Jazzed About Nature Podcast | Episode 2: Black Girls Trekkin

Jazzed About Nature Podcast | Episode 2: Black Girls Trekkin


Jasmine: “Oh, you like hiking and camping.
I didn’t think that you’d be into that.” The comment came from a friend after hearing about
one of my latest camping trips. It was around the time that I joined a club for adventure
seekers in college. There were no other black people in the group and there were fewer women
in the club than there were men. The club was a reflection of what I commonly saw when
I laced up my boots and went hiking, unless I was in the mountains of the diverse multicultural
melting pot that was Los Angeles, California. I was almost always the only black female
hiking in a sea of paler faces out in the woods. My friend who had commented on my interest
in the outdoors didn’t mean anything by it, but her tone had implied that she didn’t expect
to see anyone of color outside enjoying nature. The word “You” was said with such surprise
because she hadn’t seen very many people of color enjoying camping. Jasmine: Hello and welcome to the Jazzed About
Nature Podcast. The show where I chat about all things related to the environment. Today,
I’m sitting down with the two founders of the group “Black Girls Trekking,” Tiffany
Tharpe and Michelle Race, Tiffany and Michelle both lead regular hikes and organize other
outdoorsy activities in and around the Los Angeles, California area and I thought it
would be interesting to find out more about the group. I was really interesting in how
you got into hiking and being in the outdoors. Tiffany: So, my hike-aversary actually alerted
me on Facebook that it had been five years since my very first hike. Jasmine: Wow. Tiffany: Yeah. Basically I started as kind
of like a coping mechanism and so I went through like a really bad breakup and I was trying
to find like an outlet. She kind of released some of this depression, the stress that I
felt over it started going up there. I came in, I really didn’t have “AllTrails” or anything
like that. It’s just like literally looked up trails online and then didn’t really pay
attention to the difficulty and I just started doing them so there was a lot of a learning.
It was a learning experience, but it was really fun being outdoors. It still is. Jasmine: Yeah. I hope so. Michelle: It’s such a funny question because
I feel like people always this and by now. You think that I would have kind of a full
answer for it. Like don’t really know. There isn’t. One moment that really sticks out for
me is when like I kind of started picking up hiking and being in the outdoors. What
I have started to realize is that like as a kid I was a little bit shy, introverted
and when I felt the most comfortable was being outside and kind of just like being with my
dog in the backyard and realizing like I was kind of a safer place for me to kind of just
be myself and took that with me and into adulthood as an adult or you know, a younger person
in college, I kind of go on hikes with my friends. I was like one off. It kind of wasn’t
until we started that group Tiffany I that I started hiking more regularly, trying to
incorporate as an adult maybe to get back to where I was as like a kid for the outdoors.
Just being like a place where I can be myself and kind of relax. Tiffany: I ended up gping to Yosemite with
a group of friends and, I just noticed that while we were in Yosemite there were some
people of color but just not a lot of black people. There’s so many. And then I ran into
the park rancher and he kind of, we kind of had a conversation about like how he was trying
to get black families to go into national parks. And I got inspired by her conversation.
So originally I just started it as ease. It was just going to be having that Instagram
and my posting into the trails. And then eventually people started using the hashtag that I was
using and I started posting people all of a sudden, like people were like, you guys
have a group? Like are there any trails and we can do and do blah, blah, blah. And I was
like, Oh well people are interested in this. So I didn’t want to do it by myself because
I’m a little bit shy. So that’s where Michelle came in. So I stopped the show and was like,
Hey, do you want to be a part of this like group? And maybe make something big of it
and she said yes. And then we started the group, Michelle: So, Black Girls Trekkin the group
actually started with Tiffany. It was started as an Instagram because on her own she was
going outdoors and I think she was doing the 52 hike challenge at the time where you go
on 52 hikes and it was just like a personal way for her to kind of, yeah, there’s some
thing she was going through. I said start the Instagram because she realized there weren’t
many people of color on the trail when she was out. And so she started the Instagram
and I think through that people started to reach out to her and say like, Hey, do you
do this with other people or like can we come? And so she got in touch with me because we’ve
known each other since high school and you could have asked me like, Hey, I started this
thing and people want me to do it in real life and like, what do you do it with me? Michelle: And I was like, of course, because
at the time I was also getting my Master’s and my entire focus was like, how do I inspire
more people of color to be outdoors? And this was before I realized even for myself that
like people of color are all ready outdoors. I was starting from like the wrong perspective.
It wasn’t the time when she was asking me. And so it kind of sinked up perfectly. And
so from there he’s kind of sort of the group and I don’t know that we expected it to grow
to what it’s becoming, but the story for it, Tiffany: I just talked to like my female black
friends, I was like, Hey, you guys want to like come with? Cause I didn’t want it to
just be me and her. I was afraid that is like a lot of, we’ll show it up. I wa what is the
outgoing and wouldn’t talk to them. So I kind of asked like some of my female black friends
to help us at the beginning so that I could ease my way into talking and being comfortable
with the new people that we had. So it was Angela, uh, Camille, who you know, and they
were some of the first people that were joining us on our hikes. Jasmine: Camille Elston, the founder of the
magazine, I’m the editor for Q26 is the reason why I joined Black Girls Trekkin without her
posting the photo of the first hike on Instagram, I would still be wandering the Hills of Los
Angeles alone. Tiffany: Our first hike was November 2017,
so two years ago now. It was kind of like a trial hike, to see like if it would be something
I was comfortable doing. And it was actually really fun. We met Nicole that day and Nicole
was as you know, an amazing, awesome person and she really love what we were doing and
a lot of people had a good time. So it just kind of inspired us going. Michelle: Tiffany probably has her own perspective
on this, but I know I didn’t realize how many groups like ours existed before we started
so the group that I knew the most about “Outdoor Afro.” And so I think at the beginning that
was a group that I kind of looked up to. I was like, Oh this is, they started this thing
and it’s gotten kind of national and you know, like that would be so great. And we kind of
wanted to follow in their footsteps. And then once we started just kind of realize even
like there are so many other groups that have the mission to diversify the outdoors. And
so just seeing like unlikely hikers and outdoor age and just all of these different groups
I think is what kept us going because all of those groups, they’re a little bit and
let you know, don’t worry for sure those groups are bigger than we are. Michelle: And so it kind of inspired me anyway
to say like, okay, I think if we are persistent trying that maybe we can also offer a space
for people to come and join us in the outdoors as those groups are so nice and lovely. So
Jenny from unlikely hikers and Christine who’s the doors are so nice and genuine and we got
to meet them in person and it was like meeting your idol but like in a good way or it just
makes you like them and like inspires you. Because I got people saying the things that
I do kind of like intertwined with each other. So professionally I was and still am working
at the natural history museum for me really opened my eyes to the outdoors in ways that
I I think didn’t really know was possible in a couple of ways because my background,
my undergraduate degrees in Marine biology, I kind of always grew up new and loved the
ocean. Michelle: And then I had the opportunity to
start working at the natural history museum where they don’t just focus on the ocean,
they focus on all of New Jersey, terrestrial and Marine. And it made me realize that I,
I am not specifically a Marine person. I think I just love to learn and I love to learn about
nature. And so when black Rose tricking started, I thought this was just such a great outlet
to tie in my love of nature with my like passion for diversity and outdoors. And so I think
it was like some consistent pushes for me is why we started the conservation and education
aspect of things because I was teaching about it for my job and also worrying about it from
my job and I kept just being like, Oh, I wish that like during the Heights and things that
we leave at, like I could just talk about plants. So I think that’s how it started.
And then obviously Tiffany is an advocate for like conservation and environmentalism
and things like that. I think I was like, I want to talk about this. And she was like,
yeah, of course. Let’s talk about protecting the environment. Jasmine: I consider the women of Black Girls
Trekkin my friends. They are all so nice and supportive. They’re always spreading positivity
and they are constantly helping to promote other groups and encourage everyone, especially
people of color to get outside and explore. Without them. I would’ve never gotten the
courage to become a hiking leader myself or climb to the top of mountain peaks or even
start this podcast. Speaker 5: Okay. Tiffany: All the connections that we’ve made,
like a lot of the girls have been awesome and have become really close friends. We have
like the BGT text message group, which is lit, you know, just seeing like people that
would have probably never met. Like they, they are leaning in and they’re going off
and doing their own hikes and you know, this stuff is just kind of makes me feel like a
proud parent. Like I introduced them, I’m getting people inspired and wanting to go
outside and do more things and I don’t know, it’s just like a, I just loved that we kind
of did that, you know? Jasmine: Yeah. That’s, that is really special
to see like all these people who wouldn’t have already met come together and really,
you know, form a bond and friendship. Michelle: Yeah. One of the things that I love
about the group is that Black Girls Trekkin exists because of the group. Obviously Tiffany
and I could go on hikes by ourselves, and post those pictures about that and call it
Black Girls Trekkin, but it wouldn’t be the same. So what makes the groups of group and
the people that come, like Tiffany and I kind of pick a date and you know, scout a trail
and bring people with us and all of the things that people say that they love about the group
is because of the people that come, and I just love that and love that. Like the community
that’s being created is really organic. Yeah. And I just love that people are maybe finding
a space that being needed and wanted. And I just like being a part of that, just like
a facilitator as a part of people’s journey. It’s super rewarding for me to see that happen.
And then to see that grow Jasmine: Black Girls Trekkin, it seems simple,
but I also know there’s a meaning behind it. Tiffany: When I first first started Instagram.
It was, I believe, Black Girls Who Hike but there are other outdoor activities that we
could be doing like kayaking, rock climbing, trail running, which I personally will never
do. But you know, there’s black trail runners out there and we figured why not like include
everything, why you limited to just us hiking. So I just, I just chose “trekkin” cause I,
I was fascinated by the definition of Trek. One, it kind of plays into the fact that we
are challenging our bodies and doing things, and two as black women, we have our own personal
hard journey when it comes to, you know, racism and all that stuff. So it’s just kind of all
the safe space word and I want it all included in the title of the group, Jasmine: The women of Black Girls Trekkin
are united together by their love of nature, their passion for conservation and are driven
to share this passion with the world. Michelle: You’re outside and kind of, particularly
when you’re by yourself outside, there’s all this life that’s happening around you. And
I think I can sometimes get in my head about like, Oh, you know what, I’m at work or in
other places with people that like, Oh I did something weird and somebody noticed. But
that does happen in the outdoors. And so I think what I love most about it, it’s just,
it’s occurring to me to just relax, to kind of let go of all of the worries anxiety that
I might have, just like realize that the life that is happening with or without me and doesn’t
really care what I’m doing, which I kind of love. Tiffany: For one I just love nature. Like
I love just being outside, hearing the sound of the wind filter through the trees, listening
to bird, squirrels, seeing things or random creatures. And then the other thing is just
because we’re doing the Six Pack of Peaks this year, so another thing I really like
is pushing my body to do things that I wouldn’t have imagined myself doing five years ago
when I first started this. So just the fact that I’m out there doing like these 12-13
mile hikes and even though I have like a slight more than a slight fear of heights, the fact
that I push myself up to the top then make it to the top is a really rewarding experience
for me that I can get my body to do these things that I never imagined doing a while
ago. Jasmine: It’s amazing what this group has
accomplished in just two years. All the places we’ve visited, the mountains we’ve climbed
and, fears we have overcome and we’ve evolved into this growing group of amazing women ready
to tackle even more challenges Tiffany: We don’t have the funds right now
but in the future. Me and Michelle would hope that Black Girls Trekkin could become like
a nonprofit organization and that we can have groups kind of all over at least the U S cause
people are constantly asking us about it. They’re like, Oh do you have a Seattle? You
have a D.C. Or Atlanta group? There are people reaching out across the country basically.
So we’d like to get like ambassadors in different cities and states and have this group elsewhere. Jasmine: That’d be awesome. Michelle: There are some really high in the
sky dreams and then probably something we could actually get done. Michelle: But, I mean one I think that Tiffany
and I have both talked for awhile about growing it outside of Los Angeles and so I think that’s
one thing that we’re kind of focused on as the that could actually happen hopefully soon.
Is like expanding it to other places. We just haven’t to because we want to make sure that
the group here is really solid before we start groups in other places. And that the community
that started here, we kind of know that like secret formula is so that way we can have
the same experience other places if we can’t be there. That’s one dream is just like have
ambassadors in other places and create communities all over the place. Jasmine: My, my other question that’s, it’s
sort of related to the group, but what advice do you have for anyone, especially people
of color who want to get out there and start hiking? Tiffany: Just, kind of do it. I didn’t really
think about that when I first started hiking I didn’t even realize that it was a thing
and issue of diversity in the outdoors until I started hiking to take and if you are afraid
or need a safe space just ask friends look for groups like Black Girls Trekkin. There’s
Unlikely Hikers who we love and we’ve hiked with before and there’s just, there’s a lot
of groups, especially in LA that you can take it with and be in a safe space. So I went
to say do your research, make sure you know the trail, bring water and get out there.
We’re tackling the Six-Pack of Peaks and were more than halfway there so I’m kind of happy
about that. We’ve got two more to go and I’ll have tackled Mount Baldy which is just kind
of, it’s like my own personal Everest. I’m really nervous about it but I’m still gonna
attempt it and having an amazing support group like Black Girls Trekkin has like really got
me to push myself and do these things. Like I said, I’d never thought I’d do in the past. Michelle: I guess my biggest advice would
be just one, give it a try. I think that it’s hard because I think that some of the barriers
for going outdoors is having to maybe go by yourself which maybe daunting to go by yourself
in some cases. I think that if you’re the kind of person that is like up for adventure
and ready to like kind of jump right in, I think to just go for it and like go online
and find a really simple easy trail and just kind of start there. I think my biggest advice,
I’m trying to really get this message across cause that like you don’t need all of the
things at the start so you don’t need to like perfect hiking boots and the perfect backpack
and the REI everything from there to get started really if you’re just getting into hiking
to just put on your sturdiest shoes and like find an easy trail and just go out and find
out what you like about being outdoors. Michelle: Kind of continue there. And then
I would say for people that are maybe more like me that wouldn’t feel maybe as comfortable
starting on their own is just to find at least one other person that can go with you. Or
maybe if you have a pet, like take your dog on a dog-friendly trail and just give it a
try. I know that it sounds easier from my perspective because obviously we have this
group and so what we’ll do is strive to create a space where people can try it with us and
then go out on their own. And I know that those spaces don’t exist everywhere. So the
other message I would have is you have to be the only person of color out in the trail
then just hopefully it’s helpful to you to know that like we’re rooting you on and we
can’t be there with you in that moment, but we’re with you in spirit and to just give
it a try. Michelle: Hopefully you liked it and like
do it the way that you want to do it. It doesn’t have to be all the ways that it’s represented
in the media. You want to go and do a mile and come back home. Do that. Find what works
for you. Nature can look so static. There would probably trees that have been there
for longer than you’ve been alive. They probably look the same to everyone, right? As humans,
all the trees are the same. Maybe just take a moment on each of your outdoor hikes or
adventures and just look around and like notice all of the things that are happening around
you. Jasmine: Groups like Black Girls Trekkin and
Latino Outdoors and all the ones that you mentioned, Unlikely Hikers they’re really
necessary to facilitate more inclusion and encourage better representation for marginalized
people in the outdoor community and I really appreciate you sharing more about your work
and bringing your love of the outdoors to more people. I want to thank again for chatting
with me today and I’ll definitely see out there on the trail soon. Tiffany: Yeah, you will. Michelle: Awesome, thanks Jasmine. Jasmine: You can check out the show notes
for more information on Black Girls Trekkin or go to their website, blackgirlstrekkin.com.
You can also message me if you or someone you know would like to be on the show and
share their insight on the environment, diversity in nature and the outdoors or other relevant
topics. Just remember that no matter what you do, you should think globally and act
locally.

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