Thru Hikers of History

 

Each year thousands of thru hikers depart from Springer Mountain Georgia on a trip that might last six months on the Appalachian Trail. Their route through the rugged mountains of Appalachia is known far and wide as being some of the most difficult in the country.

 

People, moving through the woods, on foot.

 

This movement of folks over the rugged mountains of Appalachia is far from a novelty. The mountains have seen the heavy stomp of folks treading through Appalachian dirt and over rugged rocks and exposed summits.

 

The evidence of human movement is written in some of the natural spaces we wander through. The bent trees that seem to be forming some sort of route through forests. The Balds that grace the southern Appalachians. The dusty earth dug out from hanging rock on Mount Mitchell.

 

When we think of the outdoors, of recreation, we think of folks putting on backpacks and going out into the woods for an epic week of camping, hiking, climbing and adventuring. Being “outdoorsy” has a bit of a “look” to it. And that look is most often slim, attractive, able bodied, and very often, white.

 

Carolyn Finney's Black Faces White Spaces explores the topic of redefining the spaces we view as “outdoors”. Is it only the groomed hiking trails that weave their way through the rural hills and valleys? What about gardens and farms? What about the agricultural workers who are intimately engulfed in nature everyday. And how does this differ from the glossy image of “outdoorsy” people that are most often cited in popular magazines and media.

 

Let's take Finney's idea of re-imagining our definition of the outdoors into our own background - thru hiking and the Appalachians.

 

Imagine walking through the Appalachians, 10 to 20 miles per day, at night. Imagine having to heard families, children, adults, separated lovers, people of all ages to move forward. Imagine that the the risk of non-completion is certain death.

 

There are a thousand articles on Harriet Tubman with her famous rifle-toting photo. Everyone knows she was a conductor on the underground railroad. A pioneer of both women's and black history.

 

But Harriet Tubman was also a woods woman. A navigator. A woman who navigated the wilderness with such mastery and precision that she was able to demonstrate her mastery of human psychology to push her passengers on the underground railroad to success as many as 19 times. She walked through the woods, towns, paths, cities and countryside. She put one foot in front of the other. She has been called so many things, a hero, an inspiration, but she is rarely called a hiker.

 

That's a bit of history. That's precedent.

 

Here are some absolutely amazing people and organizations of color in the outdoors who you can support right now.

 

 

Organizations

http://outdoorafro.com/

https://www.melaninbasecamp.com/

http://www.outdoordiversity.org/

 

 

Books

Black Faces White Spaces

The Adventure Gap

Trace

 

Inspiration

Robert Taylor the first African American to thru hike both the PCT and the AT

2015 Colorado Trail and 2016 PCT Thru Hiker Amanda “Zuul” Jameson

Rahawa Haile an Eritrean-American writer of short stories and essays who hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2016

The Blackalachian the First Gold Toothed rapper /hiker on the Appalachian Trail