So it’s clear I’m quite a bit behind on my posting, and while I’ll have a load more up for you by morning – I’ve been trying to devote all my writing time to catching up on daily posts, rather than talking about the brown part of being a Brown Girl on the PCT – I need to get this off my chest.
I’m actually in the Sierras right now – thus the long breaks in between update vomits – and I thought my heart couldn’t break anymore for all the beauty I was seeing. And not just the beauty of the environment, though good goddamn the Sierras are beautiful. But the beauty of the people around me. Even people I have little and less in common with in civilian life are excited to see me on trail, and I’m excited to see them too, hear their stories, talk trail and life with them. I strike up conversations with strangers, because there seem to be no strangers among hikertrash. Color certainly seems to matter less, and even gender seems to be becoming less and less of a deal, what with all the women hiking solo1. The trail is a magical land where social ills are muted by the crazy thing we’ve all signed up for, the crazy thing we’re all doing. It’s not a utopia by any means, but it does feel somewhat insulated from the madness of the wider world.
But you have to come up for air resupply eventually, and when I get into town and hear about Pulse, about Alton Sterling and Philando Castile… my heart breaks all over again.
It’s such a hard emotion to fit inside me. I like to think I’m normally a positive-ish person. I want to see the good in others, and I don’t understand when others don’t. It is beyond my powers of comprehension that someone could go into a place filled with celebrating people and start executing them2. It is further beyond me that who someone else sleeps with, who someone else identifies as, or the mere presence of melanin in another human being, leads people to do all sorts of crazy shit, up to and including murder. Not only murder, but the justification – or at least, rationalization – of those murders. On a national scale.
I’m all jumbled up this evening, staring at my brown, further-sun-darkened hand thrown into relief against the white hostel ceiling. And I’m wracked with sorrow, unabashedly sobbing – I know they hear me upstairs, the door is open – wanting to scream, screaming silently. Then I’m angry in my tears, almost beyond all rational thought, but it’s mostly to stave off the heartbreak that is knowing that the next victim of police brutality could be my stepfather or my stepbrother, both of whom are dark-skinned. Hell, or my mother, or me – brownness seems to be the commonality, though dark skin seems to exacerbate the issue.
Being able to just drop life and go hiking, even for a day, is a privilege, and while I want to encourage folk of all colors to use that privilege if they can, brown folk can’t worry about hiking if we’re being killed where we live, where we work, where we drive, where we play. I don’t know where that puts me, don’t know where that leaves me – should I even be out here hiking? Is this helping or hurting? Should I be doing something more material, more relevant to help? “Maybe” is as far as I’ve gotten.
I don’t have answers, all I have is this blog and this hurt and this jumble and somehow still this love for people, despite the twisted, fucked up things they do for reasons beyond my ken.
I don’t know what to do with that, with what all this means for the wider world we hikers dabble in, for this tiny trail world we flourish in. I’m not ready to have conversations like the ones I’ve been having on trail, to answer the questions I’ll probably end up answering anyway. Not tonight.
Tonight is for mourning. Tomorrow… tomorrow, I guess, is for walking.
 There are still more men on the trail, I think, but it’s definitely at least 35-65 women to men – a vast improvement over previous years – if it’s not on a more equal footing. Which is badass.
 It’s also beyond me why communities of color at large – beyond LGBTQ+ communities, and the brown folk within them – seem to have stayed pretty silent about Orlando, beyond the general national sentiment. This impression may be because I was in the woods, and also because the hits just keep coming, so it’s hard to focus. Still, the victims were primarily brown folk, part of our community, and I hope said larger brown community did not fail either the brown- or the greater-LGBTQ+ community in their time of need.
10 thoughts on “Interlude: Hostel Walls”
You have to believe that, as a society, we’re going to reach a tipping point and toss the gun culture and all the fear mongering that drives it. It is fear and authoritarianism that is the foundation for killer cops, concealed carry, and the right wing lunatic fringe. White folks need to wake up and realize that their privilege can be revoked by those same forces. Cop culture and behavior is just a starting point. To put a slightly different twist on it, ammosexuality is a disease for which I hope we find a cure some day.
Appreciate your perspective. Thank you. I’ve been hoping for more on this topic because your thoughts helps me and others learn a lot, but I’m sad it’s the result of ongoing hate and craziness in the bigger world.
I like to think (and still believe) the situation overall is slowly improving, and it only seems to be worsening at times because every event, big or small, is instantly broadcast across the internets and in some cases latched on by the media. Recent events notwithstanding – they are in no way minor. But in any case, slow improvement is not fast enough.
Just keep hiking! Occasional posts like this, and your charm and concern on the trail, do a lot more than most people ever contribute to the cause – brown, black or white.
Thanks for thinking out loud. Keep believing that love wins.
Shooting cops does not help the situation at all – makes all of this worse.
I hear you! I wish I had answers. Keep a walking and talking Zuul. Your voice is clear and rings like a morning bell. It helps to waken us sleeping ones.
Amanda please continue your hike, your wonderful writing and photos and sharing your thoughts with us, surely a mostly white audience. Your words and emotions expressed here are precious because you are providing us with rare kind of education as we read and ponder what you are saying. The terrible killings by the police in the US seem to me to be a kind of legalized lynching, very disturbing extreme violence that you escape from on the trail where the social ambience as you describe it fortunately is much more civilized. It’s great that you can enjoy so much the better society you find out there. The newspaper tells me that over 500 people, white and black, have been killed by police this year so far, all off trail. Sort of strange that the “wilderness” is safer from the ugly thinking and violence that Americans seem to tolerate in their normal world.
You don’t have to have the answers. Focus on yourself, and the world immediately around you. Go for long walk in the woods with your friends and don’t feel guilty about it. The world will still be going to hell when you get back.
You’re doing great and this blog is already affecting the world in it’s own small way. Keep it up!
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It’s 2020 and I’ve just found your blog, reading every post that I can for days now. This one in particular hit me like a punch in the gut. Philando was killed just a few miles from my home and reading your post makes it feel like yesterday, not four years ago. This is not what I wanted my first comment to be about but there it is. I love your trail reports and am so full of envy because this is something I’ve always wanted to do but when I was your age, I didn’t know that I could even though I got out hiking as much as I could. Now I’ve got a girl and am taking her out as much as I can. Maybe she’ll hike the PCT someday and I could join her here and there. Thanks for doing this and thank you for your words!
I should probably put a content warning on this one – it’s a little harder from afield, but I’ll try to get it taken care of.
I’m glad you’re enjoying, and hoping you know/have gleaned from my writing that lots of older folks hike the trail, too. Usually after retirement, if they’re thruhiking, but some thrus save up to quit and go. Others, retired and pre-retired, hike in sections, and rack up a whole hike that way. That way takes serious dedication, and I really admire folks who do it that way.
I do still monitor the site, even if I haven’t written in ages, so feel free to comment or reach out by the contact page if you have any questions. 😊