Queer Tales from the Trail- Words from Llamadramas!
It’s been a moment! I posted the first ‘Queer tales from the trail‘ blog way back in May 2022. From one of the precious landmarks on the PCT where the space-time continuum simply appears to, stop… Kennedy Meadows!!! And wow, how so much happened since then. I found, believe it, MORE amazing queer people on trail, fell in a bit of love, and ACTUALLY MADE IT TO CANADA!
But, enough about my gossip. Here are many marvelous words from a PCT class of 2022 queer hiking couple: Lara (she/her) and Marta (she/her). They are sometimes collectively called Larta, but did mention that they like to see themselves as two separate beings. In the social media-sphere, they are known as Llamadramas.
They both live and work in Amsterdam. Marta is Serbian and grew up in Sweden. Lara is Dutch and travelled the world for four years. Then they found each other and a perfect homebase in the Netherlands, seven years ago! They both got into hiking a few years ago after hiking the Salkantay trail to Macchu Picchu. They did this self-guided! Since then, they have made sure to include hiking in almost every holiday. And then came the Pacific Crest Trail. Hikertrash dirtbag mode activated.
Q. Was there a particular positive queer experience on trail for either of you? Feeling accepted/seen etc. You got (spoiler alert) ENGAGED ON MOUNT WHITNEY after all. We all want THAT trail tale.
“Definitely getting engaged on trail on top of Mount Whitney and getting congratulated from every side! Even a few days later when we were in a bar in Bishop, somebody recognized us and congratulated us. Very cute. Another very positive experience was meeting and hearing about many other queers on trail. We even met up with our favourites during Pride in San Francisco! And also, many smaller trail towns (Bishop, Mammoth lakes) had organized pride parades! We sadly missed them but still, it was so nice to see flags and flyers in town!”
*Through pure luck of timing, I made it to Bishop Pride with my trail girlfriend (gossip alert), and it was the towns’ FIRST EVER pride! After speaking to some of the organisers of the wholesome, family friendly event, we learnt that it had taken months and months of persuading, organising, and a fair bit of backlash from some locals in the community to even get the event approved. Exactly why we still need pride and need it to be loud.
I vividly remember the event space being behind a gun store and a few of the surrounding houses had political flags up (not the welcoming kind, if you know what I mean). Now of course I can’t speak for everyone, but through the lens of an international hiker, this is something that stops you in your tracks a little! Once inside the Tri-County fairgrounds (something that’s also a novelty for an international thru-hiker), however, it was just the safe, inclusive, and warm space that you hope for when going to a pride event. Word on the street is that there will be a rodeo at their next pride. Go Bishop!
I wanted to ask Lara and Marta about any negative experiences they may have had on trail, because unfortunately some hateful comments made their way onto their gorgeous engagement post on social media. They were reported and quicky disappeared into the poopy LGBTQ+ hating community bin. Marta said she isn’t very active on social media and the hateful comments were in minority, so luckily it was easier to look past that.
Interestingly, Lara told of how she purposely posted their engagement pictures on Facebook (she apparently never posts anything on there, otherwise) to show a positive example of being queer on trail and to encourage everyone and especially (closeted) queers that outdoor life is awesome. She expected some negative comments but knew that the positive ones would outweigh the negative ones, so there was no second thought on whether she should post it or not. “Hopefully we opened up some minds with that post (at least one I hope!)”
Q. Were there ever any negative queer experiences on trail for either of you?
“We haven’t had any super negative experiences in that manner, but of course being queer comes with the ‘typical’ downsides which cause you to go back into the closet in certain situations. For instance, when being in small towns or around new people, we would be cautious with showing affection until we felt safer.”
“Of course our assumptions are also prejudiced as well, but it was an act of caution for us and also a way to ‘save energy’ by avoiding certain sensitive discussions. And there are always people (whom we have met) who are (often) privileged and still say negative things, perhaps because they have little understanding of how they come across. Sometimes, there are just a**holes, and you move on. On the other hand, every time we would meet other queer people on trail, we would be extra open about being queer and extra happy, so I guess that says something about the experience as a queer on trail in general!”
“By far, most people were very, very lovely, open, and welcoming towards us and just really nice! Even trail angels would quickly pick up we were a couple and always welcome us and not find it weird that we sleep in the same bed (which has happened outside of trail life sometimes).”
Hearing their tales of kind, accepting trail angels, friendly thru-hikers, and proud trail towns, fills my heart and I hope yours with QUEER JOY. Yay. Let’s continue.
Q. Do you have any particular message that you want to share about being part of the LGBTQ+ community and in outdoor spaces?
“Outdoors is for everyone and it is one of the purest forms to meet people and have genuine open discussions. Out there you have no title or status, you are as dirty as everyone else and as free, and people (from my experience) are more open to worlds and people outside their own bubble. Even for me and Lara, hiking the PCT was a good way of getting out of our own queer bubble and meeting people and friends from all walks in life with all different backgrounds. Highly recommend the outdoors to anyone! Also a note that this message is based mostly on our PCT adventure in the United States. Even though I believe this applies for everywhere, it’s still different to hike in other countries where cultures are different, so experiences might, too, be different.”
And I couldn’t agree with them more. I wonder is it slightly engrained in queer culture that we should be running to metropolitan environments for safety and community, to the gay bars, the nightclubs. I’ve definitely done that. Then I got bored and ran towards the wilderness, to the PCT, to thru-hiking, to the great outdoors. And I was so, so humbled by what I found.
Now, go enjoy Lara and Marta’s stunning PCT photography, storytelling, THAT ENGAGEMENT PICTURE, and also their wild post-trail adventures! You know where to find them…. @llamadramas
Much love, and happy trails, fellow queers
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