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Why mainly only caucasian backpackers?

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Re: Why mainly only caucasian backpackers?

Postby AlmostThere » Sat Oct 15, 2016 9:44 am

There are plenty of white people -- all of the ones I have known throughout my life in fact, leading me to the kinds of groups I currently operate - who refuse to go car camping, let alone put a pack on. Everyone I have ever worked with, all of the people I've ever met socially, majority of my family other than my parents, in fact -- all of them are unified in their complete disinterest in doing more than driving up to Yosemite for the day. One friend got out of the car at Tunnel View, experienced that chilly breeze -- and then refused to get out of the car for the rest of the day.

ALL of the people I hike with, I met them through hiking.



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Re: Why mainly only caucasian backpackers?

Postby giantbrookie » Sat Oct 15, 2016 9:47 am

I haven't seen any actual statistics but I actually seem to have noticed an increase in Asian American and Hispanic American hikers in the Sierra in the last several years. The real anomaly for me was my visit to Jennie Lake back in September. In my original post I had mentioned that I was rather surprised to see so many backpackers headed in the week after Labor Day. What I didn't say was that I was even more surprised that most of the folks headed into Jennie were Asian American and this did not appear to be one group, but rather several separate groups. Jennie Lake, however, is not the only place I've seen groups of hikers-of-color within the last several seasons in the High Sierra and I was under the impression I was seeing more hikers-of-color long before visiting Jennie L.

Regarding pursuits/hobbies/activities that are rare among people of color, I wouldn't include fishing on that list. There have long been large numbers of people of color who go fishing, but very few who do wilderness fishing at the end of a hike at altitude. A visit to a drive-to lake, the coastline, or a fishing pier is a pretty good illustration of this.

The fishing thing is funny because where I grew up in the 1960s Japanese Americans, although there were very few of us, had this reputation of being good fishermen, so I was a bit embarrassed as a kid that neither me nor my dad seemed to have a clue when we took fishing gear someplace. My dad, though, was unusual in that he wanted to go mountain climbing and take the family with him. Whereas this certainly wasn't the norm for Japanese American adults in the 1960s his stories of his time in Japan (pre WWII and WWII) indicated that lots of folks were hiking around there. He would mention doing really sketchy (probably class 4) scrambling to pick flowers for his mom. I think he was in fact cut out of a different cloth than many of his generation here. He was also very much into body surfing, which was in fact the first outdoor activity he got my mom into in the days before they had kids. He didn't start going to the mountains until we were old enough to be mobile or semi-mobile (he would carry my bro on his shoulders a long way on many of the early trips). It happened that he was also a freakishly good athlete by any standards, too. He regularly won masters swimming and distance running events, and his athletic prowess is probably best measured by the fact he ran a 2:58 marathon at age 48. So, although he didn't measure up to the "fishing" standard, his individualism, outdoor orientation, and athleticism contributed to him getting me and my brother into High Sierra hiking. Anyhow it is pretty clear I owe the fact that I became one of the rare Asian Americans hiking and leading trips into the High Sierra (leading my first trip (off trail, of course) in 1976) to the fact my dad was in fact a rare Asian American outdoorsperson of his generation.

Speaking of cultural barriers, there is certainly the perception among some/many people of color that the High Sierra backcountry is not a friendly place for them, even though this isn't really true. In the "front country" I have certainly had some scary encounters in small towns and backroads, including one that prompted two of my Caucasian friends in the car to say afterwards "Whoa, that was like something out of Roots". To make a long story short a store owner initially refused to let me buy gas, served others who arrived after me, and continually intimidated me (he was in fact armed). The High Sierra backcountry is vastly different, but the perception among some/many people of color is that what I encountered at that gas station/store is similar to the human interactions they'd have in the High Sierra.

Accordingly, this approximate paraphrase of a conversation I had with some of my friends who were going on their first backpacking trip--this to Desolation Wilderness back in the late 1980s is not surprising:
"So Wako, is it safe up there?"
"Whaddya mean by safe?"
"Well...yunno... are there, like a lot of red necks up there? Cuz...yunno, I been watchin Deliverance and sh-t..."
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 dave54 » Sat Oct 15, 2016 9:58 am

maverick wrote:http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-revoyr-diversity-in-the-wilderness-20160828-snap-story.html


The comments after the story are interesting. I expected the usual diatribes accusing the NPS of racism, etc. Instead the general consensus among the commenters was "So what? Why is this a story?"
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Re: Why mainly only caucasian backpackers?

Postby rlown » Sat Oct 15, 2016 6:17 pm

giantbrookie wrote:Speaking of cultural barriers, there is certainly the perception among some/many people of color that the High Sierra backcountry is not a friendly place for them, even though this isn't really true. In the "front country" I have certainly had some scary encounters in small towns and backroads, including one that prompted two of my Caucasian friends in the car to say afterwards "Whoa, that was like something out of Roots". To make a long story short a store owner initially refused to let me buy gas, served others who arrived after me, and continually intimidated me (he was in fact armed). The High Sierra backcountry is vastly different, but the perception among some/many people of color is that what I encountered at that gas station/store is similar to the human interactions they'd have in the High Sierra.


C'mon just say it with me.. Bridgeport.. I have no clue how they get that way, but it must be just like in "High Plains Drifter."
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Re: Why mainly only caucasian backpackers?

Postby Hobbes » Sat Oct 15, 2016 8:52 pm

2:58? That's hauling ass; way under Boston qualifying time.
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Re: Why mainly only caucasian backpackers?

Postby WarrenFork » Sat Oct 15, 2016 9:24 pm

rlown wrote:C'mon just say it with me.. Bridgeport.. I have no clue how they get that way, but it must be just like in "High Plains Drifter."


Funny that someone from Petaluma should single out Bridgeport in a thread about diversity. I've lived in both, and the demographics are actually quite similar.

Bridgeport is 84% white; Petaluma 80% white. African Americans make up less than 1% of the people in both towns. The percentage of Native Americans in Bridgeport is almost twice as high as in Petaluma, which in turn has a higher percentage of Asians and Pacific Islanders than Bridgeport. Hispanics and Latinos of any race make up 25.7% of Bridgeport's population and 21.5% of Petaluma's.

Those Census Bureau figures for Bridgeport don't include the Marines based at the Mountain Warfare Training Center at Pickel Meadows. It's a pretty diverse group, and they spend a fair amount of time (and money) in Bridgeport during off hours. I've never heard of any of them being treated with other than genuine respect and sincere hospitality.

I suppose it's possible that a few of the old-timers amongst the Bridgeport businesspeople enjoy playing up to flatlander prejudices about rednecks. That's the only explanation I can think of for comparing a town peopled for the most part with decent, sensible, and tolerant folks with the vicious locals of "High Plains Drifter." And you can be sure that people in Bridgeport would be the last to judge Petalumans based solely on the murder there of Polly Klaas.

When I lived in Bishop in the 1980s, there was local speculation that Asian Americans were shy of the East Side because of the proximity of Manzanar and the knowledge that people in the Owens Valley towns had staffed and profited from the concentration camp. I don't know how true that was, but to second what Giantbrookie posted above, I also find that I am encountering many more Asian Americans out and about in the backcountry. Last week in Northern Yosemite I saw perhaps 9 hikers in 7 days, and three (not in the same party) were Asian Americans.
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Re: Why mainly only caucasian backpackers?

Postby wildhiker » Sat Oct 15, 2016 11:47 pm

I have definitely seen an increase in hikers-of-color in the Sierra in recent years. Most of them have been day-hikers on trails. That's a start - in fact, it's how I started. Just this June at the top of Yosemite Falls, we saw lots of Hispanic-Americans and Asian-Americans who had hiked up from Yosemite Valley. I really think that the paucity in the backcountry is just due to unfamiliarity, with economics also being a constraint for many, and eventually we will reach a critical mass that encourages more minorities to venture out.

I know that we old white guys can be a positive influence in this process. I talk about my hiking trips and put up photos in my office. One Asian-American coworker (born in Hong Kong and came here at age 12) has gotten really interested in camping and even talks about eventually going backpacking with his boys. Another Mexican-American co-worker has expressed "I'd like to do that" when I've talked about some of my adventures. If he keeps working with me, he may end up in the backcountry!

By the way, someone in the earlier incarnation of this thread mentioned Mission Peak here in the Bay Area. Based on our recent hikes to Mission Peak, the hike to the top has become a magnet for Hispanic teens - many of whom live right below it in east San Jose. In this case, there appears to be a social media connection - some hikers posted photos of themselves at the top, and that encouraged their friends to do it. Here, they have the opportunity as well since it is just a few miles away.

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Re: Why mainly only caucasian backpackers?

Postby Fly Guy Dave » Sun Oct 16, 2016 6:45 am

An interesting topic. Here's something I saw in this morning's Sacramento Bee: http://www.sacbee.com/entertainment/liv ... 11392.html
"Yeah, well, you know, that's just, like, your opinion, man." --Jeff Lebowski

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Re: Why mainly only caucasian backpackers?

Postby SSSdave » Sun Oct 16, 2016 10:30 am

One thing that has been lost in the discussion by media coming out with these stories is the racial make up of California has vastly changed in just a few decades and the younger demographic is much more so versus the below statistics. Also immigrants are MUCH more heavily weighted in the urban demographic so it has taken time for many of them to venture out of the cities. Thus people wondering about racial imbalances in outdoor actitivities haven't considered that there are a lot of younger non caucasians that have only recently become adults and most are slowly increasingly exploring out of urban areas.

In California:
1980
67% white
19% hispanic
8% black
4% other

2010
40% white
38% hispanic
6% black
13% Asian
1% other

In 1980 the state population was 23.6m and in 2010 37.2m
The white population was 15.7m in 1980 and has decreased to 14.9m today.
In 1980 the Asian population was just 55k. In 1990 that jumped to 2.7m and 2010 4.7m
The hispanic population was 4.5m in 1980 and was 14.0m in 2010. Thus most of the population growth since 1980 has been hispanics and much of that was not legal though many have assimilated to legal status without going through legal processes.

http://censusscope.org/2010Census/state ... California

While it is true factors members have suggested like culture etc figure into the the current imbalance, to this person, media types whining about the situation that are probably millenials, also have a myopic view of California racial demographic history.
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Re: Why mainly only caucasian backpackers?

Postby frozenintime » Sun Oct 16, 2016 12:49 pm

i don't live in california. the demographics of your beautiful state are very interesting, but the issue is a national one.

as a white person, i think the best thing one can do is just listen to, respect, and absorb the experiences relayed to us by non-white hikers.
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Re: Why mainly only caucasian backpackers?

Postby giantbrookie » Sun Oct 16, 2016 2:56 pm

rlown wrote:
giantbrookie wrote:In the "front country" I have certainly had some scary encounters in small towns and backroads, including one that prompted two of my Caucasian friends in the car to say afterwards "Whoa, that was like something out of Roots". To make a long story short a store owner initially refused to let me buy gas, served others who arrived after me, and continually intimidated me (he was in fact armed).

C'mon just say it with me.. Bridgeport.. I have no clue how they get that way, but it must be just like in "High Plains Drifter."

The above story took place in Chinese Camp along 120; I recall the year was 1979. In fact I would not have stopped there had I not planned poorly and nearly run out of gas. I have not had any issues in E. Side towns, including Bridgeport.
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 rlown » Sun Oct 16, 2016 5:09 pm

wasn't picking on you, GB. I've heard from others about the tone in Bridgeport. I'll just stick to JollyCone from now on. Still as you point out, it's out there. My point of view, if you want to hike, we hike. I know about Manzanar https://www.nps.gov/manz/index.htm. It was stupid to go down that path and at the same time, the powers that were in charge did, but latest attacks say we need better controls for immigrants. Those who want to be legal, and well, those who don't.
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