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For people of color, hiking isn’t always an escape

Non-white hikers sometimes forced to carry racial baggage on the trail

For people of color, hiking isn't always an escape


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Earlier this summer Jenna Yokoyama set out to plan a backpacking trip to northern Idaho.

But before committing she wanted to know if non-white hikers would be safe in a region known as a hotbed for white supremacists.

It was an important question for Yokoyama, 34, a Japanese-American and avid hiker who said several years earlier she was a target of racial taunting in Lone Pine, Calif., while hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.

“How safe is that area for people of color,” she said. “I wanted to ask people … this specifically had to do with my safety based on my race.”

So Yokoyama, of Portland, Ore., searched the internet for places to ask. She found some online groups for minorities in the outdoors but nothing specific for hiking and backpacking.

Undaunted, Yokoyama decided to start her own Facebook group, “Hikers of Color,” with the hope someone who could answer her questions would join.

She then posted invitations in Facebook groups for the Pacific Crest, John Muir and Appalachian trails.

Almost immediately the posts generated dozens of comments, many supportive but others accused her of everything from promoting separate trails for white people and non-white people, seeking to form exclusive cliques and even warning her to stay off the trail because she wasn’t worthy of search and rescue help should she get in trouble.

Moderators of the various trail groups sought to prevent hateful and ignorant comments, but the damage was done.

“When I read those comments they were hurtful,” Yokoyama said. “They were also not surprising.”

Geez, there are haters everywhere. Even the great outdoors. :(

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