PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif. (March 1, 2022) – The Hot Chocolate Hike at the Presidio of Monterey on Feb. 26 highlighted how the installation’s Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation supports the well-being of the community.
“It’s all about fitness, fun, friendship and food,” said Nicole Dansby, hike organizer and manager of the directorate’s Price Fitness Center. “We’re getting our families and our service members out there. They’re going to go on a nice 2.1-mile hike, come back and enjoy some nice hot chocolate and s’mores and just relax.”
The support didn’t stop there, however. Personnel set up games for participants to play on Price Field and staffed informational booths to let people know about FMWR’s Army Community Service, Child and Youth Services, Youth Sports and more. Meanwhile, volunteers from Better Opportunities for Single Service Members, which also falls under the directorate, sold refreshments and directed hikers on the course.
Col. Varman Chhoeung, commander of U.S. Army Garrison Presidio of Monterey, kicked off the hike by informing participants of FMWR initiatives and encouraged everyone to visit the ACS table to learn more about donating to Army Emergency Relief, a nonprofit that has helped Soldiers with financial emergencies and more since 1942.
“When you think of DFMWR you think of the gym and you think of Outdoor Rec, but there’s a lot more to what the MWR team does,” Chhoeung said.
About 100 hikers registered for the free hike, which included two 2.1-mile routes through the Huckleberry Hill Nature Preserve. One route was a steeper challenge course, and the other was an easier family route. The preserve is normally only open through the City of Monterey’s Veterans Park, but installation officials opened a gate on the installation to provide access from PoM.
Hikers included a mix of service members from the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center on PoM and the Naval Post Graduate School in Monterey, family members and civilian personnel. Chhoeung and Command Sgt. Maj. Joe Traylor, USAG PoM senior enlisted advisor, hiked the course together, as did Lt. Col. Matthew Upperman, commander of the 229th Military Intelligence Battalion, and Command Sgt. Maj. Lourdes Barragan, the battalion’s senior enlisted advisor.
Organizers started groups of hikers in waves to reduce congestion on the trails, and the first wave consisted of a group of eight language students from the Army, Navy and Air Force.
One of them, Seaman Apprentice Riley Ridep, assigned to the Navy’s Information Warfare Training Command, said many in the group decided to participate after hearing about it through a BOSS representative.
Ridep said he loves hiking and especially enjoyed hiking in the nature preserve, partially because it reminded him of home in Virginia. “It’s pretty similar to the Appalachian Mountains,” he said.
In another group, Spc. Nafisa Kabir, assigned to the 229th MI Bn., completed the challenge route with her husband, friends, and 3-month-old cat Princess Fiona, who rode in a special see-through backpack with large holes for ventilation.
“The hot chocolate enticed me for sure,” Kabir said. “My friends are here, my husband’s here, so it’s a fun outing. It was steeper than I expected it to be, but it’s fun and the weather is really nice today too.”
Seaman Joel Anderson, BOSS president at PoM, said about 15 BOSS volunteers helped with concessions and directing hikers on the course. They brought the organization’s fire pit to the concession stand to make sure the marshmallows for the s’mores were fire-roasted and fresh, he said.
The concession stand proceeds supported the BOSS program, Anderson said, and he appreciated all the organization’s hardworking volunteers.