Benita Hogue

1. Where can people follow you online, and who are your followers?

My Instagram handle is @capturing_the_outdoors. It’s where I post pictures of all my outdoor adventures (mostly hiking), and most of which are here within Arizona. My followers include but are not limited to fellow outdoor adventurers, as well as others who are just beginning their outdoor adventure journey.

2. How long have you been actively using social media to share content? 

I’ve been sharing photos of my outdoor adventures on Instagram for about 2.5 years.

3. What led you to begin using social media as a platform and how do your outdoor adventures fit that platform?

Besides nature, my biggest loves are photography, quotes, and writing. My passion for photography began at a young age when my dad gave me my first camera and showed me how to use it. From that point, I enjoyed taking pictures of landscapes, animals and people. My photography then eventually evolved into taking mainly outdoor photos. I loved capturing the various degrees of light and shadow and also enjoyed taking photos of my friends in the outdoors as well. Instagram began as my way of preserving online a “digital album” of my outdoor adventures so that I could look back on the amazing places I had been and relive the incredible experiences through my photos. I also love quotes so I would find a quote that spoke to me and match it with my photos. Hence, the name “capturing_the_outdoors” because the quotes captured that particular moment, that was caught on camera, perfectly. At first, I just matched up my photos with the quotes and posted them but as I gained more followers and met more friends online, I realized that writing about some of my experiences while out on the trail helped others get to know me a bit better and I also found that others related as well. It’s moments like those that helped to create a true connection with others. I will always be grateful for the incredibly amazing hiking community that I’ve found through social media. I’ve been blessed beyond measure to have connected with and found so many good friends to go on adventures with and keep in touch with through social media. Many have become family and all have made my life richer by being in it. If it wasn’t for social media, I don’t know if I would have met such amazing people who share a love of the outdoors. It’s another reason why I am grateful for the trails, the preserves, the forests, the deserts and the National Parks that allow us to explore and be outside.

I mostly go hiking but have been adding other outdoor activities because I enjoy the physical challenge and learning new things. Hopefully I can encourage others as well to not be afraid to try new things. Other accounts I follow have inspired me to do new things and I hope to do the same for others as well.

One other aspect of my platform is receiving messages from others who tell me how much they’ve come to appreciate the diversity and beauty that Arizona offers because of the photos I share. I’m humbled by their kind words because it’s a good start to helping others become good stewards of this beautiful state as well.

4. What does nature and the outdoors mean to you?

Everything ❤. Each weekend I come to appreciate more and more the places that I get to see and experience while doing these outdoor activities. Whether it’s sitting next to a stream listening to the water from the river as it flows over the rocks, standing right next to a raging waterfall, the accomplishment I feel when standing on top of a mountain, standing in awe and wonder at tall canyon walls that surround me or being grateful that I get to spend more time among Arizona’s majestic Saguaros, it’s like coming back home and I feel a deeper connection to the world around me. It’s why I’m so addicted to hiking and why it’s a huge part of my life. It’s in this moment that I’m unplugged from any chaos that may be happening in my life or in the world around me. Here in these moments, it’s just me and nature, my best friend. I have gotten home late from many long hikes bone tired but I’m grateful for those moments because for me it means I’m living my own life as best I can and so far it’s been a fulfilling one. I’m also grateful for the outdoors because it has always been my refuge that has gotten me through some of the most difficult parts of my life, including the loss of both parents. Spending time outdoors allows me to connect with my mom and dad and feel their presence, and nature has become such a huge part of who I am. 

5. How do you think social media and other communications can influence a good stewardship of the outdoors?

Social media has had a bad reputation for leading to the degradation and overcrowding of the trails and the outdoors. But, social media can also be a force for good as well. By posting pictures on social media, we’re inspiring others to experience the outdoors. As more people learn about and become interested in exploring the incredibly amazing preserves, forests, deserts and National Parks, my biggest hope is that others who get to experience these wonderful places for themselves will see what I see every weekend…how special and magical these wild places are…and that they will care about keeping the trails clean and practice responsible enjoyment of the outdoors. A good example of responsible enjoyment is leaving a place better than they found it (I try to pack an extra trash bag and gloves in my pack to pick up trash). I was inspired by friends I hike with who did this on a regular basis. It’s a small act but many small acts make a huge difference for our planet.

Social media can become a voice to advocate for the preservation of these precious resources that are there for us to enjoy. By posting pictures of outdoor volunteer opportunities I’ve been involved in and providing information regarding how others can get involved, I can inspire others to volunteer at their local trails, preserves, deserts, forests or National Parks as well. 

Social media is also a good opportunity to educate others about the history of a preserve, desert, local trail or National Park, its history and why it’s so special, any rules that need to be followed when visiting these places (e.g. parking, day use permits or camping fees, hours of operation, etc) and a reminder about “Leave No Trace” ethics. I’ve been hiking for many years but it’s still always good to have the reminders.

6. What else do you think you want people to know about you?

I love to volunteer just as much as I love being outdoors. Any opportunity I get to do some good in my community, I jump right in to help. In the past I’ve volunteered at a homeless shelter to sort through donations, volunteered at my local food bank to pack food and have also volunteered at clean up events at local trails, and through CAZCA we, as Sonoran Insiders, had the incredible opportunity to work alongside some amazing organizations to help with the Salt River restoration project.

Along the same lines of volunteering I’ve been an admin and hiking leader with a women’s Facebook hiking group called “Girl Take A Hike” for almost 2 years now. I was floored when I was asked to be an admin and I accepted right away because it was an amazing opportunity to meet other hikers and be active within the hiking community. I’ve also had the privilege of leading a few hikes over the years. As admins we organize hikes for each Sunday. We also organize local volunteer activities that relate to the outdoors as well. Our motto is, “No one gets left behind”. We always try to make sure an admin is towards the back to make sure no one gets left behind. We always try to be all-inclusive for all levels of hikers so each month we’ll include trails labeled as easy, moderate and difficult. Over the years I’ve seen some of the girls, many who I’ve become friends with, grow on so many levels. They’ve learned how to navigate the trails, learned what essential equipment they need to bring when hiking, learned more about hiking safety and also just had fun getting to know other hikers. I’ve done some of my hardest hikes with these girls. The experiences and memories we’ve shared while on the trails is priceless and I’ve learned so much from them that’s helped me grow as a hiker as well. Many of the girls in the group have become my family. It comes back to the hiking community and how much you relate to others who love the outdoors just as much as you do, which creates the foundation for building incredible friendships that will last a lifetime.