Are a blessing.
I post periodically (😁) about how much I like hiking and the years when I hiked quite often, almost every Sunday actually, with the Barbados National Trust. Then things changed and as I started to spend more time away from home, I was quickly hiking less and less often. There were a few years of hiking scarcity, but not quite a drought if I count urban exploring and walking around historic sites and towns. Then I relocated to California. I didn’t immediately return to weekly hikes, but I was able to get out more through the fledgling Outdoor Adventures department on my campus.
It was through the leader of Outdoor Adventures that I learned about Outdoor Afro and because of Outdoor Afro that I met my friend Ivan, who at the time was one of its LA chapter leaders. Then through Ivan I met Jennetta, my ‘ride or die’ hiking partner, Tiffany our ‘not often enough’ hiking partner and several others who are the core of our group SCOBA (Southern California Outdoor Black Adventurers). How fortunate I was to meet these people at that point in my life! They’re also a great group to lime, dine/brunch and enjoy cultural experiences with 😊.
September 11, 2016 was my first event with them – viewing the film ‘National Parks Adventure 3D’ at California Science Center. My second event was a special backcountry tour of Tejon Ranch the following spring. I haven’t looked back since. We’ve had many fabulous experiences in the last four years, I’ve checked items off my bucket list, and I’m back to hiking almost every week – with a hiking trifecta once a month since June this year.
Over the years I’ve consistently read that Black outdoor recreationists are an anomaly. I’ve read this in academic journals, books, newspapers, magazines, blogs, and more. From some writers’ perspectives, there’s such a dearth of Black people hiking, climbing, camping, etc., in the US, that to see one of us or a group of us is like witnessing the second coming of Christ! There are a few issues at play here: where the writers looked (national parks vs local parks, farmland); what they consider to be outdoor recreation and connecting with nature (hiking and camping vs fishing in local ponds/lakes; walking outdoors); and when they looked.
Don’t get me wrong, the absence of Black people in the outdoors is a real and current issue rooted in the history of the enslavement of Black people in the US; segregation; memories of attacks and lynchings; white supremacy and racism; systemic institutional racism; etc.. Yet, if the conceptualization of outdoor recreation were broadened (i.e. less white-centric) and more about connections to land and nature, I believe the story of Black people’s participation would be different, though in managed public spaces, the numbers would still not be proportionate to the Black population of the country.
Of critical importance, is what is being done to fix the problem of our absence. What strategies are the public and private sectors employing to encourage more Black people to enjoy the outdoors? Certainly, the emergence of national groups like Outdoor Afro and Girl Trek, (also started in L.A.) and local groups like our own SCOBA and Black Girls Trekkin’ in Los Angeles, our friends Kamo Lyfe in Arizona, and Black Girls Hike RVA in Richmond, Virginia has made a difference. These groups encourage/facilitate a range of outdoor recreation activities, not just hiking and camping.
For people who understandably prefer not to do outdoor activities alone, as well as those who are new to a specific activity, groups like the aforementioned ones are vital. My friends and I certainly do not shy away from the outdoors. Several of us are active weekly; most of us will get out at least once a month. Additionally, we plan several outdoor focused trips a year – in fact we’ve planned future trips while on a trip! 😁
We also like to encourage newbies to get outdoors and provide the Blackmosphere that they may not easily find elsewhere. Yet groups like ours comprise just a small piece of the puzzle and there is a lot of room for the agencies managing public lands to do more to encourage use by Black people.
In the current social climate, the spotlight is widening and the question of systemic racism will have to be addressed by all government institutions, including public lands. I expect that there will be additional scrutiny of agencies like the National Park Service, National Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, along with state level and local parks departments. I look forward to the reckoning.
This post is not intended to focus on why more Black people don’t engage in outdoor activities at higher rates, but to celebrate the fact that I have a group of friends who love the outdoors like I do. I have found my community, my tribe.
So, what do four years of hiking, camping, and more look like? Join me as I reminisce about some of my adventures … I’ve had a lot so be prepared for the deluge of photos! I’ll try to include only a few of what I shared in previous posts but there are two years’ worth from before I started blogging. You’ve been warned 😆.
Tejon Ranch, 2017
The wildflowers were wild at Chino Hills State Park in 2017; good rainfall year.
Water-based fun at Castaic Lake, 2017
Kings Canyon National Park, 2017
Historic Downtown L.A., 2018
Mount San Jacinto (2018) was my biggest challenge so far, but I made it!
We enjoyed Great Smoky Mountains National Park so much we visited it in two consecutive years – 2018 & 2019. See Dispatches From the East Coast for more about the 2019 experience.
Eaton Canyon, 2018
Big Bear Fall 2018 & Summer 2020
Vasquez Rocks, 2018 – an other worldly experience
Other hikes from 2019 (e.g. in Japan and Puerto Rico) are captured in various posts from last year.
A Sprinkling of 2020 …
August Trifecta: Ironhorse trailhead, Satwiwa Loop, Stough Canyon
Four years of hiking and more were both exhausting and exhilarating, don’t you think? Yesterday also marked four years of friendship founded in and nurtured by the outdoors.
On this September 11th I didn’t hike or camp or do anything exciting. Instead I spent most of the day inside thanks to the wildfires blanketing California (damn you climate change, you’re supposed to be a hoax!) only venturing out for food and later, a 3-mile nighttime jog, but it was still a good day.
Until next time, enjoy another sunset with me 😊.