Nature Doesn’t Discriminate

Back in 2016, I set out to thru-hike the Pacific Crest Trail. After 600 miles, I ended my hike due to complications with my implanted neuromodulation system. Upon return from life on the trails, I had surgery to replace the broken parts of my system. Being inactive during the recovery period mixed with feelings of failure for not completing the 2,660-mile trek left me depressed. With that depression came a period of sadness, overeating, and excessive weight gain. Eight months after my return from the trail, I’d gain nearly 40 pounds (equating to all the pounds I lost while hiking, putting me back at the same start weight).

In talking to a friend, I expressed discontent about not finishing the PCT and the lack of support from my peers. Many of whom aren’t outdoorsy and couldn’t empathize or fully understand. She, a cisgendered white woman, shared with me some information about a summit hosted by a collective known as PGM ONE (People of the Global Majority in the Outdoors, Nature, and Environment). I was gifted a scholarship to attend and was amazed to connect with so many black, indigenous, and people of color/of the global majority who like myself believes in the power of nature as well as environmental justice. 

At the summit, I shared my PCT journey and was taught that the narrative was paramount. Meaning, I could share the story as a defeat because I did not complete the trail or as a triumph because I solo hiked 600 miles. I also learned about adventure therapy and the use of nature as a form of healing. I applied for, was accepted, and recently graduated from Prescott College with a Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies, in Adventure Therapy & Adventure Education. Graduating during a pandemic amid civil unrest, as police brutality upon Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) is becoming visible to the world, is rather disheartening.

One thing I know is that nature has never discriminated, nor is she hateful. On Saturday, July 4, 2020, I plan to begin a 300+ mile thru-hike of the Superior Hiking Trail. I’m hiking for a few reasons; it brings me joy, it’s what I went to school for, it is a peaceful form of solidarity and support for the current Black Lives Matter movement, and to raise awareness about PGM One. And to shed light on and understanding of the healing power of nature.

Due to the rapidly evolving outbreak of  COVID–19 and safety restrictions, be mindful that unforeseeable events might detour my journey. Subscribe and stay tuned for updates, know that as a responsible hiker and a protector of Mother Earth, I will adhere to all Superior Hiking Trail Association regulations (SHTA) and recommendations. As of June 1, hikers have been asked to limit group size to 10 or fewer. As a solo hiker, this won’t be a problem. The SHTA also recommends that you stay safe, sane, and sanitized—and do what you can to prevent the spread of the virus and as always adhere to Leave No Trace principles. And a Crystal Gail word of advice: practice common sense.

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Comments 28

  • mike s : Jun 19th

    “… the lack of support from my peers.”

    Individual failure never requires others. If you fail a test in school, was it a lack of support from your peers?

    Reply
    • Notebook : Jun 19th

      I’m curious about the fact that of all the things in this essay, this is the thing you choose to focus on. I can appreciate the idea of personal responsibility as much as anyone, but this piece isn’t about why the author didn’t finish the PCT (although that reason is provided, and it’s medical). The author is openheartedly sharing her experiences.

      She also isn’t saying that not finishing the PCT was due to her lack of support from her peers. She says that she felt discontent from not finishing AND from the lack of support. There is no cause-effect relationship stated or implied there.

      Reply
      • Mike S : Jun 19th

        She had a medical problem. Her peers had nothing to do with her medical problem. Why are her peers at fault?

        Reply
    • Crystal Gail Welcome : Jun 19th

      This post isn’t about lack of support — that would be a post about bras (so hard to find these days)! If you must, the take away from this post I’m thru-hiking the Superior Hiking Trail:
      to raise awareness about PGM One, The People of the Global Majority in the Outdoors, Nature, and Environment (PGM ONE)
      because it brings me joy
      as a peaceful form of solidarity and support for the current Black Lives Matter movement

      Reply
  • Notebook : Jun 19th

    Thanks for naming all these organizations that are working to make the outdoors more welcoming to people of color. I’m excited to share them on my social media channels. Nature is such an important part of finding peace!

    Reply
    • Crystal Gail Welcome : Jun 19th

      Thanks for sharing. Nature doesn’t belong to any race or creed we are all visitors in Her home.

      Reply
  • Chardonnay : Jun 19th

    Getting off trail does take a toll, I’ve been there. Sometimes our journeys take unexpected turns, never stop moving forward siStar! Looking forward to hearing about your hike on the Superior Trail. Stay safe, stay strong and my your time in nature bring you joy! ♥️

    Reply
    • Crystal Gail Welcome : Jun 19th

      Thanks Chardonnay

      Reply
  • Josephine : Jun 19th

    YES Crystal!! I am so excited for you to begin this 300 mile journey 🙂 I only learned about the Superior Hiking Trail last year, but it looks really amazing. Your passion is clear, your mind is made up, and you have been putting in the work. You’ve got HELLA MORE SUPPORT than detractors. We are here and we love you. I am really looking forward to following along in this journey.

    Reply
  • Julie : Jun 19th

    I look forward to following your adventure!

    Reply
    • Crystal Gail Welcome : Jun 19th

      Thank you Julie!

      Reply
  • Crystal Gail Welcome : Jun 19th

    Thanks Josephine!

    Reply
  • Josh Wood : Jun 20th

    Best of luck to you on your thru hike!

    I’m planning an abridged SHT “thru hike” (everything except Duluth to Wisconsin) early August. Super exciting! 🙂

    Reply
    • Crystal Gail Welcome : Jun 21st

      Godspeed Josh!

      Reply
  • Pete : Jun 21st

    Crystal,
    I live 0.1 miles off the SHT in Duluth. If I can be of any assistance on your thru please let me know. For example camping in my backyard in Duluth where camping opportunities are scarce.

    I thru hiked the AT in 2018 and wrote for The Trek

    Good luck and I hope you have a great experience on the SHT!

    Pete

    Reply
    • Crystal Gail Welcome : Jun 21st

      Thanks for the generous offer, Pete. I’ll connect to figure out logistics and if it’s an option.

      Reply
  • Lise Abazs : Jun 28th

    Hi! Your blog was linked on a friend’s Facebook page and I’m glad I clicked on it. I wish you luck on your journey. Our farm is below Sawmill Dome (between Hwy 1 and Hwy 6) just a 10 minute walk down, though a little longer going back up. Some people camp on the cliffs overlooking our place even though it is not an official camping spot. If you for any reason need supplies, fresh water, a shower, some fresh vegies or a few friendly faces, feel free to stop in. We have a trail that heads down the hill to our homestead, just a little south of the Sawmill overlook, and a little farther south there is also a trail that goes to Kangas Lake which is at the other end of out property.

    A warning: the bugs are REALLY bad this year. Black flies, mosquitoes, noseeums, deer flies, horse flies, AND ticks! I’m looking at your headnet and I am not sure it will keep out the noseems. (We use BugBaffler headnets and shirts.) Also, a friend said that many of the water sources were dry so be sure you have enough water with you.

    Have fun!
    Lise

    Reply
    • Crystal Gail Welcome : Jun 30th

      Thank you Lisa I may take you up on that offer. I appreciate the BugBaffler and water advice.

      Reply
  • Daranee : Jul 2nd

    Beatifully written. Be safe and good luck on your trek.

    Reply
    • Crystal Gail Welcome : Jul 3rd

      Thank you Daranee

      Reply
  • Kate Fitzgerald : Jul 3rd

    I wish you every kind of good fortune on your trek! I’ve only hiked bits and pieces of the SHT, but it’s all beautiful. I will be following your progress here!

    Reply
  • Crystal Gail Welcome : Jul 3rd

    Thanks Kate

    Reply
  • Brenda Welcome : Jul 3rd

    I wish nothing but positive energy baby girl! I love you eternally!

    Reply
  • Crystal Gail Welcome : Jul 3rd

    Love you too, thanks!

    Reply
  • Kathy : Jul 3rd

    Tomorrow is your Big Day! I love following peoples trail journals. I was able to hike a small section 4 years ago with some other ladies. I wonderful trip! Wishing you Peace, Joy, and meeting some wonderful people! Stay Calm and Hike On!

    Reply
  • Crystal Gail Welcome : Jul 3rd

    Thanks, Kathy!

    Reply
  • Marilyn Nelson : Jul 4th

    Hi Crystal. I’m excited for your adventure. Thanks for inviting us to follow you. I’m friends with Chelsea from Bemidji who met you recently … she Facebook shared your info and I decided to sign up to share in your trip. I was especially excited to see that you are starting today … so I’m right on time! I live in St. Cloud Minnesota and am excited about turning 69 years old in 21 days. I cycle a lot and am planning a 69 mile bicycle ride on my 69th birthday.

    August 6-9th, 2008 I hiked and camped on the Superior Hiking Trail with a girlfriend. We hiked a total of 24.8 miles over those four days. We were inexperienced and I remember the packing advice we were given at the Trail Store: “Take care of the ounces and the pounds will take care of themselves!”

    I’ll be sending you good energy and I wish you the best on your inner and outer journey! Marilyn

    Reply

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