Day 53 – I’m Here To Hike

Day 53

Zero Day – Abingdon, VA

Miles Hiked: 0

Miles on AT: 449.3

 

An unplanned zero, but for good reasons. Janitor needed to heal his aching tendon, so rest and ice was what he was prescribed. Since this wasn’t a working zero day, we closed the blinds and slept in. It was so nice.

Of course the hiker clock in me wouldn’t let me lay in bed after 8 am, so I got up and started on chores – laundry, cleaning my water filter, cleaning my water hose, etc. Despite the chores getting done, today was a very lazy day. I caught a ride to the store to resupply and then vegged out for the rest of the day. I managed to get a few blog posts up in between YouTube videos, but the work is never over, especially when doing nothing is so tempting.

Anyway, in the spirit of making miles, I will get back on trail tomorrow and do this next section solo while Janitor’s tendon heals. I miss him already. I hate being separated, but the trail isn’t going to hike itself. I’ll make sure to pick up some trash in his honor.

One other thing to mention is that I’m hiking this trail as a black woman (obviously) in very red, conservative areas during an election year with divisive candidates. I’ve largely been shielded from any negative interactions, mostly due to the fact that I don’t go into town much and if I do, I’m with my white male fiance. His presence can often act as a shield to race- or politics-based interactions. I also found this to be the case when I hiked the CDT with my white male hiking partner. On both the AT and CDT I’ve walked down streets where Trump flags and Trump hats are present and highly visible. Most times I have no problems.

Today, though, while alone at the grocery store, I passed an older gentleman and gave him a polite smile, as I do to most people I pass. My eyes flicked up and I saw that he had a Trump hat on. I didn’t change my expression, focused instead on moving on by and getting my last few grocery items. Just as I was passing him, he made a remark (that I didn’t fully catch) about me seeing his Trump hat and laughing at it, which I didn’t do.

I didn’t pause for clarification or confrontation – that’s not what I was there for. In today’s political climate, I am undoubtedly making a statement by being on this trail just by virtue of who I am and what I look like. People can see me, assume things about me, and assign a variety of labels and symbols, some of which are relevant and some of which are not.

At the end of the day, I’m hiking because I love to hike, I’m free to hike, and I love nature. I’m here to have a good time while being myself and showing others that they can do the same. And while this encounter was minor and almost not worth mentioning, I can’t help but think of some of the stories other hikers of color have told about their experiences on the AT. Most of these uncomfortable situations take place off trail and in towns or hostels, but they still happen.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that it can still be uncomfortable to be a hiker as a black person. The trail itself can be its own little bubble, but reality can hit hard when we step off and into town. I’m grateful that I’ve never had to deal with anyone being aggressive or overtly racist and I hope I don’t have to.

I just want to hike.

 

And that’s day 53.

 

Follow my journey on instagram (@jenbrownhikes) for more updates!

 

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Comments 2

  • Admirer : Jun 11th

    Jen, I was wondering if you ran into racial issues on what should be a pure experience. So sorry to hear this is still a reality. I am greatly enjoying following you and Janitor and your stunning nature photos.

    Reply
  • Chris : Jun 12th

    I’m a white guy in my 50s, and statements like “it can still be uncomfortable to be a hiker as a black person” just blow my mind. How have we not moved on from making race a deciding point on how to treat people? It should have never been that way in the first place, but, I just don’t get it.

    Reply

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