In 2016, planning for the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), my biggest pack weight dilemma was carrying my neurological recharge system. Fast forward to 2020, as I prepare for my Superior Hiking Trail (SHT) thru-hike, I’m facing yet another weight dilemma.
The reality of hiking in Northern Minnesota (in the US, for that matter) as a BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color). The additional “pack weight,” so to speak. In addition to traditional gear, I have to consider the weight of my skin.
As a Black woman solo hiking in Northern Minnesota, I can’t take for granted that Minnesotans will live up to the state motto: Minnesota Nice!
I’m not relying on it. I grappled with another weight-related decision. Do I alert local law enforcement of my presence on the trail or don’t? Sadly, we live in a time when an advance alert has to be issued.
Here is an excerpt of the email I shared with the sheriff chief of all four counties along the SHT:
“A section of the SHT is located in the county you’ve been sworn to protect. As a law-abiding visitor, I expect the same level of protection and respect that is afforded to your residents. I understand that there is a great deal of racial tension in the US. I am aware that as a Black solo hiker, I might face adversity and possible prejudice on the trail. However, I do not anticipate threats or violence, and I’d ask that, if needed, you’d intervene promptly. I have attached a photo of myself in hiking gear and ask that if I am seen on the trail that you DO NOT shoot me. Aside from backpacking gear, I will be carrying the following items: bear spray, a pocket knife, and hiking poles. None of these items are “weapons.”
I’m sharing this because it’s the reality of being a Black hiker.
PS Yes, I will post a gear list, trail information, and other “traditional” hiking-related things soon.
PSS. As of June 1, the SHTA recommends that hikers practice social distancing on the trail by limiting group sizes to 10 or less and that you stay home if you’re sick.