was real.

Collective communion isn't just a celebration of who we are or where we're going—its a way for us to take in our surroundings and think about what we need to do better. It challenges us to question:

"How am I showing up for myself, my community, and this beautiful world around me?"

And ultimately, collective communion is a way to lean in to every aspect of our experiences in the outdoor, celebrating and sharing along the way.

On the tail end of the West's worst fire season yet, I'm not just praying for snow: I'm also looking for this communion, for a community that cares, because #ClimateChange isn't going away.

Whew.

And with that, my time here is done! Join me on my page, @NotLostJustDiscovering , where we'll continue the conversation. It's gonna be good, and I'd be honored if you chimed in! 

Final Photo by @Sofia_Jaramillo5 for @OutlierFilmSeries (whose trailer drops this fall 🎉)

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