Change your feed, change your life! Connect with other Unlikely Hikers on Instagram:
@unlikelyhikers. Use the hashtags #unlikelyhiker or #unlikelyhikers. What is an Unlikely Hiker?
Unlikely Hiker encompasses anyone who doesn’t fit the standard image of the “outdoorsperson.” Bigger body types, people of color, queer, trans, gender nonconforming folks, differently-abled people and so on. The people you don’t see in outdoorsy media. Honestly, I don’t even want to qualify it to death. Maybe, you are someone who has overcome tremendous odds to find healing in the outdoors. We all have a story. If you see yourself as an Unlikely Hiker, then you are. Welcome.
It’s ironic, tongue-in-cheek, reclamatory. There is nothing
unlikely about wanting to enjoy and explore nature, it’s one of the most natural things any of us can want to do. Yes, the outdoors and public lands belong to all of us and sure, no one is getting a handwritten invitation to our National Parks and trailheads, but exclusion isn’t always verbal. A lot of the time, it’s about representation. Representation matters! Who is being targeted for outdoor recreation? Who has a seemingly natural sense of access?
I was so tired of seeing the same kind of person on seemingly every social media based outdoors community. White, thin, “fit” and straight-looking. Often, moneyed (read: top of the line gear). Often, a man. The typical woman featured fits an even narrower set of guidelines. That isn’t a knock at anyone who fits that, but it’s a reality that leaves the rest of us noticeably out of place. (I write a lot more about this in
Community, Intersectionality and Every Feeling I’ve Ever Felt.) Unlikely Hikers on Instagram
@unlikelyhikers Instagram is a frequently updated, thriving community. The #UnlikelyHiker(s) hashtags have been used over 10,000 times! Here are some fantastic samples:
“By nature I have always been outdoorsy. As a child when there were problems at home I would walk to the woods on the other side of my family’s farm or bike along the dirt roads exploring the fields. As an adult, it’s been a struggle to come back to this natural state for me. However, my life was completely shaken up and I decided I needed to go back to nature and heal. Back in August, as I entered my apartment I was attacked and stabbed multiple times, including through my skull and right eye. My world was torn apart. I’m now piecing it together as I thru hike the Appalachian trail. I hope that I can be an example for other victims of violence, to know that our lives aren’t over and we can find ourselves again on the trail.” -Carol
“I just started hiking this past April, but the idea had been planted long ago. While serving in Iraq as a member of the US Army, I came across a guidebook for the Pacific Crest Trail. Not long after, I was injured and my life became a series of medications, appointments and doctors telling me what I can and cannot do anymore. After years of battling ptsd and depression, I decided to take back my life. No better way to do this than to revisit that idea I almost let die. I purchased gear, booked a flight and found the old me on the PCT. Hiking has given me back my confidence, sanity and life. I’m proud to be hikertrash and very honored to be part of this community of unlikely hikers!” -Will aka Akuna
“Movement has always felt natural to me; staying in one place for too long disquiets my soul. When I learned I could cross the country on trails, I felt like I’d finally found something like home. 3100 miles later, I’m devoted to long-distance hiking and I’m working to diversify and protect our public lands so we can all keep hiking in the years to come.” -Amanda aka Zuul
“Perhaps I seem like an unlikely character in the woods, climbing mountains on one leg with my SideStix crutches; but, I shouldn’t be. It is in nature that I heal and become whole again. I fill my body with pure air and reconnect with my wild, natural self. Is it not true that a tree, twisted and knotted, which accommodates to its surroundings is more interesting to look at? This tree, with all its imperfections has an story to tell and speaks to me. I, an unlikely hiker with all my imperfections belong here. Like this twisted tree, nature embraces me into her beauty.” -Sarah
“My parents nurtured my sense of adventure from the beginning. Some of my earliest memories are of road trips, especially visiting Luray Caverns and Shenandoah Valley. Now I’m getting out of my comfort zone in ways I never imagined. In 2016, I went from my first tent camping trip in New York to a week of it climbing Kilimanjaro. It’s a dream come true to be able to do these things.” -Naureen
“I am an unlikely hiker, a hiker of color, a hiker of size, an LGBTQ hiker, a hiker who likes to lose his path in nature in order to find his path in life and a hiker that isn’t afraid to be himself. I choose to explore and share my experiences so I can spread love, understanding and tolerance. This is your life, your path and your choice. Create the world you want to live in. I know I am.” -Kaliki
“I work on efforts to engage communities of color through various planned events throughout the year. I do this in partnerships with others or through my org, African American Nature and Park’s Experience. Hiking, camping and exploring are just a few of the activities I use to pique the interest of those who have found very little interest in the outdoors. My hope is that through community engagement, we will be able to foster a sense of stewardship, thus creating a larger core group of environmentalists.” -Teresa
“When I first started hiking, I was an unlikely hiker because I had no outdoor experience. I didn’t hike or camp growing up. But in the depths of depression, something called me to a trail near my house. I feel now that hiking helped save my life. I continued to be an unlikely hiker because back then I thought I was a cis woman. Now, as a transmasculine nonbinary person, I face new challenges on the trail due to being visibly gender nonconforming. My partner, a trans woman, shares in these challenges. Where will we pee? Are we safe in this rural area? But we hike anyway, because the power and beauty of nature is worth it. We’re proud to be trans and be unlikely hikers in love!” -Ray
“In many ways, I am a very likely hiker as I have been hiking since I was a kid. I’ve been walking the PCT for the past few weeks and as always, hiking is making me feel great, strong and powerful. I climbed San Jacinto (10800ft) recently and really struggled in the snow. For the first time on this trail, I started to doubt myself and my ability. When I struggle my mind automatically starts to blame it all on my weight, regurgitating all the negative things I have been told over my lifetime. But climbing mountains or looking back at the miles you have covered that day makes your accomplishments so obvious that I can move on to loving my body (especially my legs) again.” -Phoebe
“Our queer, POC, polyamorous family is made up of an artist, researcher, child educator and a four-legged fetch machine. We have multiple common loves like, books (the pup eats these), coffee, burgers, settlers of catan, coffee again? However, our primary common love is nature, coffee is the close second! Getting outdoors is essential to all of our hearts and we try to live outdoors as much as possible. We road trip about once every other month and camp, hike, fish, garden, and lake dive in our spare time off. As a family, we hope to create diverse and welcoming spaces in and outdoors. While living our outdoors life we often get amazing stares, weird looks, confused faces, or the best, nods and smiles of appreciation because of our polyamorous lifestyle. Running into people who are out and poly when not outdoors is pretty rare. So adding our queer POC poly family to the trails is what makes us unlikely hikers! To see more of our adventures check out our blog!” -Adventures with Chaco