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.