I’m a BIPOC Hiker Taking on the Triple Crown

My name is Gina Knox. I travel throughout the US to hike and photograph new spaces as a part of my commitment to physical and mental well-being and a life of continued education. Some of my goals are to travel the world to discover other cultures, learn a new language, travel to physically trace my ancestry, and help people reach their goals with herbal medicine. I begin my journey to complete the Triple Crown next spring with the AT class of 2021. 

 

My love for the outdoors and photography has led me to a life increasingly more centered around the earth and all it gives, and while looking beyond a life where I’ve previously felt bound by social norms, I fell in love with the freedom and boundlessness of hiking.

The beauty of the Blue Ridge is like something I had never seen in the Midwest, and it’s what drew me to the Appalachian Trail. The physical and mental roadblocks that I’ve surpassed since then and the ability to examine things in life that were seemingly complex while enjoying the simplicity of nature is why I continue to hike. Setting new goals to reach new peaks and seeing no way back but only forward to finish what I set out to do directly translates to how I live my everyday life and is how I aspire to live even if detoured.

While my previous hiking experiences have not been particularly unpleasant, the current lack of diversity and underrepresentation of BIPOC in outdoor spaces combined with today’s increasing open hostility against BIPOC have caused unforeseen mental roadblocks that come with the heightened awareness that I am often the only Black person in any given outdoor space that I enter.

Scrolling through the comments of so many large outdoor community pages and being met with the backlash to calls for diversification and the denial of racial tensions and exclusion in the community does not come without consequence.

For me it comes with a renewed realization that while on trail, being who I am means that my presence is unwanted more than I realized. Knowing that the lack of representation in outdoor spaces and fear bred by open displays of hatred aimed at BIPOC communities may contribute to BIPOC being hesitant to enter these spaces, I feel more than ever that now is the time to move my dream forward to journey and complete the Triple Crown, remaining present in the outdoors as an active part of the diversification of representation in the community to include long-distance hiking. I will begin my journey to complete the Triple Crown starting with the Appalachian Trail in the spring of 2021. I look forward to being a part of what already looks like a more diversified thru-hike class than previous years as awareness of the push for diversity, inclusion, and acceptance continues to spread throughout the outdoor community.

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Comments 35

  • Danny : Jul 1st

    Gina! This was so beautifully written and so inspiring.

    Reply
    • Courtney : Jul 1st

      Love this Gina❤️

      Reply
    • Gina Knox : Jul 2nd

      Thank you 💕

      Reply
      • Gina Knox : Jul 2nd

        Thank you 💕

        My intentions are to spread a message of love and inclusivity for anyone who at any time has been made to feel excluded in their outdoor space. I believe that we are all people of the earth and as such should all hold ourselves accountable in our actions toward each other and the environment 🌏❤.

        If you’re planning to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail in 2021 or are curious about thru hiking the Appalachian Trail please join us on Facebook at: Appalachian Trail Class of 2021 INCLUSIVE. This is a safe space for everyone ❤.

        Reply
  • Tori : Jul 1st

    Ahhhh I love this!!! I hope you get the sponsorship you deserve it

    Reply
  • Hayley : Jul 1st

    So awesome!

    Reply
  • Rachel : Jul 1st

    Gina I think this is so cool. Thank you for sharing your aspirations. I believe in you and let me know if there is anything I can do.

    Reply
  • Whitney : Jul 1st

    Great read!!! Let’s get this sponsorship girl!

    Reply
  • SA BROTHERTON : Jul 2nd

    This seems to be full of generalizations not necessarily relevant, nor specific to the hiking community at large. My recommendation to all is to just get out there and do it and THEN if you have issues, please share them. Mostly in life if you decide ahead of time how things are going to go, that IS exactly how they go. Open heart, open mind will tend to serve you better IMHO. Also, I have no idea what BIPOC even stands for, I had to Google it as I have never even heard that acronym before your piece. Where are your conclusions being drawn from and what hiking experiences have you dealt with personally that are reflective of your commentary ? I’m thinking you would get a much better response dropping the political banter and just share your hiking experiences, etc. No one cares about any of this stuff….on trail. Just sayin’. It’s why many people are out there to begin with, to escape the rhetoric.

    Reply
    • Gina : Jul 2nd

      Honestly your response points directly to the issue. BIPOC stands for Black. Indigenous, People of Color. I am happy that you took the time to Google the terminology as some may choose not to do so at all before they make their claims that our feelings are irrelevant. Another term for you is Racial Gaslighting. Do you identify as BIPOC or an ally? If not you can not speak to “generalizations” because you would have no way to experience what we face and have not taken the time to gain our perspective before placing your opinions and directions om how we should hike our hikes. I have been hiking for years as a black woman including on the Appalachian Trail. It does not matter if the majority of my or any BIPOC experiences on trail were good if we have to experience periods of exclusion to include on online outdoor forums.

      Reply
    • Ashley P : Jul 3rd

      So untrue that people don’t care. Just because you didn’t know what BIPOC meant doesn’t mean people don’t use it. There’s clearly so much that you don’t know. Environmental racism is a huge problem and lack of diversity in the camping/caving/hiking community is just one example. Personal experience as a BIPOC is always taken as “political banter” by people who would rather not be inconvenienced by the realities of racism in spaces they frequent. I thought this was beautifully done, Gina. Your experiences are representative of many BIPOC. Don’t stop advocating you yourself and people who look like you. I’ll be rooting for you through the triple crown!

      Reply
      • Lakresha Williams : Jul 15th

        The new national pastime has become being offended. Everyone is a special interest group of one. If everyone is special…then, no one is special.

        Reply
  • SA Brotherton : Jul 2nd

    Perhaps if you shared your actual experience(s) in lieu of pointing fingers at an entire community you would get a different/better response. Based on your piece, it very much sounded like you were forming an opinion based on social media. I would challenge you to find any social media content that is lacking of trolls and trouble-makers. I identify as a ‘human being’….period. As I stated prior, most people find what they look for. As for acronyms, they are a dime a dozen in today’s world and I have more important things to worry about. I’m sure I could throw a good many your way and you, too, would be clueless.
    Also nice to see you are able to throw out all kinds of PC terms, which in turn, becomes a part of the problem itself. Your piece is accusatory based on…what, exactly ? You are stereotyping and pointing fingers which is EXACTLY what BLM and other groups are trying to fix. Why are you so quick to feel the need to ‘label’ someone….anyone ? Again, part of the problem. Until EVERYONE can sit down and have an honest conversation, w/out labeling, stereotyping, name calling and finger pointing, it is unlikely to change the current dynamic in our world today.
    More relevant info (from you) would be where do you hike, how are you preparing for your thru-hikes, etc. And, if you have specific instances of which you allude to, mention those, tell the story. Don’t just ‘accuse’ an entire community based on, again, what ? Some clown on some social media forum….please.
    Additionally, it is really difficult to learn anything if you don’t ‘listen’ and ‘hear’. It’s part of any good, productive conversation and exchange of ideas.

    Reply
    • Ashley P : Jul 3rd

      Just say you don’t care about BIPOC experiences and move on.

      Reply
  • SA Brotherton : Jul 2nd

    BTW Gina- Not really feeling the love or inclusiveness. So did you really mean – I’ll spread the love as long as you agree w/me 100% ? Or ??? You tell me

    Reply
  • TicTac : Jul 2nd

    I agree with SA Brotherton to a degree. “Racial gaslighting” is a pretty heavy weapon to be throwing out at someone you do not know. Perhaps you need to be a little less defensive and a lot more receptive Gina, because you are going to run into lots of different characters on the AT. And if you go into your hike looking for hostility, you may engender it.

    …”the current lack of diversity and underrepresentation of BIPOC in outdoor spaces combined with today’s increasing open hostility against BIPOC have caused unforeseen mental roadblocks that come with the heightened awareness that I am often the only Black person in any given outdoor space that I enter….” Where exactly have you experienced increasing open hostility against BIPOC in outdoor spaces? I am curious because in my backpacking experience (started in 1966) I have NEVER seen or heard anyone speak disparagingly or act inappropriately to a BIPOC.

    …”For me it comes with a renewed realization that while on trail, being who I am means that my presence is unwanted more than I realized. Knowing that the lack of representation in outdoor spaces and fear bred by open displays of hatred aimed at BIPOC communities may contribute to BIPOC being hesitant to enter these spaces,…” Open displays of hatred aimed at BIPOC??? In what dream have you experienced open hatred for anyone in outdoor spaces. The AT community is composed of an incredible diversity of personalities (admitted few BIPOC, but anyone from Wall Street lawyer to stoners) and I have never witnessed a single episode of judgementalism or bigotry. And your presence “being unwanted”? I think you are projecting your fears rather than speaking facts. How many miles have you actually hiked on the AT that you feel you are qualified to make such sweeping accusations? Your presence is unwanted on the AT??? Come on Gina, your hike is what YOU make of it, not what others make of it. Hike your own hike…

    I suggest you walk the Trail, make your own experience. If at the end you need to discuss negative experiences please come back and do so. But before you even start, to paint an entire community with the broad brush of BLM like condemnation, to me means you may be looking for open hatred. From my perspective you are not going to find any open hatred on the AT

    Reply
    • SA Brotherton : Jul 2nd

      Well stated TicTac….I’ll be hiking in Pisgah first thing tomorrow AM….EVERYONE is welcome to join me.

      Reply
      • HikesMelgee : Jul 2nd

        Generalizations…… hmmmmmm …..everything she said is largely about the entire inclusion of the hiking community …..the article is about getting out and being inclusive not exclusivity …….the issue i have is @SA BOTHERTON ,statement “you decide ahead of time how things are going to go IS exactly how they’re going to go”…. it sounds foolish and also silver spoon fed… your ignorance on how fast you made that statement and then you sound like you have made an angry conclusion. What she’s just promoting everyone hiking together as family “BIPOC” …. sounds like @Brotherton and Ticac are ….. politically driven ….You two are better off hiking alone my friends… No one likes a troll… so don’t be Troll statistic.. Support Everyone Walking Together… it was never a race … we hike hunny BIPOC

        Reply
  • Mmimi247 : Jul 3rd

    I agree @HikesMelGee, let me start by saying I am not a hiker. While reading the comments of @sabrotherton and @tiktok, there seems to be a sense of fear and hatred of the possibly of trails being hiked by BIPOC. Not once in this article did she mention “Black lives Matter” so why did you take it there? My “generalization” is that you do not want the term BIPOC to become popular because of your “political” perception of the BLM movement, which she didn’t mention by the way again. Sir you are not doing a good job of masking your hatred. Did you read the first paragraph in which she confessed her love for nature and how it changed her life, or did you just disregard EVERYTHING just because you saw the term “Black”, or because you are uncomfortable by the term BIPOC. Now you’re under her comments ATTACKING her? Are you trying to scare her away? I’m really confused on how you tied BLM into this post when she didn’t even mention it. Please check and educate yourself and stop trying to cover up the fact that you do not support the term BIPOC because you have some type of hatred towards the BLM, which again I add, was not even mentioned in this post.

    Thanks for sharing Gina, it was beautifully written. Do not let anyone stop you or try to discourage you from doing what you’re doing!

    Good luck on your journey!

    Reply
    • Pat : Jul 3rd

      Mimi, I’m unclear how you draw your conclusions from SABrotherton and TikTok but I’ve read and read and I don’t find hatred. In both instances I find they’ve openly said (paraphrased) NOBODY ON THE TRAIL WILL CARE WHAT COLOR YOU ARE BECAUSE IT’S A PRETTY OPEN COMMUNITY. Why and how are reading hatred into that? SABrotherton cares so little about what color your are that he didn’t even know what the acronym meant. How does that translate into hatred? I’ve heard it said over and over on this site that everyone is welcome on the trail, and no one gives a rat’s ass what color people are. How do you translate that into anything BUT equality? Maybe the reason there are so few people of color on the trail is that not so many people of color actually enjoy hiking. That doesn’t mean they’re excluded. It means they choose not to participate. I’ve been involved with the trail community for about 10 years now, and I’ve come across a few BIPOC hikers. Not many, but some. I never noted any of them being excluded, or treated differently than anyone else on the trail. I mean, maybe I’m just ignorant, but if it exists it certainly isn’t widespread or predominant. ALL SABrotherton and Tiktok were saying (I think, anyway) is that why don’t you actually go out on the trail and experience it BEFORE you start making accusations of racism, instead of just assuming there will be racism. Maybe you will be pleasantly surprised because it’s a pretty nice bunch of people. But if you DO go out there and people treat you badly because your color….THEN BY ALL MEANS COME BACK HERE AND START THAT DISCUSSION.

      Gina…your photos are lovely and your writing was interesting and heartfelt. I look forward to following your journey.

      Reply
  • Crystal Gail Welcome : Jul 3rd

    Gina, get that Crown ♔ I am also a BIPOC hiker. I’ve only hiked sections of the AT. My most memorable negative experience was in town and not so much on the trail. My mission is to make the outdoors more inclusive, and that begins with visibility — thank you for being visible. Thank you for your voice. Godspeed!

    Reply
    • Gina : Jul 3rd

      Crystal —

      Hey, it’s nice to hear from you! Thank you 💕!

      Reply
  • Sam Knox : Jul 3rd

    It’s true the outdoor community is overwhelmingly white, but it’s also true that it is overwhelmingly left-of-center politically. No doubt it has its share of bad apples, but otherwise it’s hard to imagine a more welcoming or inclusive group of people.

    Identity politics, on the other hand, are divisive by their very nature. Let’s keep it off the trail.

    Reply
    • MMIMI247 : Jul 3rd

      @SamKnox. Based on your statement, I see that you have come across some “bad apples” Please elaborate on the term “bad apples” and how they have directly effected you.

      Reply
      • _ : Jul 15th

        *affected

        Reply
  • AlekP : Jul 3rd

    @SA BROTHERTON and @ TICTAC :
    Not even sure where to start with your ignorance…
    This young lady is clearly speaking from a place of experience. Just because YOU have never seen or experienced or heard about these things happening in YOUR world, doesn’t mean they aren’t happening. Secondly, brotherton, she has no duty or obligation to recount traumatic experiences in order to validate them to you, or anyone. Doing so would be a waste of her time. She knows it and, if you’re being honest, so do you.

    The fact that you both found a way to be offended by her post and attack the things she’s saying, shows your ignorance very clearly. She never brought up politics, yet you found a way. She never mentioned BLM or any other political, social or activist group, yet you did so instantly. Just so you both know, her saying “I, as a person of color, have had some experiences that made me feel unwelcome and I want to do my part to create more inclusivity” IS NOT A POLITICAL STATEMENT. I fail to find any political rhetoric in Gina’s post at all.

    Rather than getting defensive (which, to me, says a lot about you) why don’t you at least consider that what she’s saying could be true. Try to imagine what that might feel like. Instead you ASSUME that she wrote this all on some whim, motivated by social media trends? Get a clue.

    Gina: do your thing and don’t worry about or listen to the haters. They’re just taking their own inner turmoil and disdain for themselves and projecting it onto others. Wish them well and keep it movin!

    Reply
  • Heidi : Jul 3rd

    Gina, THANK YOU for posting this. Thank you for highlighting a topic that is unfortunately not talked about. I am so thankful to be able to read this and learn more about your experiences and reality as a BIPOC in outdoor spaces.

    I support what you’re doing and am so sorry that you have to experience negativity and racial gaslighting as you pursue the outdoors and do what you love. Please know that you are supported! 💜

    In reading what you wrote, I appreciate how you are addressing the systematic racism of our society as a whole that impacts you. Thank you for being vulnerable and allowing others to learn more about the deeper levels that may not be obvious to someone who is not a BIPOC.

    Your passion for hiking and photography has been inspiring to me, I would love to join you for a few days as you take on this hike next year!

    Reply
  • SA Brotherton : Jul 3rd

    Where do we start – if we want to talk politics I’m more Libertarian than anything else. In my world everyone gets ‘fact checked’ & also racism is not a one way street. So it’s unfair to ask her any hard ?’s she just gets a pass because of why ? Again part of the problem. Some of us are trying to create an open dialogue but the woketivists only want their way Or you are wrong . Why can’t grown ups have an honest conversation ? Any hiker can tell u about hikes & hiking but she chose not to… but she is planning on hiking the triple crown . Color me suspicious. This sounds like a bunch of sound bites from someone trying to cause dicension in our community not inclusivity. I hope I am wrong but she had no problem attacking me immediately. Please allow her to fight her own fight if she chooses to do so. Hiked all morning in DuPont chasing waterfalls having a beer @ Ecusta. Because that’s what hikers do. Personally I don’t need someone informing me about the hiking community who may have never been on trail . As Zach mentioned re: one of my earlier posts ppl like Akuna & others have cred. You earn that. You don’t just get to accuse an entire community of wrongdoing w/out being asked some ?’s. No one likes to be stereotyped so why is it ok for her to do so ?

    Reply
    • Shana : Jul 3rd

      Well said. I always notice how these types of articles lead an entire group of happily coexisting people to suddenly turn into true believers or those requiring excommunication due to there disagreement. Nothing good ever seems to come of this, and everyone seems diminished.

      Reply
      • Mmimi247 : Jul 3rd

        Excommunicated from what? According to who’s law?

        Reply
    • MMIMI247 : Jul 3rd

      Before we continue, can you point out where she attacked or accused a community anywhere in the post? Can we start with that?

      Your talking in circles and it has nothing to do with this post. Your mashing this post with other things you’ve read all over the internet regarding the BLM, which bothers you, and it’s obvious. What you’re saying isn’t even relevant to this post.

      Looks like you’re offended by other things that you’ve seen on the internet pertaining to the BLM movement, which again I’ll add, she did not mention in this post. Let’s try not to mash up Facebook, Twitter, and instagram responses every time you read the word black or anything that pertains to it. That’s pretty much it, the word black is a trigger for you, I get it.

      Reply
    • ALEKP : Jul 4th

      She never “attacked” you. You essentially called her a liar immediately and then accused her of getting political (when she hadn’t). There’s nothing wrong with having an open discussion, but that’s not what you were trying to do. Your sole intention was to invalidate her experiences and opinions – you never tried to understand what she was saying.

      Also, do you know what dissension means? It means disagreement. Anytime there’s a discussion about anything of meaning, there is bound to be some level of dissension. I find it ironic that you accused her of trying to cause “dicension” when she was just sharing her earned perspective.

      Finally, she never stereotyped anyone. She said what she had experienced at times. She never said anything suggesting that ALL hikers are a certain way. The real question you should probably ask yourself: Why do you get so worked up, bent out of shape, and downright defensive about THIS particular discussion. Interesting stuff…

      Reply
  • LeAnne : Jul 3rd

    Gina,

    Thank you for sharing your story and truths; it’s very courageous. I say it’s courageous because I see so many people demeaning you for simply speaking on how you have felt in this community. It hurts to see others deny your truth and the reality you live in. Keep fighting the good fight and pay no attention to those who want to strip you of your story and worthiness. Those who are denying you are just bigoted and blinded by their own hate and privilege. It’s imperative and so important to continue to speak out so that those who are blind and privileged to don’t control the narrative with their lies.
    Keep it up! We’re rooting for you!

    Reply
  • Alex : Jul 6th

    Perhaps one of the most frustrating things – especially in the outdoor community, considering just how insular it can be – is the denial of racism. The fact that BIPOC aren’t represented the way that white people are is in itself a problem. It has felt similar at times simply being a woman. I’ve personally never talked to a woman who didn’t feel the same. My indigenous friends have all felt their own brand of exclusion. My black friends in the outdoors have brought up feelings to me that I would never understand. But I listen. And I can see that they exist. These feelings are really feelings and the pain, fear, and hesitation is not born of nothing.

    There are many examples of racial gaslighting here in the comments section. Just because it seems like a polarizing term, it’s not meant to divide people. It is meant to describe exactly what is happening in this comments section and so many others. Gina – a black woman – is entitled to her feelings. Minimizing her feelings, stating that she is anticipating a bad reaction so she will receive one, or claiming ‘colorblindness’ and ‘one human race’ are all inherently racist. These statements also perpetuate the silencing of BIPOC individuals when they do experience racism, violence, abuse, etc. This silencing has been happening to all victims for too long as we hopefully learned from the #MeToo movement and the following years of accountability demanded for rapists and abusers. I only draw these parallels so that perhaps someone can identify to this struggle without having been able to before. I do not draw parallels to compare experiences that have similarities but are very different.

    I am glad the outdoors and long trails are a safe space for able-bodied white men and women everywhere, according to these comments. Let’s make it so that it feels that way for everyone. This requires ALL hands on deck. Denying the fact that racism exists on trail is the first thing pushing BIPOC away and again… it’s racist.

    Reply
  • Dhivanya : Jul 7th

    Loved this piece Gina! The comments that’s ensued about ***existence*** of exclusion and racism within the outdoor community is at best disheartening. I’d like to remind non BIPOC folk, that the insistence of “Color blindness” or the statement that you “don’t see color” tell a BIPOC that they’re invisible to you. I don’t know how you don’t see that as problematic?! That being said, keep writing, keep pushing, keep that crown on and living that best life Gina!

    Reply

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