Hiking with a Purpose
Kalon, a Gen7er, and two of her friends embarked on an epic Rocky Mountain adventure on the Colorado Trail last summer! But to these outstanding young people, it was important to tie it in with a higher purpose. Kalon, a recent graduate from the Rocky Mountain School of Expeditionary Learning, had just completed her senior thesis on “Equity and Inclusion in the Outdoor Industry” and, as you’ll see in her piece below, this perspective helped her maintain an appreciation for the original inhabitants of the land she was hiking on. But the group wanted the hike to have more tangible meaning as well, Kalon reflected that they “saw it as an opportunity to make it about more than us”. Having visited Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and connecting with the Lakota people, they determined that they would use the Hike-a-Thon model and prior to pulling on their hiking boots to hit the trail, they solicited sponsors per mile. Kalon shares; “sending weekly email updates to our sponsors was challenging - but such an important element to keep them engaged.” Seven weeks later, the group raised nearly $4,000 and completed 486 miles, averaging 16 miles per day with only a few rest days along the way. Kalon shares her reflections from the adventure below:
“When I found myself sitting on a mountain at eleven thousand feet in the pouring rain under a tent that I had sewn and waterproofed myself, hearing lightning strikes all around, preparing for bed because I had seven passes to hike the next day, I thought I had gone crazy. I thought my two best friends were crazy too. What did we think we were doing?
The Colorado Trail is a 486-mile trail that weaves through the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. During the summer of 2020, craziest of them all, Lucy Weyer, Gabriela Pisano and I, laced up our hiking boots, filled our backpacks and started walking. While I wish it had been as simple as that to get started, as 2020 highschool grads, our parents each had something to say.
Though we had been backpacking since the 9th grade, our parents were still unsure that three 17 and 18 year old girls should be backpacking across the state for two months. So naturally, we created a slideshow complete with hors d’oeuvres and all our gear, to make them feel more comforted about our trek. We were quite lucky to have friends scattered all over the state to help deliver us food and give us places to rest and shower along the way. With our parents’ blessing we hit the trail at the beginning of July.
As we kicked off our journey, we reflected on the month of preparation and planning that we had done. We were thoroughly reminded of our privileges as we prepared for a thru hike in the midst of a global pandemic and major social rifts within our country. The discussions surrounding race in America are an important factor when discussing hiking and outdoor recreation. We constantly reminded ourselves that with every step that we took, we were in fact walking on stolen land with hundreds of years of utterly horrific history. We reminded ourselves that we live in a country that operates to hold back those whose land we have stolen. We reminded ourselves of the warm houses that we have to go back to after this trek. We reminded ourselves of the blessings of time and resources that have enabled us to hike such a magnificent trail. We reminded ourselves that for the purpose of this trip, we are more than just hikers; we are echoes of the voices in our country that have been silenced and forgotten.
The purpose of this trip for “The Warden”, “Chipmunk”, and “Zinc” (our respective trail names) went beyond our personal desires for self growth and challenge. During our trip we were each in a constant state of awe. We often wondered what it must’ve been like for the first peoples who ran into the Rocky Mountains. Our amazing community came together around the CT hike to support The Tipi Raisers in their efforts at Pine Ridge Reservation.
Since then we have been incredibly grateful to learn more about the history of indiginous peoples, and to spend time on Pine Ridge. This trip was truly a life changing experience unlike anything else I have ever done. I am also grateful to now be a Gen7 youth ambassador which is also proving to be an incredible experience”.
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