A monthly digest of news, resources, things I like and whatever I want usually regarding diversity, inclusion and representation in the outdoors. Yeah, this is biased AF.
Issue no. 3 – April 1, 2018
Welcome to the third issue of Unlikely Outdoors! I started this newsletter because it can be difficult finding news and resources regarding issues of diversity in the outdoors and I want these resources to get the airtime they deserve! I also wanted a consolidated space to share things I find important and interesting, especially since Facebook has officially fulfilled it’s prophecy.
Changes! I will be sharing blog updates and group hike info here from now on because I can’t keep up with three different mailing lists. You’ll find this info at the bottom to keep the focus on the newsletter.
You can see back issues and subscribe at the top of this newsletter or on my blog: jennybruso.com/newsletter.
Content is newest to oldest with an emphasis on newer resources, but I also include things I’ve recently found even if they’re long past their publishing date.
Wanna help? Send me stuff! Body-positive and queer stuff a plus: firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’d like notifications for the newsletter, sign up on the menu tool bar above to follow (yes, even if you did in the past. I had problems with the service I was using).
Thank you for reading and please share with your networks xo
Michael A. Estrada | Melanin Base Camp | March 30, 2018
Michael’s beautiful writing made me tear up more than once. Let yourself be enveloped by this.
There was nature, and there were these discreet teachings that I could hear if I listened closely. That same year I got hurt, I was doing this thing called ecological restoration. I was restoring nature, and through it, if I had been paying closer attention, I was actually learning to restore myself, too. With each plant I cradled into the ground I could feel the earth’s presence and energy; a presence that would quietly teach me what it meant to heal. To heal an area of land or to heal a part of myself required tenderness, love, and time. And, if I paid attention, it also was showing me how I could understand my emotions and growth through nature’s perspective.
Heather Handsman | Outside | March 26, 2018
Good article featuring plus-size athletes talking about why plus-size gear is needed NOW. I’ve been hung up on this issue for a long time for all of the obvious reasons, but as I delve into this work more and more and am becoming seen as a part of the outdoor world, it’s increasingly frustrating that for all of this new peacocking about diversity in the outdoors, I still can’t go into an outdoor retailer and find things that fit me that aren’t 1) made for men. Because often that is the only option that “fits.” 2) ugly. Yes, style is important. If we’re paying the money, we deserve to not be treated as if we’ll wear anything because we’re just so grateful to finally have something. 3) overpriced because it’s plus-size and considered “special.” 4) out of stock. Yup, often when I go into a store to buy a plus-size item, they’re out. Hmm, could it be because plus-size people actually get outdoors and have money they are willing to spend because they want gear, too?
Katie Elder | The Trek | March 24, 2018
Katie is a queer, non-binary hiker about to start the PCT! They’ll be blogging about it for The Trek.
After a few initial hours of hiking through dense forest on mostly level ground, I decided to push on and see how close to the bridge I could get. I knew it was a rookie mistake to attempt big miles on the first day, but I couldn’t find a reason to go slow on flat ground. I overestimated my ability because I didn’t consider the strain of my pack weight.
Virgie Tovar | Ravishly | March 22, 2018
We are so lucky to have Virgie Tovar and we’re even luckier that she writes a weekly column for Ravishly about all things fat-positive or just like, how to not miss out on your beautiful life because of diet culture. I especially liked this recent article, but go check out all of her columns!
The topic of post-dieting weight gain comes up frequently in my work, but usually in private conversations. People want to stop restricting (because, obviously, it’s deeply unpleasant and super oppressive) but have been conditioned to fear what the body may do once it’s no longer being deprived. We as a culture are terrified of the undisciplined body that is governed by pleasure. Omg colonialism!
Katie Boué | REI | March 21, 2018
With the presidential proclamations to shrink Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in effect (at least for now—the decision is subject to multiple lawsuits), we wanted to know: What happens to the land no longer protected as a monument and what does it mean for recreation?
Vanessa Friedman | Autostraddle | March 20, 2018
One of my fave fat outdoorsy babes wrote about this fantastic new app in development that will help fat people navigate our fatphobic culture with more ease. Rebecca Alexander is the co-genius behind AllGo, a new review platform where people of size–and the people who love us–rate the comfort and accessibility of public spaces from restaurants to theaters to airlines to gyms. If this sounds like something you need or something someone you love needs, please consider donating to their kickstarter NOW, as it ends April 8!
“Before starting this company, Rebecca said she did not talk about the size of her body. ‘I spent years of my life watching my world shrink as my anxiety about visiting new places grew,’ she wrote. ‘Anytime I went on a plane, I convinced myself that crossing my arms in front of my chest would mean that the 17″ seats in Coach would accommodate me. My entire senior year of college, I sat in chairs in my own apartment that left indentations in my outer thighs for almost six hours every time I sat in them.’ She wrote that once a roommate asked if she was comfortable in their chairs, perhaps offering her a space to advocate for herself, ‘but I couldn’t talk about my body’s needs.'”
Julie Brown | Powder | March 20, 2018
The National Brotherhood of Skiers formed in 1974 to “to identify and discuss problems and subjects which were unique to the black skiing population.” They’ve created over 60 Black ski clubs around the country.
Wherever they go, the National Brotherhood of Skiers brings the snow and the party. That rang as true this year as ever, when the Brotherhood brought 550 people to Squaw Valley, California, in mid-March, just after a four-day storm cycle dropped more than 80 inches of snow.
Amanda Machado | REI | March 19, 2018
As a Latina living in the U.S, I also often forget that much of the natural areas in our country was previously a part of Mexico, and originally indigenous land. As Gabe Vasquez, the New Mexico coordinator for Latino Outdoors and founder of the outdoor recreation group Nuestra Tierra reminded me, “When Latinos look up at the sky and the mountains, it’s not just deserts and mountains. It’s years of your history and your culture that you’re looking at.”
Aer Parris | REI | March 16, 2018
This amazing mission still has me crying like a baby when I think about it. GirlTrek embarked on a 100-mile journey following in the footsteps of Harriet Tubman, who walked her way to freedom along the Underground Railroad in 1849.
The women in GirlTrek believe that if Harriet Tubman could walk herself to freedom, they can walk themselves to better health. After all, walking has been a healing tradition in Black culture through the ages. “In today’s political climate, a lot of basic liberties seem threatened,” said Jewel Bush, national director of communications for GirlTrek. “The enslaved Africans of Harriet’s time experienced inhumane things I can’t begin to fathom. What we are dealing with now, it’s a different iteration of it. Harriet was bold enough to believe that she could set herself free.”
Susan Goldberg | National Geographic | March 12, 2018
This is obviously necessary and good, but I still don’t know exactly how I feel. It’s been what, 100 years of this fuckery? I think it’s going to take seeing these claims in action. What do you think?
It’s a worthy moment to step back, to take stock of where we are on race. It’s also a conversation that is changing in real time: In two years, for the first time in U.S. history, less than half the children in the nation will be white. So let’s talk about what’s working when it comes to race, and what isn’t. Let’s examine why we continue to segregate along racial lines and how we can build inclusive communities. Let’s confront today’s shameful use of racism as a political strategy and prove we are better than this.
REI Staff | REI | March 8, 2018
So excited to see the impressive, talented writer, Rahawa Haile, profiled by REI. I think many of us, myself very much included, look to Rahawa’s work as an example of new, great, outdoors writing.
“Right now, when you see many outdoor catalogs, you have people who are rock climbing, paddling white water or tackling some very complicated hiking route,” she says. That can be incredibly intimidating for someone who’s interested in the outdoors but not sure where to start. But since those sorts of places aren’t in everyone’s backyard, there are opportunities a lot closer to home. However, she says, “I don’t think we’ve done a good enough job saying here are all the places that are nearby, that are just as spectacular, and here’s how easy it is to get to them.”
REI Staff | REI | March 8, 2018
“I see time outdoors as the first and most important step in changing the way people, lawmakers and society perceive and interact with our natural resources. The majority of Americans live in non-rural clusters. From experience, I can tell you I didn’t think of public lands as mine until I walked them, but with ownership comes responsibility. To get people to fight for what they have, they must first know what they have,” he says.
Zack McKnight | Toyota RAV4 Adventure Grade reposted on The Root | March 6, 2018
When a few friends of mine suggested we hike a treacherous mountain called Breakneck Ridge for my outdoor activity, I immediately thought, but black people don’t hike, followed by a stream of expletives — because who would voluntarily decide to visit a place with both “break” and “neck” in the name? The trail was described as “very difficult” and a “crazy steep hike.” My friends were clearly crazy. Nonetheless, I gave in and agreed to go on a hike at what I had nicknamed Hope-You’re-Ready-to-Die Mountain.
Ashley Manning aka YardSale | The Trek | March 5, 2018
I’m really excited YardSale is blogging for The Trek! We posted one of her posts in the last newsletter and everyone loved it. I’ll be sharing them as they come! I linked another post in the “Other Resources” closer to the bottom.
That’s literally all I could think when I realized I had forgotten so much of my stuff. I had packed, repacked, unpacked, packed again, unpacked, packed, packed, and packed some more. I had been practicing this for months so that I could get everything just right. Yet, here I was at Black Mountain shelter in freezing weather, completely soaked and unable to get warm. I looked at Lindsey and said what I had been thinking for a while: “I think I might hike out.”
“It’s nature. We’re just meant to be out here.”
Justin Forrest Parks | Outdoor Research | March 2, 2018
Color The Crag Climbing Festival was created by Brown Girls Climb and BOC to create space and community for climbers of color. The next Color the Crag dates have been announced for October 18-21, 2018!
Justin Forrest Parks, passionate rock climber, outdoor enthusiast and community advocate born and raised on the Southside of Chicago; reflects on his experience at the first ever Color the Crag:
“Many of us who identify as climbers of color can relate to being the only person who looks like us at the crag or climbing gym. While the climbing community is extremely welcoming and accepting, it’s easy to feel socially isolated in a sport that doesn’t reflect the rich cultural and ethnic diversity in the United States. Especially if you’ve grown up in diverse neighborhoods with a diverse array of friends. Sports, like climbing, that aren’t well integrated, leave athletes of color with choices like: you can either have a diverse set of friends or you can climb every weekend. You can’t do both. Then there are the anxieties and insecurities of being ‘the only one.'”
Featuring Pinar and So of Queer Nature | March 1, 2018
In this conversation, we dive deeply into the questions: why Quests? why for queer folk? why for queer youth, in particular? and why at this moment in time?
Along our exploration, we pause to examine relationships between queerness and landscapes, relationships with the more-than-human world, the language of “quest”, and the role of ancestral skill reclamation in dismantling and repairing the legacies of settler colonialism.
Bam Mendiola | The Mountaineers | March 1, 2018
The Mountaineers published their spring issue and one of our fave Unlikely Hikers, Bam Mendiola, is on the cover! The writing is absolutely stunning.
“As I stretch my brown hands towards the sky to and a rock feature, I feel weighted. I carry the weight of realizing, more often than not, I’m probably the only brown or queer person for miles. When I traverse carefully on glaciers under the cover of darkness I’m keenly aware of the stereotypes society has perpetuated about me. I worry that my weaknesses will be attributed to my race, body size, or sexual orientation. When a heterosexual or white climber makes an error, nobody ever thinks it’s because they are heterosexual or white. When I make a mistake, I wonder if people will subconsciously believe its because Latinxs “aren’t educated,” round bodies are “lazy,” or queer people simply “aren’t outdoorsy.” I am a coalescence of intersecting identities, some of which also afford me unearned privilege. As a cisgender male in the backcountry, my gender is never questioned or associated with any personal shortcomings as a climber.”
Aer Parris | REI | February 23, 2018
So REI has made good on many of their promises with the Force of Nature campaign, including more plus-sizes in more stores, but for many folks like me, it still doesn’t feel like enough. To be clear, I’m not just talking about REI and I don’t want to knock forward movement! Many of us plus-size folks have been waiting too long for a nod of attention and forward movement has a way of making one reflect on what’s already transpired. Am I happy about this news? Yes, absolutely. I want more and I know that asking for more is the bare minimum.
“If we go off of history, it’s not profitable. We can’t look at history—we have to do this now,” Trina said. Michele agreed, noting that “being a co-op allowed us to move into this market more aggressively than if we were making decisions solely based on business performance,” since we’re accountable to our members, not to shareholders.
[podcast] How to Survive the End of the World – HI, LISTEN TO THIS NOW! This podcast is my new fave and I can feel it making my life better. Sisters, Autumn Brown and Adrienne Maree Brown, “share many identities, as writers, activists, facilitators, and inheritors of multiracial diasporic lineages, as well as a particular interest in the question of survival.” And then donate to their patreon because we are so fortunate that they are creating this art and media and women of color should get PAID.
Mar. 29 – 19 Women Who Instagram All the Epic Outdoorsy Things They Do – Sarah Angle – Nice article from SELF featuring some people I REALLY LIKE (shout outs to Danielle Sky (Melanin Base Camp), Ambreen Tariq (Brown People Camping), Ashley Manning, Mirna Valerio and Brenna Bean (of Our Everest) and myself!
Queer Mountain Quest – An epic journey into nature, self, truth, and community for LGBTQ2IA+ youth ages 13-18 – held August 12 – 28 in Olympic National Park (Klallam & Quileute Lands). Guides include Pınar Sinopoulos-Lloyd of Queer Nature, Roz Katonah and Anna Schulman.
Feb. 28 – [podcast] Abuela Afuera: Grandmother Outside – She Explores – LOVED this episode. “Caro Luevanos-Garcia believes the key to closing the gaps between generations can be found in the outdoors. And she also believes the inverse: that people (especially people of color) across generations can find the outdoors with the help of each other.” (CW: There is a small amount of weight loss talk.)
Feb. 27 – Big Girl, Big Hike – Ashley Manning aka YardSale | The Trek
Jan. 18 – The Inuit Woman Who Survived the Arctic Alone – Kate Siber | Outside
Mar. 7, 2016 – The Bliss I Find in Solo Hikes – Teresa Baker
It’s finally happening! We’ve got merch! T-shirts, stickers, postcards and more to come! SHOP NOW!!!
On March 3, 2018, I participated in the storytelling event, Back Fence PDX, where I told this story from memory with no notes! This is what I wrote up for practice, the delivered piece was a bit different. It takes place in early spring of 2013. All of the photos are from that day. Ugh, thinking about Angels Rest hurts my heart so bad.
I was on Live Wire Radio! Public Radio International, bitches! (I’m on at 42:52.) I sound bizarrely confident. I wasn’t, but maybe I’m getting better at faking it. Cute Story: as I was getting ready for this, putting on my make-up, etc., a booming voice from on high infiltrated by very being: “CHERYL STRAYED WILL BE THERE!!!” Writer George Saunders, was the “big” guest that night and he was her writing mentor. I was about three seconds away from shitting myself the entire night thinking she would be there. She wasn’t.
Events & Group Hikes:
April 11: Queer Adventure Storytelling
April 21: Group hike – General – tba
May 5: Group hike – D.C.! – tba
May 9: Queer Adventure Storytelling
May 12: Woman Up! by, Portland Monthly
May 13: Group hike – Low Intensity – tba
May 19: Group hike – General – tba
June 2: Group hike – Atlanta! – tba
Alright, honey, get out your calendar and jot these down. I announce the location and details of the hikes two weeks from the date (a month in advance for national dates), so don’t be fooled by a “tba.” Check the blog regularly for updates. All events in or near Portland, Oregon, unless otherwise stated. Dates are subject to change because I am one human doing too many things, but it rarely happens.
I offer three hiking groups for your varied needs: General, Low Intensity and Nice & Slow. See event page for more info on what this means and to find the right group for you! Hope to see you on a hike!