Ulisses Guimarães (He/Him)
Chair of the Board
My name is Ulisses Guimaraes (he/him). I was born and raised in a small municipality in Brazil. I moved to California when I was in my 20s, and I have lived in Los Angeles since 2001. A casual hiker for years, I had a life-changing moment in the summer of 2017 in Yosemite National Park, where I realized that being in nature is my passion. This led me to co-found Trailmixer in 2018, a nonprofit with the mission to provide low-income LGBTQ+ youth with safe access to the outdoors.
My Latinx origins inspired me to create a diverse environment where underserved youth, regardless of their background, race, gender identity, or sexual preference, can have safe outdoor experiences, learn leadership skills, and connect with nature. I tapped into my own experiences of growing up in Brazil without LGBTQ+ inclusive outdoor programs. Confrontations with bullying and exclusivity in my daily life were profoundly impactful. The intolerance, anxiety, and feelings of unsafety I faced inspired me to create Trailmixer to serve younger generations of my community. As Trailmixer’s Director and Chair, I’ve had the opportunity to connect my passion of the outdoors with my desire to give back to the LGBTQ+ community.
John Binninger (He/Him)
Hi I’m John Binninger, Co-Founder of Trailmixer, Trained Sierra Club Trip Leader and NOLS certified in Wilderness First Aid.
I was fortunate to have a father who was a forester and instilled in me a love of the outdoors. My mother was a women’s rights activist who taught me the importance of fighting for change and of giving back. These lessons made me who I am today.
Nevertheless, as a gay teenager in small town Oregon in the 1980s, I never felt safe. Intolerance and homophobia were all around me every day. I did a lot of hiking and backpacking with friends as a way of coping with the oppression I felt at home and at school. On those magical trails, I was swept away by the awesome majesty of the mountains and the rivers and the forests. It was a sort of spiritual awakening that changed my life forever.
I moved to California right after high school, found a minimum wage job and lived in a tiny room in a shared apartment in a seedy part of San Francisco. There I met the first out gay people of my life and found a community that welcomed me for who I authentically was. My first Gay Pride was truly a life-changing experience. I saw people from every walk of life who were out and gay and celebrating together without fear or shame.
I volunteered for the Gay Pride Committee that put on the annual event. It was the 80s, and the AIDS crisis was in full bore. So I volunteered answering phones at night on the AIDS hotline, giving out information and resources to very frightened people in my community.
Later in life, my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and her life fell apart. She became my dependent. She stopped enjoying birthdays, so in 2013 I decided to celebrate her in a different way: With a small group of friends, we climbed a mountain to raise money for The Alzheimer’s Association in her honor.
Each year thereafter, we climbed more mountains, with more climbers, eventually raising tens of thousands for different charities. Five years later, on the unforgiving slopes of Mount Saint Hellens, I asked a new climber, Ulisses Guimaraes, to join forces with me and start a new nonprofit. Luckily he accepted!
We founded Trailmixer in 2018 with plans to grow into a bigger and more multifaceted organization. Some of the hikers from that first year now hold Board positions. There’s really nothing holding us back!
Rick Gilles (He/Him)
Howdy, I am Rick Gilles, and I have been a lifelong Outdoor Enthusiast. From skiing at 3, to backpacking trips with my father starting at age 5, to my first Wilderness Survival training with the Scouts at 10, I have always had one foot in the Mountains or Ocean (and lately desert). Nature is my Spirit and Meditation. I am also a longtime LGBTQ+ activist: I helped start Colorado’s first Gay and Lesbian Youth Group, Outright, when I was 16, which morphed into being on the front lines in HIV activism with Queer Nation, ACT Up, and others. I have continued that fundraising activism in my adult life in each state that I have lived in. I am loving this opportunity to combine my spirit and activism with Trailmixer! An artist/carpenter and builder by trade, I have contributed as navigator and logistics planner for these charity climbs since the first year - map nerd, through and through. See you on the trail! And really, it’s only another mile…mile and a half……
Francesca Koe (She/Her)
Hello hikers and welcome to Trailmixer. My name is Francesca Koe (aka @kelpprincess on Insta and @free_dive on Twitter) and while it's true that my usual habitat is found underwater, I am #gratefulfornature everywhere. As an ocean advocate I helped to design & implement marine protected areas (MPAs) along the California coast as a primary stakeholder during the California Marine Life Protection Act Initiative, and I was proud to play a role in the passage of AB-376 (which bans the possession & sale of shark fins in CA). I am a multi-agency dive instructor (PADI MSDT #186082/ DAN #11837/PFI Safety Supervisor #1102 + AIDA judge), a competitive freediver, and the Editor-at-Large for Deeperblue.com. When I'm not in the water you can find me encouraging young people, friends & family to #gooutsideandexplore because hiking really is good for the soul. I am thrilled to collaborate with Ulisses and John on #trailmixer and eager to build more community as we meet out on the trails together.
Jason Wise (He/Him)
Howdy, my name is Jason Wise!
Nature is a healing force for me, and while that mindset was instilled in me at a young age, by adulthood I thought I had to give it up to live as an out gay man in the city. Luckily I discovered that nature was indeed all around us, even in the big bad city of Los Angeles. And from then on I dedicated my life to showing everyone just how powerful our nearby nature can be in healing our mind, soul, and body.
These days I keep myself busy doing any and all things nature. I use my political science and LGBT+ studies degree (from UCLA) and my masters in public policy and environmental studies (from USC), to guide my advocacy work as Conservation Chair of the Sierra Club Angeles Chapter. I use my California naturalist certification, recent biology and geology studies, and training with NatureBridge in Yosemite to work as an outdoor environmental educator and trail guide for kids of all ages. I use my experience as an Artist in Residence for the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument and passion for writing and landscape photography to promote access to nature, especially the wilderness that surrounds all the large cities in California.
I'm beyond excited to bring my particular recipe of experience to the knowledgeable and passionate board of Trailmixer, and figure out how I can help further our mission to use all the beautiful gifts of nature to empower the LGBTQ+ community.