My 2017 challenge was to complete 52 hikes as part of the 52 Hikes Challenge on Instagram. It seemed feasible because hikes only had to be a mile long and Urban Hikes counted, so a mountain and/or nature wasn’t required but getting outside was. Secondly, to do 52 Hikes in one year really only required getting out once a week.
Ultimately, it was actually pretty difficult for a variety of reasons. For one, I spent a decent part of the year training for a bikepacking trip, so even though I was on trails, I wasn’t always hiking them. Also, the summer time was hella hot, and I guess I forgot about how busy I am!
In the end, I did it. If I counted a location more than once, it’s because the experience was vastly different which generally was the difference between hiking it with just a couple other people or a big group or alone.
Below is a list of the Hikes completed with a teensy bit or a lotsa bit of description of the hike. When I say description, I don’t necessarily mean that I am describing the hike itself. Whatever I’ve written is mostly pretty random. Some hikes are linked to a webpage if I think it’s worth a visit (and if it has a site).
For those of y’all who don’t read, but like to look at Nature, just watch the video of my year.
1. Sawgrass Lake Park, St Pete, January 2
I went on this hike with my friend, Michaelle, who was also embarking on the 52 Hike challenge. While the hike itself isn’t particularly challenging, it is a beautiful and interesting location, and I think it set a good start for my year of trying to find balance. My weight hasn’t really changed this year, but I have made pretty significant changes to my overall eating habits, with Michaelle’s help, and by the end of the year had reengaged in working out consistently.
2. Cypress Creek Preserve, Land O’ Lakes, January 8
Part of the 52 Hike challenge required intentionally planning for hikes on weeks that I was not leading an Outdoor Afro event. This day was the start of me being intentional about inviting one or more people out to hike with me outside of Outdoor Afro (OA) to (1) get 52 Hikes in and/or (2) scout potential locations for OA events. For this and #3, I was joined by a few ladies
3. Lettuce Lake Park, Tampa, January 8
4. Mural Urban Hike, St Pete, January 21
I take people on a tour of St. Pete murals for time to time, and this particular day was an OA hike I was leading. This also was the end or nearly the end of advertising events on Facebook. Whilst it was a great event to prequel my joining in the Women’s March, I also feel like I finally understood the concept of “holding space.” Posting public events on Facebook often led to people joining events that did not comprehend the point of OA.
5. Boyd Hill Nature Preserve, St Pete, January 29
My friend Coby agreed to help me with a youth empowerment event for Black History Month, and this was a day that we were scouting what path we would take our groups. In reflecting on these hikes, I realize how dependent on Boyd Hill I’ve become as my favorite place to get some Nature in.
6. Lake Rogers Park, Odessa, February 4
This was an OA event I planned in conjunction with Hillsborough County Parks for their Hiking Spree 2017.
7. Upper Tampa Bay Trail, Odessa, February 4
Some of the OA ladies and I completed this after Hike 6 because we were participating in Hiking Spree 2017. If you’re in the Tampa Bay Area, I highly recommend joining!
8. Bok Tower Gardens, Lake Wales, February 11
The majority of my out-of-state trips have been with some combination of my friends, Heather, Rachel, and Natalie. It’s interesting how easy it is to take advantage of the idea that we would just continue to do these little trips together forever or even for a little while longer without factoring how life changes things so immensely (but often beautifully). This trip was a in-state adventure with the girls and an amazing day.
9. Boyd Hill Nature Preserve, St Pete, February 18
This event was what I had scouted for in #5. I planned for three groups to enjoy the parks: two groups of adolescents split by gender hiking with community members to discuss navigating life, education, and work as a person of color as well as a “camp” for 10-and-unders led by the park ranger. In some respects, the event succeeded, but also failed. I had a really small number of adolescents, but decent numbers of under 10s. The adults who participated enjoyed themselves, and this event led me to become more serious about a goal of mine.
10. Triple Creek Nature Preserve, Riverview, February 19
This was a scouting expedition slash knocking off another hike from the Hillsborough Hiking Spree 2017 with Raylanda. This is definitely my favorite hikes in my area.
11. Blackwater Creek Nature Preserve, Plant City, March 4
An OA event I planned in conjunction with Hillsborough County Parks for their Hiking Spree 2017
12. African American Heritage Hike, St Pete, March 11
I led this particular urban hike 6 times this year, but I am only counting it once. Basically, I lead a group of Pinellas County Schools teachers on a hike about the history of a black neighborhood that existed out of necessity from segregation laws, but then died out because of racially biased local and state decisions and policies. On one hand, it’s a function of my job that I imposed on myself. On the other, it’s been an incredible experience as I learn from community members who grew up and have experiences in that neighborhood. I also enjoy having discussions with educators who are impacted by the experience.
13. Grassy Waters Preserve, West Palm Beach, March 12
During my brother Antoine’s visit to St Pete, we went on a short trip to the East Coast of Florida to visit our family on my Mummy’s side. During the drive over, we visited this preserve and the one in #14. Both hikes were insanely hot, but beautiful. #14 is technically inside of the preserve somewhere, but we drove about fifteen minutes away from the main address to find this trail.
14. Apoxee Wilderness Trail, West Palm Beach, March 12
15. Weedon Island Preserve, St Pete, March 18
This was an OA event I planned. It was led by Emma Mason who is pretty much an OG nature walk leader from the preserve. If I ever do this again, I would have to schedule it in the winter. While fascinating information, there were many moments of stand-and-learn which is hard to do in the Florida heat with mosquitoes trying to take you out.
16. National Mall, Washington, DC, April 5
OA Leadership Training was set to be in Harper’s Ferry this year, so I left a couple nights early so that I could spend some time in DC primarily to go to the National Museum of African American History and Culture. It was certainly an interesting juxtaposition of experiencing that museum and seeing (for the second time) some of the people the National Mall memorializes with a view that is much evolved since I was 16.
17. Maryland Heights Trail, Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia, April 6
This was a pre-training hike on a trail that is part of the Appalachian Trail and part of the Underground Railroad. Even though I was rained/lightninged out of seeing the lookout, I completed it with some other OA leaders who are nearest and dearest to my heart.
18. Harper’s Ferry Civil War Battlefield, Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia, April 8
The East Coast OA Region leaders went on this hike as a part of training. During this hike, I met and fell in love with the Pennsylvania OA leaders by happenstance of car designations. Together, we fell in love with the legacy of John Brown. Within this group, I was strongly reminded of how I have a group of people that I think surpasses friendship into kinship. I knew I probably wouldn’t see them again until training the following year because our states-wide separation, but it does not make their existence in my life less important
19. De Soto National Memorial, Bradenton, April 15
An OA event I planned in conjunction with the park as a part of #NPS100.
20. Sawgrass Lake Park, St Pete, April 30
#9 was the event that would ultimately inspire the start of Open Sky Adventures which at this point was a more informal group of girls who I was mentoring.
21. Emerson Point Preserve, Bradenton, May 6
This hike was a situation where we made lemonade. I had planned an OA event where we were going to kayak at De Soto National Memorial, but it was too windy to go out in the bay. Instead, the two park rangers who were going to take us out in the water guided us on a hike at this Preserve. There is an incredible lookout here where a couple came upon us, and the husband asked, “Are you guys a church group?” I explained to him that we were just humans doing human things.
22. Veterans Memorial Park, St Pete, May 29
I used to drive by this park twice a day in my commute and thought nothing of it. I searched Trip Advisor for some local parks that had trails, and it claimed there was one back here. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this park for anything other than cookouts, but I chose it for my Memorial Day hike. Part of the trail goes along the backside of a veteran cemetery which was pretty depressing to behold on Memorial Day.
23. Chautauqua Lake Park, Clearwater, May 30
This is another tiny local park that I saw on a friend’s Instagram, and I had to circle back a lot to get over a mile.
24. Bayhead Skate Park, Largo, June 8
I could put this whole park area on the list a few times because I spent many a lunch break this summer trying to get some steps in, but that very much seemed like cheating, so I will count my many visits here.
25. Payne’s Prairie Preserve State Park, Gainesville, June 14
When I drove into this park, the ranger at the station warned me it was a bad idea because it was about to start raining. This was frustrating because I had spent a day in at a conference during which time there was NO RAIN, but it seemed like the moment I changed to head to this park, the sky darkened and threatened rain. However, I was determined to get a hike in. She was totally right. It was not only raining, but there was some lightning in the area. I got a mile in as quickly as I could and got back into my car, soaking wet.
26. Sweetwater Wetlands Park, Gainesville, June 15
This was another park I checked out after my conference. It’s absolutely beautiful, but there is not a lick of shade.
27. Egmont Key State Park, St Pete, July 1
For my birthday, I wanted to do things I had never done before. One of these things was to go to Egmont Key State Park which is only accessible by boat. So I booked a tour with Island Boat Adventures along with two of my friends and my cousin. During this trip, we first snorkeled then got to explore the park.
28. Mt St Helens, Skamania County, WA, July 15
This was pretty much amazing to behold in person. The only thing I can say is that it was one of those things that I always thought was cool in elementary social studies, but seeing it in person was unreal.
29. Carter Falls Trail, Mount Rainier National Park, WA, July 16
Mount Rainier National Park is full of so many things to do that I think it’s truly possible to spend an entire week there and still not see everything. I was here with my friend, and we had one day to make the most of it. We went along this trail for a while, but never got to the waterfall. We had limited time and wanted to do the hike in #30, so we eventually turned around!
30. Panorama Point Trail, Mount Rainier National Park, WA, July 16
This trail kicked my ass. Completely. But I loved it. My favorite part was during our return. On the way up, we had watched these people slide down snow chutes and thought they were crazy. On our way down, we realized it was the only way to avoid having to wait for over thirteen people to go up the narrow path before we could go down along that part of the trail. Sliding down was fun, even if my pants were definitely not made for snow!
31. Multnomah Falls, Mutlnomah County, OR, July 20
This was a pretty cool hike. We went really late in the day, so it was quite packed. The trip to the top of the falls is all incline made “easier” by quite a few switchbacks. Hard to get up there, but it was so beautiful!
32. Desegregation History Urban Hike, St Pete, August 23
This is another made-by-me urban hike that includes visiting places in downtown St. Pete that were important to the history of its desegregation. We were rained out BIG TIME after a mile, but still got to discuss Spa Beach, the first integrated beach front in St. Pete, and Al Lang Stadium, which integrated their grandstands before local hotels would allow black players to stay in them.
33. Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Cleveland, OH, August 26
While in Ohio for a wedding, a friend of mine made sure I got to see this park. She knew it was on my to do list! It was pretty awesome, and I got to enjoy it with a group of friends from high school/college.
34. Robinson Preserve, Bradenton, September 3
This preserve has been on my list to check out for a long time. I even had made an OA event for it before actually checking it out. On this occasion, my friend scouted it with me for the event in #35 where I had over 20 people show up for the hike! While worth a trip, this is not my favorite preserve in Bradenton.
35. Robinson Preserve, Bradenton, September 23
36. Triple Creek Nature Preserve, Riverview, October 15
I think this was the biggest OA event I had. Seeing this preserve again was even cooler because Irma damage made it a bit of an adventure, particularly how many downed trees we had to climb over!
37. Neal Preserve, Bradenton, October 21
After yet another failed attempt to kayak at De Soto National Memorial, we made some more lemonade by googling a local park. We found this one. On our way to it, we passed #38 which didn’t come up in the searches so that was a happy addition to our day. This preserve is pretty, but tiny, and we had to loop around a couple of times to get in our mile.
38. Perico Preserve, Bradenton, October 21
This preserve is absolutely stunning and a complete surprise.
39. Boyd Hill Nature Preserve, St Pete, October 22
Another event with my Open Sky Adventure girls.
40. Edward Medard Park, Plant City, November 4
In conjunction with Hillsborough County Parks for Hiking Spree 2018. The actual trail was pretty short, but the ranger took us along these old mounds that are pretty steep and cool looking to get over a mile in.
41. Aldermans Ford Park, Lithia, November 4
We went to this after #40 to try to get some more trails in from Hiking Spree 2018. It’s paved, so it wasn’t particularly challenging.
This preserve is pretty legit and stunning. I highly recommend it if you’re ever in that area. It was about six miles of hiking, four of which were gloriously overgrown.
43. Spadre Creek Nature Trail, Clarksville, AR, November 18
During a trip to The University of the Ozarks, we searched for a trail near campus. This trail is pretty much paved, but oriented us to the layout of the town and campus.
44. Upper Buffalo Wilderness, Ponca, AR, November 19
I would not recommend doing this trail without another person and a compass. My favorite part was exploring the river bed since it was dried out, but I never would managed this without a guide.
46. Big Cypress National Preserve, Ochopee, Dec 9
My sister and I stopped off at the rest area to try to explore this preserve. We probably only got a mile in at the actual preserve before we were thwarted by a completely flooded river-like pathway. However, between walking from the rest area to the trail head, we got more than a mile in. I think this would have been really cool if it wasn’t flooded.
47. Rye Preserve, Bradenton, Dec 9
This is another location I’ve been wanting to do for a long time, and we decided to go to it since #46 didn’t last as long as originally planned. This place is absolutely beautiful.
48. Boyd Hill Environmental, St Pete, Dec 15
#48-50 were during a camping trip for OA St. Pete. This weekend definitely saved my butt in the way of the 52 Hike Challenge. For this hike, we did a night hike in the woods behind the campground. It was so freaky! We did this same trail again in #50 during the day. I scouted this event, but that didn’t stop me from getting a teeny bit lost because of the lack of trail markers.
49. Boyd Hill Nature Preserve, St Pete, Dec 16
We had a photography class in the morning before we went kayaking. We were led by a local artist who gave us some pointers on using phones for photography.
50. Boyd Hill Environmental, St Pete, Dec 16
51. Wicker Memorial Park, Highland, IN, Dec 24
While I was home for Christmas break, I woke up on Christmas Eve and told my family that I had to do a hike. My siblings were in for the challenge. We drove to Gibson Woods Nature Preserve (despite my anxiety of being in a car in the snow), only to discover that it was closed during the entire break. So instead, we went to Wicker Park which has a two-mile loop I used to use for training. This was the first time I had ever seen it in snow.
52. Makiki Valley Loop, Honolulu, HI, Dec 30
I love how hiking on an actual mountain kicks my butt. It was quite the workout, but it was so worth it. At no time during my trip to Hawai’i could I get over how luscious and green and beautiful everything was, and this trail was a perfect way to end my year of hikes.