Home News Travel Black women are a force in the outdoors. This LA hiking group proves it

Black women are a force in the outdoors. This LA hiking group proves it

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Black women are a force in the outdoors.  This LA hiking group proves it

Tiffany Tharpe, 31, started hiking to help battle depression and spend more time outdoors. “It was through hiking that I found that nature has a healing aspect to it,” she says. “To this day, when I’m feeling down, I go outside to reflect.”

While finishing the 52 Hike Challenge in 2017, Tharpe, who works as a veterinary assistant in Los Angeles, noticed that the further she went from LA, the fewer hikers of color she saw on the trails. On a hunch that others might crave an outdoors community the way she did, she started an Instagram profile for Black women hikers. In her twenties at the time and busy with work, she decided to devote time to documenting her hikes—and to post them on her profile, Black Girls Trekkin, Tharpe’s friend Michelle Warren, a program manager and fellow avid hiker, joined her in sharing the responsibilities for leading the group.

Two Black women, Tiffany Tharpe and Michelle Warren, stand next to each other in front of a rocky forested area.

Tiffany Tharpe, left, and Michelle Warren, co-founders of Black Girls Trekkin.

(Tiffany Tharpe)

“We use ‘trek’ both in terms of a challenging hike or journey, but also in terms of dealing with challenges that we face as Black women,” Tharpe says. “We are striving to show that Black women are a clear, present and strong force in the outdoors.” Exploring the different ecosystems across LA, Tharpe hits Malibu for beach hikes, the mountains for waterfalls, snowy spots for winter outdoors play and Joshua Tree for the renewal of the desert — posting about all of it, of course.

Tharpe says she had no plans to lead in-person hikes until the social media requests flooded her account, but that’s exactly what happened. She talked to Warren, and the two decided to bring the group offline. Over the next few years, the initial desire to unite Black women hikers grew into larger goals: promoting outdoor equity and the creation of safe spaces. As of today, the two — who run BGT in addition to their day jobs — have hosted almost 100 hikes and 20 events, and the Instagram page has become a community of more than 36,000 people. There’s now a TikTok too.

“I’m always amazed about how much we’ve grown,” Tharpe says. “It started as just Michelle and I doing this and thinking maybe a few people would be interested, to us now having four amazing adventure leads who volunteer to lead our group events and a great board, along with a supportive community.”

Tharpe and Warren, who is also 31, won BGT its 501(c)3 nonprofit status in September 2021, and now host periodic hikes and partner hiking events, collaborating with Latino Outdoors, Unlikely Hikers and Black Men Hike LA, “It brings me joy to continue to build our relationships with these groups and provide a safe space for multiple people in the BIPOC community,” Tharpe says.

A group of hikers (and a couple dogs) stand and crouch near a flag that says "Black Girls Trekkin'.

The group is taking their first out-of-state trip, to Zion National Park, this weekend. Tharpe and Warren hope to expand nationwide.

(Tiffany Tharpe)

Tharpe says that icebreakers and intention-setting are crucial to community development at their hikes. At the start of each outdoor event, BGT leaders introduce themselves, and then everyone in the circle shares their preferred names and pronouns. The icebreaker can be simple, like naming a favorite ice cream flavor or safari animal, but once the ice is broken, supporting one another on the hike becomes easier. “It really is a supportive environment where people are hyping one another up, and when we get to the top, we’re all so proud of what we all have accomplished,” says Tharpe. “I think what’s always been important is that we make our space feel safe enough that people want to continue to come back.”

This weekend, BGT is hosting its first out-of-state trip, to Zion National Park, It’s a four-day, three-night campout that Tharpe says will host attendees from several states. It’s the first step toward expanding the BGT presence across the country, Tharpe tells me. “We would love to see our community grow into something nationwide and be able to host hikes throughout the country, and maybe even go international,” she says.

A group of hikers stands for a picture in front of the "Entering Joshua Tree National Park sign."

Icebreakers and intention setting happen before BGT hikes, helping to create a supportive environment.

(Tiffany Tharpe)

The group practices LNT (leave no trace) principles when out on the trails and organizes trail cleanups. They’ve participated in the Great LA River Cleanupand most BGT leaders, Tharpe says, carry trash bags when hiking to grab loose trash from the trail when they can. BGT is also conscious of providing camping opportunities to those who can’t always afford it. For the Zion trip, two campers will have their tickets and gear sponsored by women’s outdoor clothing brand Wondery,

If you want to join BGT on a hike, climb or other outdoor experience, check out their websitewhere you can sign up for their email list, and follow them on facebook, Instagram and/or TikTok,

3 things to do

A hiker takes in the view from the top of Angels Landing in Zion National Park.

Be inspired to take on your own mountains: Attend paraclimber Maureen Beck’s talk in Thousand Oaks in May.

(Marc Martin / Los Angeles Times)

1. Bring Nat Geo mag to life. If you’ve never attended this captivating series of immersive live storytelling by National Geographic photographers, scientists, filmmakers and adventurers, try this one on for size: With no guidebook on how to climb with one hand, paraclimber Maureen Beck learned solely through grit and practice. At this event in Thousand Oaks, she’ll tell her story of climbing from New England to Colorado, winning nine national titles and teaching the adaptive climbing community and USA Climbing’s paraclimbing section. The event is May 26 at 8 pm Thousand Oaks Arts, Tickets cost $44 to $54 — nab them here before they’re all gone.

Two volunteers help clean up a river on Earth Day

It’s Earth Day, so get your volunteer on.

(From L.A. Waterkeeper)

2. Celebrate Earth Day with cleanups and hikes. Saturday is Earth Day, and free events to honor our planet abound. There’s a trip to Solstice Canyon with LA Hike Cluba hike from the Griffith Park merry-go-round with outdoorism and a cleanup event at the Mojave National Preserve with the Western National Parks Association. Grill and chill with the South Bay Parkland Conservancy at its annual Earth Day campout, or join forces with LA Waterkeeper for the day, cleaning up our river in partnership with Golden Road Brewing. The post-cleanup party is 21-plus only and will take place, naturally, at the Pub at Golden Road in Atwater Village from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm Register here,

The inside of a telescopic dome.

See Sarah Rosalena Brady’s exhibit “Standard Candle” in the telescope dome at Mount Wilson Observatory.

Mount Wilson Institute

3. See art inspired by Mount Wilson’s forgotten women data scientists. First Nations and Xicana artists Sarah Rosalena Brady will present her exhibit “Standard Candle,” which displays Indigenous weaving and beading based on data sets from women data scientists at Mount Wilson Observatory. The exhibit, produced by the observatory in partnership with LACMA and Carnegie Sciences Pasadena, will take place in the telescope dome starting Saturday, May 6, and on weekends throughout May. For more details, sign up for the observatory newsletter. Opening times have not been announced yet due to mountain conditions,

The must-read

people in life jackets in a small boat next to a whale sticking its face out of the water

A whale watching group gets a close-up view of a gray whale in Laguna San Ignacio.

(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

Did you catch the videos going around a couple weeks ago of the tailless gray whale? Whale-watching season is something I get hyped about every year (I mostly head to San Diego for tours on City Cruises), and watching for the tail, or fluke, is one of the most exciting moments. Plus, if you snap a photo of the tail, it can help identify the individual whale! That’s why it must have been an extra shock to Alison Mytych of Thousand Oaks, who has volunteered as a whale watcher and citizen scientist since 2012, when she saw the tailless gray.

Malibu Times reports that the amputation most likely happened from the whale being tangled up in fishing nets or gear, and that the 2023 Consolidated Appropriations Act phases out the use of whale-killing drift gillnetswhich are notorious for trapping dolphins and whales due to their size and large mesh.

These majestic beings can be spotted from many of our trails and islands, an experience that can not only take your breath away, but also make you feel like a tiny human. (If that doesn’t thrill you, here are more reasons you should go whale watching,) We have more work to do to protect them, along with turtles, dolphins and porpoises (single-use plastics, as well as pollutants, still plague these creatures in the ocean), but eliminating these nets is a first step. In the meantime, I’m cheering this gray whale on in its migration. He appears to be a little underweight, but he’s swimming on in a world that’s thrown some pretty challenging environmental circumstances at him.

Happy adventuring

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PS

A surfer rides a big wave.
Check out the surfing documentary series “100 Foot Waveon HBO.

(HBO)

What are you up to this weekend? I’m excited to be bouldering outdoors after all this rain. If your spring gardens are flourishing, your plants are well-fed, you’ve completed your weekend hike and you’re looking for a little down time, check out the first or second seasons of the surfing documentary series “100 Foot Waveon HBO.

The first season won an Emmy in outstanding cinematography for a nonfiction program, and the second season definitely provides drama. We all take risks as outdoor adventurers, but big-wave surfers cleave to the same class as BASE jumpers, where desire outweighs reason. Follow along as a wild crew of first-rate surfers hits the waves in Nazaré, Portugal, by towing out to waves so monstrous, no surfer previously knew they existed. Watching is an exhilarating way to ride the swells with them, even if you’re a landlubber — or prefer your waves under 10 feet.

For more insider tips on Southern California’s beaches, trails and parks, check out past editions of The Wild, And to view this newsletter in your browser, click here.

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