In 2005, I had no clue what a summer camp in Jackson-Hole, Wyoming would be like but turns out, it was actually my kind of thing.
Personally, I had never seen a mountain with my own eyes until the moment I landed. When I got out there I had the opportunity to push myself more than I ever had, see things for the first time over and over again; it was just something I never wanted to end. Year after year I came back to camp looking forward to many new experiences that I never imagined possible in D.C. – rock climbing, white water kayaking, canoeing, and backpacking.
Over time and into adulthood, my love of the outdoors has grown deeper and stronger and my adventure into wild spaces has led me to many of the highest peaks on the planet: Mt. Denali twice, Mt. Kilamanjaro, Mt. Aconcagua and the Rwenzori’s in Uganda, for purposes of brevity.
And yet, despite the joy that every adventure brings – I feel like I always leave a part of me behind. Where are the folks I grew up with in Southeast, D.C.? Why don’t more black and brown folks have access to such incredible spaces? Sometimes, when you’re 17,000 feet up in the glaciers of Alaska for example, a conversation breaking down a Drake verse on In My feelings or debating sugar versus salt on grits is JUST the energy you need to keep on keeping on! And no, I’m not suggesting that we’ll all become expert mountain climbers overnight, but the sentiment that black and brown people deserve access to public spaces is a language that speaks to me in a deeper sense. And this is the very premise of SoulTrak Outdoors.
All of my experiences and time spent outdoors have transformed into a platform that’s much larger than I could’ve imagined as a kid. People need to see themselves represented in places that are unknown, and once they are exposed to these spaces, we all benefit from their interest. We gain a friend in the outdoors, and thus the places we hold so dear have a new set of eyes protecting it. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to be a leader in a space where people of color are vastly underrepresented. The burden of leadership is heavy, but the work must be done.
Every person who participates in a SoulTrak event is not going to become an outdoor enthusiast like me, but they will leave knowing that they can put themselves in uncomfortable situations – and overcome those situations time and time again – whether hiking on a chilly autumn morning or camping on an ocean bank in the spring. The physical, mental, social and cultural experience of the outdoors is unlike any other – there is nothing more natural than nature.
So come join us on an adventure – I promise you won’t regret it. Let’s have the time of our lives. This land is OUR land too.