Unlikely Hikers
June 21, 2018 9:06 PM   Subscribe

Unlikely Hikers is a diverse and inclusive Instagram community featuring the underrepresented outdoorsperson. The outdoors industry and outdoors social media tend to display a very narrow definition of who is “outdoorsy.” We feature fat people, people of color, queer, trans, gender nonconforming folks, people with disabilities and so on.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The (13 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
I feel safer when I can be with marginalized folks doing fun things. Yay!
posted by yueliang at 9:53 PM on June 21, 2018

I haven't read any of the links, but I have a story to share here.

One of the friends I've known the longest (since junior high, and I still see him every year if not more often), his first wife was severely visually impaired. And one year my husbear and I took a vacation with the two of them to Yellowstone and Grand Tetons. It was a trip where we were staying in camping areas not lodges, and we did things like a cruise on the lake near the Tetons (that's french for titties, btw) (Monty Python fake french laughter) and some other things but one day we went out for a hike.

Our hike took us to a place called Fairy Falls, where A could feel the spray of the falls on her face (the constructed trail was VERY close, and it was VERY cool). Further on from that was a section of swampy ground with a lot of deadfall trees (and dead standing trees that might/would fall) and a sort of path built using fallen logs. The boots I wear are waterproof up to like 8" so I was walking in the water and helping her find her way along the logs.

We eventually made it to the grassy area around Steamboat Geyser, which wasn't exactly erupting but which was being much more active than usual. We set up our picnic there, because comfy. There's nothing like eating a chicken salad sandwich while sitting next to a hole in the ground emitting rotten egg smell..

But I digress.

It was a lovely picnic and one hell of an adventure. I helped A back again (I had the only waterproof shoes). and the entire time has continued to be recorded as a highlight of our collective lives.

A lot of people can do a lot of things, much more than one might realize, and it's worth letting them do them because why the fuck not?
posted by hippybear at 10:27 PM on June 21, 2018 [14 favorites]

Lovely story, hippybear, and the unlikely hikers seem like a fun bunch.
posted by Harald74 at 12:14 AM on June 22, 2018

Those pictures make me want to go outside.
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:46 AM on June 22, 2018 [3 favorites]

What a great idea! Instagram isn't loading for me at the moment but I read the post. I particularly like the idea of land acknowledgement, I'm gonna start doing that on my own hiking posts now.
posted by harriet vane at 3:31 AM on June 22, 2018

This is great! I am adjacently exposed to outdoor lifestyle marketing on a frequent basis and I can't believe it's taken this post to slap me in the face to think "OMG it's true, it's so white!" Once again, my woke-ness meter needs re-calibration.

But also, speaking of unlikely hikers - My husband and I once took a trip to The Lake District. We decided to go on a little hike and Explore the Great Outdoors. However, we're what you might call "city folk" and to say we were woefully underprepared is a bit of an understatement. I wore skinny jeans and Top Shop boots. I believe they had fur tops on them. My husband also had on jeans and a Manhattan Portage messenger bag and most likely a pair of Onitsuka Tiger Asics. We also had an umbrella because it was drizzling a bit.

The looks we got from some of the people we met along the trail were priceless. In contrast, they had on waterproof anoraks, backpacks with clippy things on them, nalgene water bottles, and carbon fiber walking sticks. They just kind of smiled incredulously as if they were wondering how we teleported from the middle of Oxford Street to here.

The people in this instagram look more like Unlikely Hikers That Know What They're Doing.
posted by like_neon at 4:13 AM on June 22, 2018 [3 favorites]

Emerald City: An Environmental History of Seattle has a really interesting chapter on how the Seattle outdoors clubs that formed a big part of the history of hiking-as-recreational-activity started out as essentially more strenuous country clubs: you had to know the right people, you had to make a certain amount of money, etc. I wonder how much this contributed - even decades later - to the idea that hiking is for upper-middle-class white people.

There's a part of the history of the environmental movement that ends up saying "Let's preserve wilderness as a recreational area for upper-middle-class white people" and I think that a project like Unlikely Hikers can fight against that, to advance the idea that the outdoors belongs to all of us, to enjoy it and also to fight to protect it.
posted by Jeanne at 5:10 AM on June 22, 2018 [3 favorites]

This is really wonderful. I used to be very active in a hiking club that was (and I assume still is) very, very white and steps were taken to have more representation of POC and the pushback was really awful. Lots of so-called "liberals" saying stuff like "look, if THEY want to hike we're not stopping them."

BTW, if you're on Instagram and you like amazing hiking and nature photos you should be following the OP's Instagram because they take some wonderful photos of things both large and small.

(They have their IG in their profile so I feel ok outing them. Hope that's ok, AOANLA.)
posted by bondcliff at 6:19 AM on June 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

he Seattle outdoors clubs that formed a big part of the history of hiking-as-recreational-activity started out as essentially more strenuous country clubs: you had to know the right people, you had to make a certain amount of money, etc. I wonder how much this contributed - even decades later - to the idea that hiking is for upper-middle-class white people.
I'm non-white and have been hiking and camping for a good chunk of my adult life, and have been an off/on member of The Appalachian Mountain Club for the last couple of decades. It's one of the oldest outdoor/conservation clubs in the country, and also had its genesis within a loose network of upper middle class enthusiasts who all knew each other (specifically because it was established as the steward and patron for the Appalachian Trail and drew its membership from a combination of well-heeled, outdoor minded donors as well as outdoorsy volunteers).

I have not witnessed past incidents of being deliberately exclusionary, but I can totally believe anecdotes like one bondcliff wrote about a year ago when we were discussing diversity in outdoor communities previously. That aside, until recently, the AMC has not put special effort into including or welcoming people of color until more recently. From my point of view, their marketing tactics suffered from the same myopia that existed for much of the recent decades -- basically an unexamined status quo that presumed whiteness and that if PoC didn't respond to those messages, that was their choice. And that white people were doing enough by not saying, "PoC are not allowed" and didn't think that they had to do more to say "PoC are encouraged and welcomed."

To their credit, the club has been waking up to this and have been making more efforts to feature minority voices in their newsletters and marketing materials and has made diversity a strategic goal for it's 2020 plan, including programs of youth outreach to support more trips for elementary and teenage kids.

I know for myself that I would never have been an outdoors person if not for school programs that took me camping. My parents are middle class, but are not hikers and prefer to spend their leisure time within the comforts of air conditioning, satellite TV, and flush toilets. I feel like a large part of the funnel around bringing more people outdoors is composed of nature-minded parents who have the leisure time to go camping with their kids, and/or enroll their children in programs like Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts whose own history of diversity has had controversies.

I love that Unlikely Hikers exists, and I believe that everyone belongs in the outdoors. I also do believe that the organizations that dominate much of current outdoor culture understand that they need to change and be more inclusive, and I hope that a lot of our efforts at change are collaborative instead of confrontational.
posted by bl1nk at 6:55 AM on June 22, 2018 [3 favorites]

This makes me so truly happy, and I can't wait to show this link to my dad! He's the one who guided my love of nature, and this is an issue that's very important to him.

Personally, I am not what you could call an unlikely hiker, in that I'm white and have a typically abled/fit body. (I am queer, and my gender is kind of an open question, but my presentation is not one that stands out on the trail.) In fact, there is nowhere I feel more comfortable than out in nature. However, when I encounter other people in nature, I don't usually feel great, because I am not comfortable/at ease when I'm surrounded by white people. And at least 95% of the time, the other people I encounter on the trail are white.

This is why decent urban nature education is so important (especially when led by people from the communities in question, rather than by outsiders). I mean, just on a practical basis - complacent white enviro types who feel no need to reach out to other communities are shooting themselves in the fucking foot here. Nonwhite and urban-led America is, thank God, coming, and it's already arrived in many places. And it is my strong feeling that we need the future stewards of our environment to be intimate with that environment if we expect them to defend it. I want every single person on this earth to feel that they are a steward of this planet, and that they have access to nature and all its restorative qualities. Normalize nature! Normalize nonwhite people in nature! Nature needs to be a safe space, an eternal refuge, for EVERYONE!
posted by desert outpost at 6:57 AM on June 22, 2018 [2 favorites]

Somewhat tangential, but if anybody feels like their Instagram could use a whole lot more naked fat and/or queer people showcasing their bodies, often (but not always) in nature, @shooglet is the photographer whose account you should be following.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:04 PM on June 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

I'm over weight and have been for a long time; but I'm also in moderately decent shape. My job is physically demanding and I hike/x-country ski/bike quite a bit often while carrying 15lbs of camera equipment. While I know weight discrimination is a thing (one that I believe has impacted me specifically) I don't really think about it much but every once and a while I have an encounter that is somewhat surreal in its demonstration of ableism.

Most recently there is a 15km hill to a lookout where I'm working featuring some pretty stiff grades (8-10% I'm guessing some places). And the road is all up. I've been training to ride all the way up in a C25K sort of way going a bit farther every week. I've passed a few people on my way back down that have been absolutely flabbergasted that I rode up (including one ripped uber biker). You can see the wheels turning as they digest the fact that someone as "unlikely" as me is out there being active.

It's just weird but it has got me once again reexamining biases I have.
posted by Mitheral at 7:23 PM on June 22, 2018 [2 favorites]

Since I know some people browse MeFi at work: the people on @shooglet's instagram feed are mostly less clothed than is safe for my place of work.

This is cool. I took a look at their upcoming events, but of course they're thousands of miles away from me.
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 9:07 PM on June 22, 2018

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