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Why mainly only caucasian backpackers?

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Why mainly only caucasian backpackers?

Postby maverick » Sat Mar 12, 2011 9:38 pm

For example why can I only count, on one hand, the amount of americans of african
descent I have seen in the backcountry?
Or asian, hispanic backpackers?
My wife who is of african descent says (though she loves seeing the Sierra, but doesn't
like backpacking) that it is a cultural thing, and that it is not hobby/sport many cultures
(besides caucasians) engage in, just like rock climbing or mountain climbing.
Now that I think of it, I really do not see any other race represented in a lot of these
outdoor magazines either(models don't count).
Should the outdoors experience not be promoted to all?
Hopefully the next generation will break down the walls of a white's only outdoors and
we will see a larger mix of folks in the Sierra backcountry.
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Re: Why mainly only caucasian backpackers?

Postby rlown » Sat Mar 12, 2011 9:53 pm

maverick wrote:For example why can I only count, on one hand, the amount of americans of african
descent I have seen in the backcountry?
Or asian, hispanic backpackers?


maybe because you didn't go with us last July when the Indians were beating their drums every day, 3 times a day. Yes, they had Llamas.

I haven't seen any discrimination as to who goes. It's more about who want's to go.
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Re: Why mainly only caucasian backpackers?

Postby maverick » Sat Mar 12, 2011 10:24 pm

Are we talking indigenous americans, if yes, they were in the mountains a long time
before us.
I personally have not seen any hikers of am/af descent on my earlier trips on the JMT
or any other trails in the Sierra.
I have seen a very few hispanics, and asians, but mainly on trails, and none off trail
locations, and some were a part of NOLS group several years ago at Pear Lake or a
Boy Scout group in Yosemite.
If things have changed so drastically I stand corrected, I do not use trail often any more
except for entering and exiting near the trailhead, but the areas I have gone through
I have not experienced but a very few other races.
I am not insinuating any type discrimination, just wonder why backpacking in the Sierra
has not caught on through the years, or seeked out by other ethnic groups as much?
I would be interested in hearing from our non-caucasian members on how they
feel, there experiences, and thoughts about backpacking, from there point of
view, maybe shedding some light on why there is so little interest.
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Re: Why mainly only caucasian backpackers?

Postby giantbrookie » Sat Mar 12, 2011 10:45 pm

I have noticed the low numbers of people of color in the backcountry from the time I was a little boy. I can certainly answer this from the standpoint of an Asian American. Very few Asian Americans take their children to the mountains, except to go skiing. In my experience the few Asian Americans that go to the backcountry were (1) introduced by their parents (as I was), or (2) introduced by a Causasian significant other, and (3) very very rarely (Judy) by an Asian American significant other. I suppose there may be a few very rare cases in which an Asian American was introduced to the outdoors when they became interested in geology, but usually one majors in geology because they are already interested in the outdoors. As a geology professor I see the similar scarcity of people of color among our students, even at campuses that have a large minority population, such as Fresno State, and it is easier for me to keep track of numbers in geology than backpacking because I've actually seen the statistics. The scarcity of people of color in geology in the USA also seems to be traced to a lack of exposure to the outdoors as children. The odd thing about this is that folks from the ancestral homelands are commonly quite mountain oriented. Hiking enthusiasts are much more common (by percentage) of the Japanese population, than among Japanese Americans, for example. There are overwhelmingly greater numbers of Chinese-born academic geologists in the USA than Chinese-American counterparts. This trend does not seem to be changing in spite of outreach efforts conducted on many campuses. I check the "new student members" listing of the Geological Society of America and the last one, for example, had some Asian names that constituted a much smaller fraction of the new GSA student members than the Asian student fraction in USA campuses. Nearly all of these Asian surnames were associated with Asian first names that likely indicated that they were born abroad.

Returning to the why don't Asian Ameicans or other people of color get up into the backcountry, the issue with the earlier generation not getting up there and taking their kids is somewhat circular, while at the same time a feedback loop, which begs the question, why do adults not get up there in the first place to break the cycle? Here I believe it may be similar to what WD mentioned about women posting on this board. The scarcity of people of color in the backcountry discourages others from going up. I recall a Mexican-American fellow talking to me on the summit of Mission Peak in the Bay Area and lamenting that he didn't know of a Mexican hiking club. He mentioned that he'd be more willing to go to the High Sierra if such an organization existed to go hiking with, but noted that none of his friends shared his passion for hiking. During my student years several students of color mentioned to me that they didn't go into geology because there were so few people of color among the students and faculty (a few did feel they experienced outright discrimination). In any case both the childhood experience factor and the existing lack of people of color in the outdoors appear to be negative feedback loops that continue the trend.
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html
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Re: Why mainly only caucasian backpackers?

Postby balzaccom » Sun Mar 13, 2011 8:50 am

Interesting question, Maverick==although I am afraid our answers aren't going to be much more than idle speculation.

Sure, it has to do with family and background...but I remember working at an upscale summer camp near Yosemite when I was in college. We had two kinds of kids: those whose families could afford the fees, and those who were there on scholarship. And yeah, the distinction was pretty much along ethnic lines. But I remember taking these kids on a hike to Youngs Lakes in Yosemite, and on the second day, we went to climb Mt. Conness. At about 10,500 feet, there was a large snowfield, and anyone who didn't want to make the rest of the climb was invited to play in the snow until we got back.

Of the twelve kids in the group, all the scholarship kids made it to the top of the mountain. Only one of the other kids did. When I asked one of the scholarship kids about it, he had a great line. "I didn't come all the way up here to NOT climb the stupid mountain!"

The other kids were happy just to play in the snow.

Along simllar lines, I invited my entire company on a "corporate camping trip" every June. We close the office for a couple of days and all go camping--family, friends and relations are all invited. One of the most enthusiastic of the campers is the Hispanic woman who cleans our offices on the weekends. And now she feels comfortable enough in the woods that she has organized camping trips for her predominately Hispanic church as well.

I think it's just a question of letting people know it's there, and how to use it!
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Re: Why mainly only caucasian backpackers?

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sun Mar 13, 2011 11:27 am

I have actually seen minorities in the Sierra. More so in campgrounds- lots of Hispanic families. But it is no where near the percent of minotities in California. Funny thing- did you all see Oprah's camping trip in Yosemite? This was supposed to encourage minorities to go camping. It was SO obvious that Oprah was simply "grinning and bearing it". Granted the weather was horrible- I think this program probably discouraged minorities rather than encouraged them!

It is a matter of time. Poor parents may have time for a 2 hour trip to the park, but not an entire weekend camping or backpacking. It is a matter of income levels. Other sports are offered in public schools, free of cost. Backpacking and camping take extra equipment and transport to the location. Poor kids just do not have access. It is interesting that many of the CCC crews are minority kids. I have also talked to Asian Indian people I know. One simply said that growing up in India, you are surrounded by people, thicky surrounded! She said she actually panics when she cannnot see crowds around her. She saw no value in wilderness. She actually avoids wilderness.

Wilderness is different from outdoors. Walking a path in a Japenese garden with cherry blossoms is different than walking on a dusty trail with no civilized signs and structures. My daughter lived in SF for many years and there are TONS of minorities (the majority in SF) that use Golden Gate Park. Fewer cross the bridge and use Marin Headlands. More use Mt. Tamapias. Less use Point Reyes. Few use Henry Coe State Park. I think it has to do with how "manicured" the area is. Wilderness vs. park-like. People vs. isolation. And yes, they would like to run into other minorities, just like I am very pleased to meet other women on the trail. Seeing others like you is affirmation.

It seems that forums like this attract loners. Not bad- I admit I am a loner. I value not seeing anyone for days on end. But I think we forget this is not the norm. Most people who backpack, particularly young people, do it as a social activity. They love to stop on the top of Mather Pass and chat with others! They love to camp with others in established back-country sites. They bring their phones and call, tweet, etc. Amazes me. I hear them coming down the trail a quarter mile away - yak, yak..yak. We really play-up solo hiking here on this forum- I think this puts off both women and minorities and a lot of younger people.
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Re: Why mainly only caucasian backpackers?

Postby maverick » Sun Mar 13, 2011 3:21 pm

I agree WD that if Oprah really wanted to use her show as a platform to promote
camping and the wilderness, it was a pretty lame effort.
She could have at least spent more time talking about the history, and contributions
of the Buffalo Soldiers, and also have folks of color around her, not an all white crowd.
Your point about solo hiking is true, but I have tried in the past to have a get together
of HST members, at least to meet up in a place in the backcountry where folks could
spend a day or two, and then continue on with there trips, but there was no interest.
I missed last years small meeting in Yosemite unfortunately because I had wedding to
cater.
It would be nice to meet up with people you chat with all year, about things we all care
so much about, but I guess for most, getting to know another person/backpacker is not a
priority, and knowing there screen name is suffice for most, pretty sad if as human beings
this is all we have to give. Just keeping it real!
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Re: Why mainly only caucasian backpackers?

Postby rlown » Sun Mar 13, 2011 3:32 pm

maverick wrote:It would be nice to meet up with people you chat with all year, about things we all care
so much about, but I guess for most, getting to know another person/backpacker is not a
priority, and knowing there screen name is suffice for most, pretty sad if as human beings
this is all we have to give. Just keeping it real!


As most of my trips are planned for up to 5 people, I can tell you it get's harder and harder to coordinate those trips. Lately, they've fallen back to 2, maybe 3 friends, and there is a LOT of scheduling/logistics. mostly centered around anniversaries, birthdays, work, etc.

I would add for this thread that I have invited people of color on my trips, as I have almost two of everything, so all they have to do is show up. If you didn't grow up in contact with the "outdoors", you probably won't go. just an observation, much along the lines of WD's comments.
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Re: Why mainly only caucasian backpackers?

Postby maverick » Sun Mar 13, 2011 3:51 pm

Rlown writes "As most of my trips are planned for up to 5 people, I can tell you it get's
harder and harder to coordinate those trips. Lately, they've fallen back to 2, maybe 3
friends, and there is a LOT of scheduling/logistics. mostly centered around anniversaries,
birthdays, work, etc.", yes I understand the logistics are difficult, I have 2 jobs plus
catering and the second job makes things difficult for me to time trips till the last
moment.
My thing is, folks do not even show interest in meeting up in the backcountry, and I am
not saying you Rlown.
I have been very lucky to have met OR a few seasons ago, which was fun, even though I
was sick, and I unfortunately missed MK last season at Vee Lake (he left a day earlier
because of weather).
It takes effort, and a sincere desire, and even with that it still may fall through, but at
least the thought and effort was made, instead of no effort or care at all!
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

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Re: Why mainly only caucasian backpackers?

Postby AlmostThere » Sun Mar 13, 2011 6:50 pm

This got me thinking about people I see on trail and people in my hiking group.

Most of the folks I see on trail are Caucasian but I have seen many Hispanics, some Asian and fewer Af-Am. There are a lot of folks in my group of varying ethnic origin - one of my regulars is of Japanese descent, another that used to come more often of Southeast Asian/Korean... many of the group are Hispanic.

I've seen African- American hikers on trail more often than I've seen them in my hiking group. Mostly in Yosemite. One in Sequoia as we were hiking south on the PCT from Crabtree - he and a Caucasian companion were heading north. My hikes in the Bay Area (many regional parks, Point Reyes, etc) I've seen many more Asian hikers.
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Re: Why mainly only caucasian backpackers?

Postby Cross Country » Sun Mar 13, 2011 8:28 pm

I noticed this and have discussed it with my BP companions at the time (on trips). After much discussion on this subject. I agree with balzaccom. It, for me, is just idle speculation because I have no real education (Sociology) for this. One thing's for sure. I have a knack to know beforehand whether someone will like the trip (BP) or not. I was rarely mistaken and I don't really know why but I almost always knew. Because I played so much sports my friends were very cross ethnic. I never had a friend of color (apart from 2 or 3 latinos) that I asked to go with me and believe me, the criterion for me was rarely anything more than me estimating as to whether or not someone would like the trip.
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Re: Why mainly only caucasian backpackers?

Postby Bad Man From Bodie » Mon Mar 14, 2011 8:56 am

Way I see it…..white folks are the only group of humans stupid enough to want to go sweat your rear off carrying a 30lb load, up some mosquito infested slope, just to sleep on the cold, wet, bumpy ground, just to wake up with 6’’ of snow on your bed or wet from last night’s rain…..For what? A view of something? A photo? A fish? What’s the purpose? I don’t have to do all that for the view, I’ve got myself a 52’’ flat screen and I can watch Blue Planet Yo :cool: ! Also, I can roll down to Costco for a nice filet of salmon anytime!
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