On August 27, just a couple of days after the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, I traveled to Yosemite with over 150 bay area hikers, diverse members of our community. There were black and brown faces galore, and what a beautiful array it was!
The day had been in the making for some time. When Stan Miles, one of the founders of the Bay Area hiking group, Hike Every Available Trail (HEAT), reached out to me about doing a hike in Yosemite, I thought it would be amazing. Having followed the activities of this group for a while now, I saw the number of people that participated and thought that it would be wonderful to recreate one of their hikes in Yosemite. Then I found out another Bay Area hiking group, We Are Family Wellness, would be going, and knew that it would be epic. So began the campaign “Hike for the 100th,” in honor of the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. I put a call out via social media and invited hikers from across the country to participate in a hike honoring the 100th anniversary of the park service.
Our day began by hopping on buses at a local BART station. There were two busloads from this location alone, followed by carloads of folks that we met in Yosemite. The final numbers are not in, but we know that there were at least 180 of us. It was diversity at its finest. As we made our way to Yosemite, there was a lot of laughter and conversations about how excited many of the people were to be going to Yosemite for the first time. Folks were ready to make it to the park and get their hike on!
We arrived in the park around 11:00 am, after departing the Bay Area around 6:00 am. As we stepped off the buses, stretching from the long haul, you could feel the excitement. We were met by Ranger John Jackson of the National Park Service. The staff at Yosemite had reached out to me earlier in the week to ask if we needed anything. They were notified of our visit by the DC office. I asked if they could provide a ranger just to greet us and give us a short introduction to the park, as this would have been the first visit for many along on the trip.
Ranger John mingled among the crowd and waited with us while we boarded the park shuttle to head over to the Mist Trail. It took three shuttles before we were all able to crowd our way on to the already packed shuttles. Eventually we made our way to the trailhead where we met up with the other group from the Bay Area. We greeted one another and gathered for our group photo. There were so many of us that we had to rearrange ourselves several times to get everyone in the photo. After the group photo, folks headed off to the trail, excitement still in their eyes.
Having a group this size is truly a feat to manage, but the leaders of these hiking groups, Stan, Stayce, Sharlene, Katrece, Kevin Nichols and Kevin Benson, did an amazing job of pulling us all together. It was also great to have the National Park Service reach out to us to ask if they could help.
This was an amazing trip in so many ways, but for me seeing such a huge representation of diversity in the park at one time was overwhelming. The park service cannot do the work of inclusion alone; it will take grassroots efforts such as this one to help. So the next time YOU ask what is the park service doing to bring more diversity to our parks, also ask the same of yourself.
Thank you HEAT (Hiking Every Available Trail) and WAFW (We Are Family Wellness.)