Meet the AppreciateAZ Ambassadors

We tapped a group of like-minded adventurers to help us advocate for a good cause. Each of our ambassadors brings a unique perspective on why it’s important to preserve Arizona’s timeless destinations and how you can help.


Christina, Hikersledge

Born in the White Mountains of Arizona, Christina Rico grew up fishing, hiking, and exploring the small town of Pinetop. She’s always appreciated the great outdoors and the benefits being in nature brings to life. That’s why she created @hikersledge with content covering all things travel and outdoors, from new destinations and local treasures to how to travel and live more sustainably. Her goal? To inspire people of all abilities and backgrounds to get outside and explore the world.

Central to Christina’s approach is making sure people adhere to Appreciate AZ’s Principle No 1: Plan Ahead and Prepare. “Arizona is unique because the mornings in the desert can start out perfectly cool, and within a few hours, it can be scorching hot. In the mountains, mornings can be clear and breezy, and afternoon monsoons can strike suddenly.”

She urges visitors to bring physical maps and/or download trail maps for offline use, research the area and trails, pack extra food and lots of water, and assess their physical abilities before embarking on a new trail. Her biggest advice: Failure to plan ahead can mean the unnecessary usage of natural resources or an avoidable experience.


Lauren & Owen, AZHikeaholics

Dating explorers with a strong passion and care for the environment, Lauren & Owen showcase their Arizona adventures @theazhikeaholics when they aren't working their 9-5's. The goal? Encourage people to get outdoors and teach them how to care for the beautiful surroundings they encounter.

Originally from Ohio, Lauren didn’t grow up spending as much time exploring the great outdoors. “The concept of Leave No Trace was new to me,” she says, “as it is for a lot of people.” But that hasn’t stopped her from learning. Lauren has done a lot of research and learned so much about the impacts, intentional or not, that people make while exploring the outdoors.

Owen grew up right here in Arizona, often camping and exploring the state with his family. And while those memories created a strong foundation for his love of the Grand Canyon state, it was returning here after college that solidified Owen’s appreciation for Arizona’s beauty and geological and biological diversity.

Lauren’s quick tips to uphold Principle No. 3 Trash Your Trash:

  • Try to avoid bringing plastic water bottles on the trail. Use either a reusable water bottle or a reservoir.
  • Bring reusable bags to hold your trash while you’re on the trail – and use them to gather any other trash you might see.
  • Consider using a reusable cloth instead of tissues, as tissues are often discarded on the trails.

The AZHikeaholics steps to plan ahead, each and every time:

  • We start with maps and the weather forecast, download trails and areas to our phones for offline use, and bring a paper map if we have one.
  • We always bring plenty of water and try to use reusable bags for snacks or put our wrappers in our packs.
  • We always check fire restrictions before camping and make sure to drown out our fires when we’re ready to leave.

Heidi and Zander, Patagonia Lumber Co.

Patagonia Lumber Co.’s (@patagonialumberco) founders Heidi and Zander Ault can trace their love of the great outdoors all the way back to their childhoods. “Our parents valued the impact the outdoor classroom provided, and it turned out that both of us learned better by being consumed by nature, rather than being confined in a classroom,” shared Heidi.

The need for an alternative learning atmosphere led both Heidi and Zander to programs such as the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). These foundational learning experiences carved the way for careers as professional cycling guides and as living ambassadors for the ethics of Leave No Trace.“

We feel most associated to Principle No. 2: Stick to the Trail,” said Zander. “It seems simple, but it's easy to wander off, creating a means for others to follow which impacts that immediate environment in a negative way.” The pair notes that trail development isn't an easy project. “It takes a lot of time and work on behalf of many private and public entities to establish trail networks our communities thrive on. Stay on the trail!”

You can catch Heidi and Zander doing big things in the small southwestern town of Patagonia. The Gravel House (@thegravelhouse) is another project they pour their passion into for the endurance cyclist community.


Katie Pollack (and her pups)

Katie Pollack’s love of the great outdoors first clicked during a summer internship where she worked at an outdoor camp teaching basic survival skills and outdoor recreation skills to children with ADHD and Asperger’s. Now, when Pollack isn’t working as a Volunteer Coordinator for Future for Kids, you’ll find her climbing rocks, hiking, paddle boarding, or backpacking with her dogs on @trustyourtrail.

Principle No. 3: Trash Your Trash stands out as particularly important – and relevant – to Pollack. “I am passionate about keeping our spaces wild, natural, and clear of human debris,” she said. Pollack always packs out her trash and often the trash of others. “I do what I can to make sure my surroundings – the wildlife, the history, the flora, and the fauna – are preserved and left as is. I try to make mine and my dogs’ impact as minimal as possible.”

We asked Pollack what’s one thing she wished more people understood about Arizona’s great outdoors. Here’s what she shared. “I wish people understood the diversity of the outdoors in Arizona…from the driest of deserts to red rocks, to sacred lands, to phenomenal forests. All of which need to be protected in their own unique ways.”

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Cities & Regions

From the abundance of Saguaro cactuses and unique wildlife in the Sonoran Desert to the high country and forests of the White Mountains to the breathtaking Grand Canyon, Arizona’s regions are full of experiences that don’t disappoint.