My alarm goes off and it’s 7:00 a.m. on a Saturday. For a split second I think “Why am I getting up so early on a Saturday,” but the thought goes away as I roll over to turn off my alarm. I’m doing the usual morning routine – brush teeth, wash face, do hair – as I prepare my mind for this five mile hike. Yes, I’m a hiker, a black hiker.
When you think of a hiker, the person that comes to mind is a white man or woman wearing hiking boots with their full hiking gear, which is a common misconception. I have a small frame with a height of 5 feet 4 inches and I weigh between 115 to 118 pounds; I’m a small person. Also, did I mention I’m black? And did I mention that I hike with my black friends?
Like many of my friends I got on a healthy kick after I turned 25 and started trying out different forms of exercise activities. First I started off with running between three to four miles every other day during the week. I’m sure you can imagine with all that cardio, I began to lose weight. So I decided to try out yoga. Now while I enjoy yoga and its benefits, it didn’t fulfill my active needs.
By this time I had given up on exercising regularly, until one day my friend invites me to go hiking and it was instant adoration. I’ve been hiking before but never took it seriously because I was like many other people and stereotyped this form of exercise as “white people exercise”. Not only was I wrong but while on this hiking trail I passed by quite a bit of other black folk out hiking as well. After that amazing hike I had questions. Where did this misconception come from and who are these black hikers?
The following weeks I decided to ask about hiking in the most random conversations to my friends. And I asked all my friends – black, white, Hispanic, mixed, all. To my surprise more of my black and Hispanic friends were either regular or on occasion hikers than my white friends. So where did this misconception come from? Why does society think blacks don’t hike?
During one of my conversations my black actor friend Ashley gave me some insight on how she got into hiking – health benefits and not having to pay a membership fee. Ashley is small like me but not because of her genetics. She got really sick and lost a lot of weight. Since then she has been dealing with an up and down health while not being able to gain all her weight back. Although hiking is a low impact sport, Ashley is still able to get an overall body toning due to the constant movement in her shoulders, arms, abdominals, hips, butt, legs, knees and ankles that contributes to getting tighter muscles.
Aside from the physical aspect, spiritually, and mentally she appreciates getting a workout with the stillness of nature surrounding her. “It’s a different kind of calmness than [yoga]. It forces you to stop and [really] think about the things that are going on in life and to mediate and work things out within yourself,” says Ashley.
After talking with my friends and even some of my local hikers, I’m still not able to come up with a definitive answer as to how this “Black folk don’t hike” misconception formed. Maybe it’s because of the many negative depiction of blacks being portrayed in society or maybe black people for such a long time didn’t want to come off as too “African”. Who knows? What I do know is that we, black people do hike and we love it and for many reasons.
If you ever thought about going hiking, I challenge you to go for it! Take some friends with you too. You might be surprised by how much you enjoy it as well as your body. Take pictures of your hike and share them with society. By us simply being us and continue to share our greatness with society, one day this misconception will disappear.