Do people like you belong in the backcountry?

Well, do they? Take a moment to answer that.

Honestly, answer it. Here are a couple beautiful photos my friend Ty took to enjoy while you think about it:

This photo casts serious doubt on whether I belong in the backcountry. (That's me doing "the walrus" up on to a redrock ledge in The Maze last January.)
This photo casts serious doubt on whether I belong in the backcountry. (That’s me doing “the walrus” up on to a redrock ledge in The Maze last January.)
A night camped on the Green River means pooping in bags and packing it out. Do you have what it takes?
A night camped on the Green River means pooping in bags and packing it out. Do you have what it takes?

What did you answer? And what did you take “people like you” to mean?

Your answer might depend on who you see represented in ads for outdoor brands, or in films at the Banff Mountain Film Festival, or who you see out on trails.

Or how often you yourself get outside.

There are lots of reasons some groups get out and enjoy nature more than others, which are beyond the scope of this post, but one factor is income (which is, of course, connected to many other factors). If you don’t have the money for a car (or gas, or gear) or the time off of a low-paying job, it can be hard to take your family to the nearest national park or wilderness area. If you’re not very healthy, or you have a hard enough time with daily life, the idea of tackling an optional challenge – physical exertion in a strange new place – may seem like a luxury.

And if you never have been out hiking, it’s sure hard to imagine yourself doing it. One way to solve that is to give more people (kids, families, everyone) the opportunity to leave the city and experience nature.

You think we're going to climb down WHAT to get to that river?
You think we’re going to climb down WHAT to get to that river?

I volunteer with an organization through the Sierra Club, that recently changed its name from the 30 year old “Inner City Outings” to “Inspiring Connections Outdoors,” but the goal of the all-volunteer nonprofit is to give kids an opportunity to experience nature who might otherwise not get out of the city. Volunteers who have passed background checks and been trained in outdoor skills and first aid partner with Title I Schools, halfway houses, and other groups that work with at-risk and underprivileged youth to provide opportunities to go hiking, caving, camping, and stargazing.

The primary expense the group has is transportation costs for the kids, although when we can, we like to provide healthy snacks so everyone has had more than a bag of Hot Cheetos to fuel their adventure.

A group of MBA alumni from Arizona State University that have an annual tradition of hiking the Grand Canyon Rim 2 Rim 2 Rim (47 miles and change… and a lot of elevation change!) are using their trip to raise money for this group. I appreciate these guys who feel they belong in the backcountry raising funds (and awareness) to help a new generation expand that pool of people who feel they belong there, too.

Want to kick in to support getting underserved youth outdoors in the Tucson area? Donate to their campaign: https://www.crowdrise.com/r2r2r2015/fundraiser/

And in somewhat a related note on representation in the outdoors community, for women who are annoyed that skis made for women’s sizes and shapes are often of lower performance aimed at intro-level skiers and snowboarders rather than the advanced and expert, check out this kickstarter of high performance skis and boards for women (sans the pink flowers, as a bonus!):

But it was a nice paddle once we were down.
But it was a nice paddle once we were down.

2 thoughts on “Do people like you belong in the backcountry?

    1. Yep, once you’re rafting on the river, the regs change from packing out paper to packing out EVERYTHING! Maybe wouldn’t be such a big deal in January, when we were the only ones out there, but judging by permits and by my friends’ Facebook photos, most of the Southwestern US descends on Canyonlands around last week or so, and you can imagine the human waist might build up.

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