I AM, an outdoors enthusiast who likes to backpack and kayak, trail ride and zip-line. I love to camp, hike and climb mountains. I am also part of a very small percentage of African Americans that enjoys the miracle and the magnificence of the outdoors.
I recently realized that I started this blog last year without an introduction as to who I am and who we are. My name is Jerel and I am the CEO of Hike4Life. Our journey began a few years ago when 2 close friends decided to gather groups of our friends and take them out on hikes. Thus, Hike4UrLife was born. After a logo change and a name “adjustment” Hike4Life was reborn into the emergent community organization it’s known as today. We continue to grow year after year and build up new followings and strong supporters. The passion I have for our mission grows and grows, every day, it’s such an important opportunity for so many people to take advantage of. We want to be the catalyst of change in our community and in our culture. It’s a lot of work but, it’s worth it.
H4L (Hike4Life) began with a simple idea to hike with our friends and other people from the urban community. Re-Introducing African-Americans to the outdoors was our main objective however, everyone and anyone were always welcomed to join us and support us. The Urban Community, as a whole suffers from Nature Deficit Disorder, we intend to change that condition.
Our humble beginnings began with a Father’s Day hike at Houghton’s Pond, with about 6 people and a dog, Maxi. It was a small event, that didn’t take long. We got a good workout, had some laughs and afterwards, we were on our way home. After the event, I started to read about trees and plants and took leadership courses to become a certified group leader that people could trust. I became CPR certified and joined the Appalachian Mountain Club, becoming a certified youth hike leader. One of our next hikes was our biggest hike with with over 40 people; I enlisted the help of two Group Leaders to help me manage everyone on that trip.
Every year, I look forward to the beginning and the end.
Our Season Opening Hike takes place in April.
This hike is a get the winter rust off of you kinda hike. We usually reacquaint ourselves with our friends that we hadn’t seen over the winter, stretch out muscles that may not have been stretched and hit the trails. We tend to get a big crowd when the season starts; everyone is very supportive and usually has a great time. In the middle of the season, attendance tapers off a little bit; the heat, bugs and busy schedules play a factor in how often we get to go out. We typically go out bi-weekly and it usually works out because everyone can do what they need to get done and if they’re available the following week, they come out with us.
During the season, we have several programs that we offer to the community. Family Fun Hikes, where we invite whole families to come out, bring the kids and have a nice relaxing walk in the woods. Our Urban Hikes take place in the city, in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the streets, the Boston Nature Center is the perfect spot this urban adventure. We also have Hiking 101 at Franklin Park, which introduces new Hike4Lifers to hiking. We go over important dos and don’ts, the 10 essential items that are necessary for successful and safe hiking, what to wear, what to bring and what to expect in the wilderness. We had one graduate in 2013, we hope to hand out at least five certificates this year.
Hike4Life is also a strong community partner for other groups and organizations that put on events locally and nationally. We were proud to represent Massachusetts last year for the African American National Parks Day/Event that took place over two days this past June. It was a wonderful event that stretched from Martinez, California to Boston.
The #AANPD is where we visit a National Park or Monument, learn about the history, spend time hiking or listening to stories, sharing our experiences and taking lots of pictures to share with other African Americans around the country. Our presence in our National Parks is very low; we are trying to raise awareness by participation to let the Parks and the country know that nationally as a collective, we do care about our natural resources and our history that is forever preserved inside our National Parks.
One of our biggest events isn’t a Hike4Life event. We partner with several organizations to bring the community our R.O.Y (Reclaim Our Youth) Kickball, Cookout & More Event.
We have a big draw for these Summer events that bring back the old days of kickball fun under the sun, grilled foods, water balloons, music, family and good times. The adult kickball games are the best and watching the kids play around and get dirty and have fun is a total joy for me. This year is going to be another stellar year for us. We’ll be sure to have a R.O.Y. recap blog over the Summer. (Follow us to make sure you get that update, wink, wink)
Our season ends in November with my second favorite event;
The Walk Off The Turkey Hike.
This hike comes on the Saturday after the Thanksgiving holiday. What a better time to go out and walk off some of that guilt from the holiday. Why is my favorite hike at the end of the season? I think it’s because it’s a long spring/summer and when it comes to fall hiking, the weather is cooler, the colors of the trees are beautiful and we have hot chocolate and other treats for our Hike4Lifers. The scenery alone makes this event a group favorite. Ascending the top of the Great Blue Hill you can see red, orange and yellow for miles and miles. I can’t wait but, I can. Don’t want to rush November 2014 too much!
I am a fan of this organization. I am happy for what we stand for and who we stand with and who stands with us. We have gotten love and support from New Jersey, Georgia, the Carolina’s, Austin, Texas and our great friends in California!
As many of you know, there is a small percentage of African Americans that visit our National and State Parks, Hike4Life along with others are in this effort together to bring Black people into the woods and let them see for themselves that it’s not as bad as they may have imagined or heard or have seen on TV. The woods are for everyone and everybody. We will continue to create programs and provide access to the outdoors by promoting discovery, adventure, nature, fitness, history and fun.
Follow our adventures at: www.facebook.com/hike4life