Additional Pack Weight

In 2016, planning for the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), my biggest pack weight dilemma was whether or not to carry my neurological recharge system.

Fast forward to 2020 as I prepare for my Superior Hiking Trail (SHT) thru-hike and I’m facing yet another pack weight dilemma.

The reality of hiking in Northern Minnesota, in the US, for that matter as a BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) is the additional “pack weight” to speak. In addition to traditional gear, I have to consider the weight of my skin.

As a Black woman solo hiking in Northern Minnesota, I can’t take for granted that Minnesotans will live up to the state motto: Minnesota Nice!

In fact, I’m not relying on it. Once again, I grappled with another weight-related decision. Do I alert local law enforcement of my presence on the trail or don’t?

Sadly, we live in a time when such an alert needed to be given in advance. Here is an excerpt of the email I shared with the sheriff chief of all four counties along the SHT:

“A section of the SHT is located in the county you’ve been sworn to protect. As a law-abiding visitor, I expect the same level of protection and respect that is afforded to your residents. I understand that there is a great deal of racial tension in the U.S. I am aware that as a Black solo hiker, I might face adversity and possible prejudice on the trail. However, I do not anticipate threats or violence, and I’d ask that if needed, you’d intervene promptly. I have attached a photo of myself in hiking gear and ask that if I am seen on the trail that you DO NOT shoot me. Aside from backpacking gear, I will be carrying the following items: bear spray, a pocket-knife, and hiking poles. None of these items are “weapons.”

I share this here because this is the reality of being a Black hiker, and this needs to change.

P.S. Yes, I will post a gear list, trail information, and other “traditional” hiking-related things very soon.

P.S.S. As of June 1, the SHTA recommends that hikers practice social distancing on the trail, by limiting group sizes to 10 or less, and that you stay home if you’re sick.

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