‘Unlikely’ Hikers Hit the Trail

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“It was startling white,” she said. “There was diversity in the people I hung out with, the food I eat, my work, but not in this park.”

She immediately started Brown People Camping to show Muslims hiking, climbing and camping. She also works with hiking experts to arrange group outings.

Are efforts like these working? There are other positive signs besides the attention on Instagram. A recent study by Kampgrounds of America reported that of the 1.4 million households that camped for the first time in 2018, 51 percent of them are from non-white groups. And last year, an Outdoor Industry Association report concluded that outdoor participation among Hispanics has increased by an average 1.0 percent over the past five years and among Asians by 0.9 percent over the same time period.

Ms. Bruso started Unlikely Hikers with a picture of herself from the backside, looking over a waterfall. “Calling all Unlikely Hikers and misfit nature lovers!” its caption read. “Despite how it may look in the commercials, magazines and other online nature communities, nature doesn’t care about your size, gender, race, ability, gear.”

Her group hikes are as inclusive as possible. If someone needs to take a break, everybody takes a break. The slowest hiker sets the pace. She gets weekly requests from Instagram followers to organize hikes in their cities, and some have started informally organizing their own.

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Disabled Hikers was founded last year by Syren Nagakyrie, a 37-year-old disabled freelance writer and consultant based in Forks, Wash. She was tired of spending hours scouring guidebooks and online resources to find accessible trails. Now on her website, disabledhikers.com, she publishes trail reports and writes guide trails. She recently explored Olympic National Park in Port Angeles, Wash., to find trails sturdy enough for a wheelchair. She too also leads group hikes.

“Unlikely Hikers was the first organization I had heard of to really break through into increasing diverse representation in the outdoors,” Ms. Nagakyrie said. “I have no doubt that without their work, it would be much more difficult for other projects and communities.”



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