ZUNI, NM (June 30, 2023) — The Zuni Youth Enrichment Project has announced the official kickoff of its 3rd annual Trail Stickers Scavenger Hunt, made possible by support from the New Mexico Department of Health Healthy Kids Healthy Communities and the Outdoor Equity Fund. On each of nine marked community trails, hikers will find a box containing limited-edition stickers that showcase custom artwork inspired by that particular trail.
Shelley Edaakie, the youth project’s office coordinator, created artwork for the first generation of stickers in 2021. Elroy Natachu Jr., ZYEP’s art coordinator, created the sticker artwork in 2022. This year, Zuni artist Alexis Hustito tackled the project.
“My initial thought was, ‘This is awesome, I fully support it, let’s go for it,’” Hustito said. “I have always been fond of community treasure hunts. I’ve been wanting to hide my stickers all over my community, and this is a great start. I love where I come from, and I use my art to stay connected. My mom and best friend were ecstatic when I was chosen. These designs were possible because of them.
“I’ve done a few projects for the community throughout the years, but I must say, this is the one I’m proudest of,” she continued. “This project reminded me that I am an artist. It’s a great feeling, knowing that people will be able to discover my art while they’re out exploring. ZYEP is doing amazing things, and I’m happy to just have a small part in it.”
According to ZYEP Operations Manager Josh Kudrna, the nonprofit youth organization started the trail stickers project in summer 2021 as a way to get families outside and doing something active together after the first difficult pandemic winter.
“We started with specific sport groups rather than the general public,” he explained. “The hybrid cross-country league had access first; the teams and coaches would stay with their specific pods and run the trails. Then the Running Medicine Zuni participants had access. That first year, we only promoted the scavenger hunt to those two groups.”
In 2022, ZYEP opened up the scavenger hunt to the general public. As they had done with the sport groups the previous year, staff included a trail booklet with each sticker box, inviting people to leave notes and drawings.
“It’s a challenge to find the boxes and collect all the stickers, and people really get into it,” Kudrna said. “I’ve seen a lot of chatter on social media, and I also hear about people’s experiences secondhand. The best feedback of all, however, has come from those booklets.”
People of all ages hike, run and bike the community trail system. Many of the comments reflect their pleasure in having new opportunities to get out in nature, exercise, take on new challenges, and spend time with family and friends.
“This was an empowering run for me personally,” said a Yuna:wik’o (Wolf) Trail runner. “I set this as my goal and achieved it. Saw it through.”
Another Wolf Trail user noted, “Finally found the box! My 4-year-old really wanted the wolf sticker. Thank you! Everyone, enjoy your walk.”
“Love this concept to encourage people to walk and heal,” noted a hiker on the Łaya:luk’o (Blue Bird) Trail, while another user added, “Thanks for the stickers — got us out for a family walk!”
“Love this encouragement to get out and walk/run,” said a trail user on the Donashi (Badger) Trail. Another user agreed, commenting, “Thank you for the motivation, ZYEP.”
“Definitely worth the run,” said a trail user on the K’ya’na (Ojo Caliente) Trail.
Some of the trail users used the booklets as opportunities to encourage others.
“Keep strong, you made it this far,” said a hiker on the Wolf Trail. “Now head back with the same energy.”
“Enjoy life today,” noted a trail user on the Badger Trail. “Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow may never come. Love one another.”
And, for some trail users, the intersection of outdoor recreation and art resonated deeply. A hiker on the Blue Bird Trail wrote, “Thanks for the sticker, and giving me the motivation to look for an awesome piece of art.”
A hiker on the Hokdi Dasha (Mountain Lion) Trail said simply, “What a hidden treasure.”
Due to enthusiastic turnout, ZYEP ran out of stickers quickly last summer, and the scavenger hunt ended after just one month. This year, Kudrna said he is hoping it will last eight or even 12 weeks.
“We’ll have 50 trail stickers in each of the nine boxes, as well as some assorted ZYEP stickers in case people want to collect them as well,” he said. “We’ll also check the boxes regularly, and we have 25 refill stickers per box that we can add as necessary.”
No registration is required to participate. To receive instructions for finding the stickers, simply send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or pick up a handout in person at ZYEP’s Ho’n A:wan Park at 13 Chimoni Drive in Zuni. The office is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. during the summer months.
ZYEP currently maintains 10 free public trails for the community, which provide more than 60 miles of trails for outdoor exercise and recreation. The routes connect to most residential neighborhoods, providing easy access for thousands of Pueblo of Zuni residents.
At each trailhead, informational kiosks provide trail names, logos, maps, safety rules and inspirational Zuni phrases. Then, trail users will find distance and directional markers every half mile, as well as “Stay On Trail” and “Be Careful, Families Walking” safety signs.
Zuni brothers Mikey and Ritchie Owaleon created the artwork for the trail signs and posts using wood-burning techniques and incorporating Zuni colors, designs and language. To view an online trail map, visit https://www.zyep.org/trails/.
To learn more about the Zuni Youth Enrichment Project and its programs, and for information about making donations, partnering with ZYEP, and volunteering, call (505) 782-8000 or visit zyep.org. And, to stay up to date on the latest news and events, follow the nonprofit youth organization on Facebook (/zuniyouthenrichmentproject), Instagram (@zuniyouthenrichmentproject), YouTube (/ZuniYouth), and TikTok (/zyep09)
Founded in 2009, the nonprofit Zuni Youth Enrichment Project is dedicated to promoting resilience among Zuni youth so they will grow into strong, healthy adults who are connected with Zuni traditions. ZYEP fulfills its mission by providing positive role models, enriching programs, and nurturing spaces that contribute to the healthy development of Zuni youth. ZYEP strives to provide every child with the encouragement and opportunities they need to reach their full potential.