Unlikely Hikers Taking Over the Internet

There is no question that thru-hiking communities tend to be pretty homogeneous. Here are some stats from the PCT Class of 2018 (and a similar survey from the AT):

56.7% of survey respondents identified as male, 43.1% female, and 0.2% as genderqueer. 65.2% of hikers are between 20 and 34, and a whopping 90.7% are Caucasian. 49.5% have a bachelor’s degree, and an additional 22% have a graduate degree (making a total of 71.5% of hikers have postsecondary education).

For a full analysis of this survey, check out Halfway Anywhere 2018 PCT Hiker Survey. He does a great job of in-depth analysis of the yearly PCT thru-hiker class, and it’s one of the most helpful planning resources I used for my thru.

The result of this homogeneity is that a lot of the stories told about thru-hiking come from the same kinds of people. Jenny Bruso has made it her goal to tell the stories of those she calls “Unlikely Hikers” —at, queer, POC, women, trans, and beyond. By doing so, she wants to encourage and build a welcoming community to people of all backgrounds. One of the ways that Jenny tells these stories is through her fantastic Instagram page. You can find some selections from that page featured below.

 

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“Growing up as a child of immigrants in SF, there wasn’t much awareness of outdoor adventures. My parents didn’t know and also didn’t have time. Excursions are a luxury. Luckily, there are many outdoor programs in the Bay Area for inner city youths. My first camping trip was with my school in the 5th grade in the magical Marin Headlands! The outdoor bug bit me and subsequently, I would seek out other organizations and adult mentors to take me out camping, rock climbing, kayaking. Now, as an adult, I have the privilege to provide these opportunities for myself, to engage my family in the outdoors, and to co-lead other women of color into nature (@womenofcolorinnature). Exposure and access are extremely important if we want to see more diversity in the outdoor scene. It would be unlikely for me to be doing what I’m doing if there weren’t programs to take youths on outdoor adventures. I am extremely grateful. 🙏🏽” -Sasanna /@sasanna ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Pronouns: she/her ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Location: Pyramid Peak, California. Ancestral land of the Nisenan (Tsi Akim Maidu), Wašiw (Washoe). #pyramidpeak ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Tag #unlikelyhikers or #unlikelyhiker to be featured! ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ [image description: person wearing backpacking gear (could also be a very fancy daypack) hugs a small evergreen on a crystal clear, sunny day in a small canyon.]

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“When I am outside, I am myself, even though I don’t see people who look like me much. But we are there. We’ve always been there. I just want to encourage folks who may think the outdoors is not for them, that it is. It’s for all of us to share, respect, and appreciate.” – @camp_queer_trails ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Pronouns: she/her ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Location: Julian, California. Ancestral land of the Kumeyaay and Sycuan. #julianca ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Tag #unlikelyhikers or #unlikelyhiker to be featured! ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ [image description: person smiling. Dog running wildly in background on dry grassy land surrounded by scrubby oaks and mountains.]

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#naturequote: “Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter. -Rachel Carson, Silent Spring ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ 📸: @beardedblasian ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Location: Tolmie Peak Fire Lookout, Mount Rainier, Washington. Ancestral land of the Nisqually, Puyallup, Squaxin Island, Muckleshoot, Yakama and Cowlitz. #tolmiepeak ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Tag #unlikelyhikers or #unlikelyhiker to be featured! ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ [image description: person sits on rocky cliff, squinting and smiling in bright sunlight, above a deep blue-green lake. Evergreens and clouds far below in the distance.]

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“Feeling a lot of gratitude today for the skin I’m in. This body has taken me on great adventures and gotten me through some hard situations. It’s been a love/hate relationship, but this body is resilient. Strong. Brave. Even though I don’t always treat it with kindness and love, it always moves me forward. I’m a motherfucking woman and a work in progress. A woman learning to live my best life right now and not wait for a number or size to start living.” -Gabriela / @gabs_hurt ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Location: Toketee Falls, Glide, Oregon. Ancestral land of the Umpqua & Kalapuya. #toketeefalls ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Tag #unlikelyhikers or #unlikelyhiker to be featured! ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ [image description: person stands, arms outstretched on a rock above gem-like, green-blue water on bright, sunny day. Waterfall surrounded by columnar basalt in background.]

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“My 65 year old cousin calls me ‘unculturural.’ It’s his way of saying my hobbies or not for brown people. I laugh every time he teases me, but the fact is, his comments are rooted in deeply held fears. The belief for many black and brown people from the south, is that the woods aren’t a place of recreation, they are dangerous. He explained, when he was little, everyone knew not to go into the woods. That sometimes, black people went in, likely against their will, and they never came back. It wasn’t because of magical ghost unicorn trolls, it was because of other humans with ill agendas. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ This fear has not subsided. It has grown into a stigma that many perpetuate without realizing it. Outdoor activities are labeled as ‘white people shit’ and we believe the stigma because we see few black and brown people frolicking in nature. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ This is what hiking, camping and climbing mean to me. Sure, I absolutely love it, but I’ve realized, the act of walking in the woods is an act of rebellion and activism. It’s an act of standing up against fears and stigmas. It’s an act of saying, ‘hey, nature is for me, and it’s also for you too.’” -Summer / @summerseeking ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Pronouns: she/her ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Location: Stinson Beach, California. Ancestral land of the Coast Miwok and Graton Rancheria. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Tag #unlikelyhikers or #unlikelyhiker to be featured! ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ [image description: person climbing on huge rock wall with crash pad beneath them.]

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”Recovering from bulimia was a tremendous step in my process of sovereignty in my queer indigenous body. Seven years ago, I had to take a bone density test and I was osteopenic at the age of 22. My ancestors are housed in my bones and they were quite literally becoming invisiblized through this efficient tactic of self-colonization. Settler colonialism’s standards of western beauty and the narratives that my brown body was not enough was eating me from the inside out—this is internalized oppression in action from reinforced institutional, idealogical and interpersonal oppressions. My bones became hollow through the years of struggle, but my ancestors continued to rejoice and rage within my body reminding me of our resilience. Last month, I got another bone density test and I’m excited to say that I have rebuilt my bones and am not osteopenic anymore. This is survivance in action. As I become whole, my ancestors are made whole, too. As we strengthened our bodies, spirits, souls and minds, we strengthen our lineage. ✊🏽🌿 Not only our human lineage, but also the more-than-human ancestors whose relations we’ve been shaped by. ✨You will not colonize this body ✨” -Pinar aka Creature (@queerquechua & @queernature) ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Pronouns: they/them ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Location: Yavapai, Hopi & Western Apache territories ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Tag #unlikelyhikers or #unlikelyhiker to be featured! ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ [image description: person wearing colorful serape against a desert of red rock formations.]

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“Going outdoors reminds me of Maluku, the islands where my grandparents come from. I went there for the first time in 2013 and after my first experience, I went back to Jakarta, where I lived at the time and two weeks later I was flying back to Maluku. The place had stolen my heart. I have always felt the connection with my ancestors, but actually being on their lands, gathering the vegetables and fruit and fishing in their waters, made me feel like I was walking and talking with them. So to keep this feeling, I try to stay outside, breathe the fresh air and connect with nature. They have always #BeenOutside and so should I.” [email protected] ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Tag #unlikelyhikers or #unlikelyhiker to be featured! ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ [image description: person hiking in misty, mossy deciduous woods smiling from the top of a switchback.]

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“It almost feels like my love of the outdoors happened over night. I didn’t grow up hiking or doing anything that required my hands getting dirty, but once I began, my life changed. I’ve given myself more; I now backpack, mountain bike, rock climb, snowboard and do everything and anything outdoors. I’m more than my weight, race, or past addictions. I move mountains.” – Lulu / @aviladanka ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Pronouns: she/her ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Location: Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah. Ancestral land of the Ute, Southern Paiute, Hopi, Navajo & Hualapai. #brycecanyon ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Tag #unlikelyhikers or #unlikelyhiker to be featured! ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ [image description: person smiling while hiking in sandals. Red rock spires and pinnacles in background with sparse desert evergreens.]

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“As a Latinx, queer & trans non-binary person from a working class background, the ways in which I’m an unlikely hiker surface often while I’m adventuring—always, as dreams for more access points for those of us with less represented identities to (also) enjoy in the outdoors. Sometimes, as fears for my safety, or placing myself in a setting that reminds me that my existence is not seen, valued, or wanted. Always, in thinking of the people (sometimes even my own ancestors) who once called these lands home. Always, in wondering how they protected, preserved, and honored the land with reciprocity. Always, in knowing that connecting with nature is a soulful experience that brings me back ‘home.’” -Riley / @lhewko ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Pronouns: they/them/theirs ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Location: Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona. Ancestral Land of the Havasupai, Hopi, Ute & Navajo. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Tag #unlikelyhikers or #unlikelyhiker to be featured! ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ [image description: person stands smiling at camera at dramatic overlook of the Grand Canyon.]

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“These past few years, I’ve had to deal with the loss of my brother, my dad, and a relationship. For the longest time, I felt like I was in free fall not knowing which way was up or down. I just wanted things to be still for one second. One second of peace. That’s all I wanted. This past October was a particularly bad time and for some reason I decided to do something different. I decided to go on a hike. When hiking, everything seems to make sense. I have peace like I’ve never experienced before. I accept the bad and I am grateful for the good. The mountains for me have become one of my closest friends and one of my greatest teachers.” -Carolyn / @spinellee ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Pronouns: she/her ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Location: Ladder Canyon, Palm Springs, California. Ancestral Land of the Cahuilla, Southern Paiute & Yuhaviatam. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Tag #unlikelyhikers or #unlikelyhiker to be featured! ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ [image description: person smiles genuinely while moving amongst a group of hikers. Desert landscape in background.]

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She also hosts group hikes all over the country. If you are interested in taking part in one of Jenny’s Unlikely Hiker hikes, check out her events page here on her blog.

Further reading

Featured image via Isaac Nesbitt

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Comments 2

  • stealthblew : Mar 12th

    I would encourage everyone to refuse to let goverments or social media type cast us into demographics. We are in fact all children of the world.

    Reply
  • Jonathan : Mar 17th

    Love the Unlikely Hikers!

    Reply

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