On Saturday We Hike 2021 Review

Group of 13 people dressed in summer outdoor clothing in a clearing surrounded by a grove of deciduous trees

On Saturday We Hike 2021 Review (and what comes next)

2021 was our first full calendar year of On Saturday We Hike. And what a year!

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Christmas Day + New Year’s Day in -35 temps
  • Elk Island Birthday Hike
  • Huge groups in the summer, including 6 out-of-towners
  • A Guest Host (thanks Dan!)
  • A couple of Land Acknowledgements
  • Improving at my accessibility notes
  • Lots of cool animal sightings: bald eagle, family of coyotes, deer, waxwings, cougar prints in the snow

WHAT IS ON SATURDAY WE HIKE

It is an Edmonton and area walking group that I started in summer 2020 after Dan & I took a day trip up to Sulphur Gates Provincial Rec Area and I bought Mable the Mazda. I wanted to help other people access the outdoors beyond just inspiring them with my photos on Instagram. At the time, my plan was to drive people to the trailheads, but the pandemic axed that (and for good reason too).

Our group has settled into a nice routine. We meet every Saturday morning at 9:00am at a trailhead in or around Edmonton. I choose the trailhead, but each participant chooses their pace and ends on their own terms. Our hikes seem to naturally wrap up for everyone around the 1 hour mark. This is an open walking group, and accessible to all ages and abilities. Due to the nature of the “marketing”, the hikers are mostly my family members, a work mate, and a few of my best friend’s friends.

On a personal note, it has been spectacular to watch my two families become friends. My two Moms talking about their weeks, my cousin and Dad (unrelated) bonding over who knows what. Even if I don’t achieve some of the lofty goals I had for this group, these small actions feel enormous in my mind.

MY CONCERNS

My personal “social justice” work has always just been personal. I am not sure how to bring this to the group, other than being an example. Which I don’t think is enough in this case (or anymore anywhere). No matter my intentions or feelings about it, we are a group of higher income, mostly able-bodied, visually non-disabled white people walking about in the world. Unfettered by any restrictions or assumptions about our rights to be in these spaces. We are out here walking like we belong out here, because this world was made with us in mind. We are not purposefully excluding racialized or marginalized people, but by appearance only you could assume that we are. What in the hell am I doing to address this?

The fact that we are a small walking group, attended mostly by family is no excuse. We have very little power over trail accessibility, and I never want to have a token person of colour in our group just for aesthetics. But it is my job as a white person to use the power that I do possess to tear down white supremacy and colonial systems in the places I can. And right now, that’s in my little walking group.

Here is my tiny list of places I want to start:

  • Land acknowledgments; do them more often and do better ones
  • Learn the history of these places and share it
  • Conversations in the group about who they see on the trails
  • Accessibility notes, choosing accessible trails (and learning what that means)
  • More reading and learning about diversity in the outdoors, the history and impacts of exclusion, and what people are doing about it in their communities

Being an ally is not an identity. It is a series of behaviours. This year I want to explore what allyship behaviours I can encourage in the OSWH group so they can take those out into their lives and the difference we all make will be like a ripple in my favourite mountain lakes.

“ACCESSIBILITY”

Hosting a weekly walking group has opened my eyes even more to the inaccessibility of the majority of our trail system. And it’s a huge bummer. This includes for folks with physical disabilities, but also marginalized or racialised people not feeling welcome and not seeing themselves represented in these spaces.

You don’t have to climb a damn mountain every weekend to experience the magic of nature. Getting outside, even “just” to a neighbourhood park counts. You also don’t have to look a certain way to explore the outdoors. This includes a visible disability, body positivity, and celebrating all skill levels and abilities. And you shouldn’t have to look a certain way to feel like you belong outside or to participate in outdoor activities. But the reality for many folks is that they don’t feel like they belong outdoors, which has a ripple effect all the way to how we will be preserving these places in the future.

If this group had a vision statement, I would want all of that included in it. I want to explore what is preventing people from accessing our local trails, and then I want to help them smash through that barrier in whatever way makes the most sense for them. And ultimately I want to dissolve all the barriers that exist at the systemic level, but y’all I am still just running one little walking group! Perhaps I need to start a “writing letters to City Hall” group too. (No more groups Lisa!!)

WHAT’S NEXT

I try not to plan locations too far ahead because I never know what the conditions will be like, but also we hike in rain, snow, and -40. But also, this gal who doesn’t read weather forecasts thinks about the weather sometimes. This is especially true for seasonal changes: when will the snow and ice be gone, when will the trails dry up, when will the snow and ice show up again? Inevitable questions in Edmonton.

Here are some big and small and in between ideas I have for 2022 OSWH:

  • A few adventure hikes and evening hikes
  • Different times to see if that appeals to more/different folks
  • A trail head location 45+ minutes away from town
  • Guest hosts
  • Land acknowledgments
  • Programming
  • Hike events for introverts
  • More tracking
  • Take requests, get input and reviews from attendees
  • Improve my accessibility notes and choose better trails

I have already started a better tracking system in my planner, and I have a few polls planned on Instagram to get some input into trail selection. I also want (need) to acknowledge that this is so far my most successful group, and it is barely that. This year I will be exploring why that is, and what lessons I can learn from this to bring into my other community building goals.

FURTHER READING

Unlikely Hikers

Diversify Outdoors

Five ways to make the outdoors more inclusive (The Atlantic)

To diversify the outdoors we need to think about who we are excluding (Outside Online)

A path towards diversity and inclusion in the outdoors (Join the Wildlife)

Getting outdoors when you’re disabled (Outside Online)

The Adventure Gap (Sustainable Play)

Benefits of a walking group (Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues)

Alberta Parks brochures in multiple languages available here

Even more resources here.Fitness Inclusion Network (PDF brochure)

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