In the Bay Area ( Calif. ) there are several hiking groups and organizations dedicated to getting folks outdoors, there are a select few that are committed to engaging communities of color, but getting into the groove is H.E.A.T, Hiking Every Available Trail, a new hiking group dedicated to getting bay area folks out into nature.
One of the founders of this group, Stan Miles, has reached out to me several times, inviting me to join them out on the trails. Seeing all the photos the group posts is inviting in itself, but watching the number of participants grow over time is the reason I wanted to blog about them and the awesome work they are all putting in.
What was the motivation in creating H.E.A.T?
H.E.A.T. was created as a recreation and fitness group to provide opportunities for people to turn up their level of fitness by Hiking Every Available Trail. There’s a myth that African Americans don’t hike but we dispel that myth every weekend with turnouts of 50 plus people each time. The Bay is filled with beautiful trails and fantastic views. We wanted to create a group where people of all fitness levels could challenge themselves physically, explore nature and find support among new friends. There’s a place for everyone in HEAT; from the beginning hiker to the trail runner. Our only requirement is a positive attitude and respect for the nature we commune in each week.
How has it been keeping folks motivated over time?
That’s one area that requires no effort at all. People are so in awe of the magnificence of the areas we visit, they sometimes forget they’re also getting a workout. It’s really exhilarating to stumble across all the hidden jewels tucked away in our backyards here in the Bay. It’s not unusual for people to go on their first hike ever with HEAT and then start exploring trails on their own while they’re away on vacation or business. It’s great to see people post pictures of themselves on trails outside of the Bay because it inspires others to get out and explore. People share fitness, health and equipment tips among themselves. It seems like there’s always some peripheral fitness challenge going on between members. Hiking is contagious and we’re happy to be the driving force that gets people active.
What are your future plans for the group?
As our name suggests, we want to Hike Every Available Trail so we have many more to check off the list. There are so many beautiful parks and trails in the Bay Area we have yet to explore, but we also want to venture out of the area as a group to longer destination hikes. We would like to explore hikes out of the state and eventually out of the country. Our primary focus though is to continue to encourage people to get active to try to mitigate some of the health challenges that face our community like high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. Hiking is a great way to get fit because it doesn’t cost anything, you’re not stuck in a stuffy gym and you don’t have to be fit to start. You choose your own pace and how hard you want to push yourself. Outside of hiking, we also participate in community service events. With so many resources within the group, we’re finding we can also make an impact in our communities in other areas.
Which trail(s) in the bay area do you consider the groups favorite and why?
Cataract Falls, in Fairfax is our favorite Bay Area trail with Redwood Regional Park in Oakland coming in a close second. Cataract offers everything you would want to find on a hike. Depending on the time of year you go, you’ll notice something new each time. It’s also one of the more challenging trails coming in at 9 miles with a roller coaster of inclines and stairs, it definitely gives you reason to pause and enjoy the greenery, waterfalls and overall beauty in nature. Redwood Regional is a hidden gem that so many do not realize is in our own backyard. Offering beautiful redwoods and challenging trails throughout to create a different path time and time again.
What advice would you give to others who are considering hiking but pause for various reasons?
Just come out. If you can walk to your car to go to the store, you can hike with HEAT. We have first timers who have never been on a trail, all the way to people who have been hiking the majority of their lives. The best part about hiking is that nobody cares what level you’re at. It’s not like the gym where folks try to outdo the next member by lifting more weight. Hiking isn’t a competitive environment. We’re all just out to hike, unwind, get a good workout, enjoy nature and meet new people with familiar faces we can relate to. So grab a friend and come along or come solo and make 50 new friends. Everyone is welcome and everyone finds their reason to keep coming back. #hikingtobetterhealth.