Experiencing the Healing Powers of Nature With Hike+Heal Wellness

AHS Stewardship and Representation Micro-Grant recipients Hike+Heal hosted a campout that brought together 20 women of color to experience camping, recreating, and stewardship in the outdoors.

In 2023, American Hiking Society provided a micro-grant opportunity designed to share and celebrate stories of historically underrepresented communities in outdoor spaces engaged in meaningful stewardship work. 

Hike+Heal Wellness received funding to support a stewardship project, which they coordinated in the form of a group campout in September at a Maryland state park.

Brandi, the founder of Hike+Heal Wellness shared more about the project, and the experience for all of the participants.

How many people joined you for the campout and stewardship project?

20 women of color participated in the project.

Can you share with us how the experience impacted the women, and some key takeaways you noticed during your time together?

As we suspected, the majority of the participants have never been camping before, so this was an experience that was completely out of the women’s comfort zones.

Additionally, 18 of the 20 participants signed up on their own without any idea of who was going to join the trip. This speaks volumes to the need for community, not waiting for friends to join something that truly interests you and also most importantly the trust of safety they had in the space we cultivate as an organization. A deep level of trust has to be present in order for someone to take a leap such as this.

It was exciting to see their excitement to experience something new, meet other like minded women of color and take the opportunity to discover the healing powers of nature. The pitching of the tents and fire starting highlighted teamwork and community building. It was great to see how the more seasoned campers gave a helping hand when needed, but most first time campers were able to pitch their tents for the first time seamlessly.

Additional activities from outdoor cooking, hammocking, hiking, kayaking, puzzling, painting rocks, meditation, and dancing added to the overall experience whether it was enjoyed solo, in small groups during free time or as the group as a whole. The participants expressed how great it felt to move slowly in the morning, not having to rush and being in such a peaceful environment. So many of us do not get the opportunity to be distraction free and in quiet spaces from the moment we wake up in the morning.

Overall we received nothing but positive feedback from everyone who attended along with the desire to do this at least once every year.

We’d love to hear about the stewardship elements of the campout! 

The stewardship hike took place Sunday morning after watching the sunrise on the bay. 

Everyone was enthusiastic, grabbing trash bags and clearing the path along our hike. Many learned that clearing the path of twigs, rocks, branches, and other elements that fall off the trees are hazardous and could result in injury if stepped on while hiking or trail running. As a result, they became aware of how stewardship can be extremely grounding while being in direct contact with the soil and nature’s elements.

Interestingly enough, at the end of our hike we stumbled across a log that was painted with the message “Please take your trash”… it was confirmation that we did our part in leaving no trace.

Lastly, all of the disposable products that we had to use outside of reusable products were all biodegradable.

Are there any particular moments from the campout that you feel highlight the impact of the project?

Three women that joined the camping trip, decided to celebrate their birthday with this trip. All three joined the trip solo which is such a brave thing to do…signing up for something you have never done for your birthday with people you hardly know. They were not aware that the last night, we would be surprising them by celebrating each of them with cupcakes, birthday hats and noise blowers. Seeing the happiness and joy was beautiful to witness. They each expressed how they felt so special, happy and cared for by the group which has become their new found community.

Another component of the trip was including another small Black woman owned business that supplied any rental gear that the participants needed. Working with Robin from Philly Gear Library as her first big group was extremely easeful. This also helped provide a more financially accessible option for people as camping equipment can be a costly investment. This was a great way to introduce so many newbies to this resource, while simultaneously supporting another local small business.

This project was funded in part by the U.S. Forest Service, Department of Agriculture.