Black women’s backpacking group in Sacramento, Calif. Build community

Amy Fletcher, right, with other Black Women Hike Sacramento hikers in March 2020 after their first snowshoe outing near Donner Lake.

Amy Fletcher, right, with other Black Women Hike Sacramento hikers in March 2020 after their first snowshoe outing near Donner Lake.

Amy Fletcher has been an avid hiker since moving to Sacramento about six years ago.

But towards the end of 2018, she found herself yearning not only for more dating opportunities, but also “some spaces explicitly reserved for blacks.”

“It was something moving to Sacramento that I found really missing,” Fletcher said. “Just have a space to say things that you might not be able to say or might not have to give substantively. There is an implicit understanding.

It was then that she joined the Black Women Hike Sacramento dating group. Since its founding in early 2018, the Outdoor Club has been an inclusive space for novice hikers and experienced backpackers to explore the Sierra Mountains and the hills of the Sacramento area. After a brief hiatus this spring and summer, the group is leaving with hikes scheduled approximately every month.

Originally set up as an impromptu get-together for adventurous (and adventure-curious) black women, the group has since camped near the French Meadows Reservoir, taken nature walks around the Effie Yeaw Nature Center, and even snowshoeed. around Donner Lac. Fletcher called Black Women Hike Sacramento “a black body recovery on the outside”.

“Nature does not belong to anyone, it is just for everyone to appreciate, respect and know about it,” said group founder Maureen Kinyua. “It shouldn’t depend on the color of your skin, it should be a human right to enjoy it. “

Fletcher knows there is a perception that hiking and experiencing the outdoors is a pastime primarily for privileged whites. In 2018, just 6% of visitors to national parks were black, compared to 77% white, according to a National Park Service survey. Only 23% of park visitors were people of color. Part of the goal of Black Women Hike Sacramento is to change that narrative.

“I never felt represented watching an REI ad,” said Fletcher, who began helping organize trips for the group, “but I think that conversation is about to change.”

Some women have joined in to be healthier and exercise their bodies and minds, Kinyua said. But for many jobs where they are the only black woman in the office, they eagerly awaited the hikes as a chance to be surrounded by other black women.

“One person said it was their church,” Kinyua said.

“Recovery of black bodies outside”

Kinyua grew up exploring nature with her family, hiking around Mount Kenya on Sundays, and occasionally encountering elephants and ostriches. “The joke,” she said, “is that if you don’t go down, you go up because it’s so hilly all over the place.”

She lost touch with her love for hiking when she moved to the United States, but when she arrived in Sacramento almost six years ago, she noticed how similar the area was to the place. where she grew up – the mountains of Tahoe, the lush hills of Placer County.

“There is a hike on the Tahoe Way… it’s a pretty steep climb depending on how you take the loop,” said Kinyua, who declined to name the trail for fear it would become too popular. “But you come to this place on the mountains and it’s pure silence, and you can see the lake, the hills, the snow capped mountains and just sit there. Yes, this is a great hike.

She decided to “come back there”. Being new to town, Kinyua also wanted to make friends. So she set up an online MeetUp group in early 2018 and fell asleep thinking that 10 people could sign up. Fifty people joined overnight. At the height of the group, about a dozen women were going on monthly camping and hiking trips, and more than 300 people had signed up to be informed of the events.

That request said something, Kinyua said. Dozens of black women in Sacramento were ready and eager to enjoy both the tranquility and exhilaration that Northern California’s natural terrain had to offer – many simply never had the chance to do so. in an inclusive and encouraging space.

Some had never camped before, and “we had to provide a ton of information like what to bring, where do you get it (and)” here are some videos to watch on how to camp “”, a declared Kinyua. Others were nervous about not having cell service or were afraid when faced with a turkey.

There are also other fears they must overcome, said Fletcher. She recalled the group discussing on a trip about an incident they heard about in Colorado, where a group of black female hikers called in sheriff’s assistants by a group of white horse riders.

“There’s a lot of trauma to being Black on the outside, a story of violence that is happening and still is happening,” Fletcher said. “Being with a group that understands this is something unique that you can’t really explain, and it’s nice when you don’t have to.”

When stay-at-home orders were issued and going outdoors became one of the few safe comforts of the pandemic, Fletcher and Kinyua saw massive growth in interest in hiking by black women in Sacramento. . But in the spring of 2021, Fletcher and Kinyua were overwhelmed.

They loved the community they had built, but planning even just one hike per month – taking into account people’s different levels of comfort and experience, arranging rides, and getting gear for everything. the world – has become unwieldy, and they decided to take a break from organizing treks.

The break, however, did not last long. Fletcher said she misses the monthly adventures and fun conversations and has started hosting group hikes again this fall.

“I always feel a little bit proud, and pushing something away when hiking with a large group of black women,” Fletcher said. “We rarely see other groups of people of color, it seems almost radical to do so.”

Black Women Hike Sacramento’s next group ride is scheduled for December 18th. Interested hikers can keep up to date with upcoming trips by following the group’s Instagram page.

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Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks covers equity issues in the Sacramento area. She previously worked for The New York Times and NPR, and is a former Bee intern. She graduated from UC Berkeley, where she was editor-in-chief of the Daily Californian.
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