Community Voices

While Hiking Solo, Nature Speaks

Community Voices is a series in which guest writers share their perspectives on redwood forests.

Advocate for Diversity Outdoors Revels in Solitude and Beauty Among Redwoods

Portrait photo of author Teresa Baker, a black woman, smiling outside on a wide trail. She wears a dark scarf, green puffy jacket, dark denims, and grey sneakers with pink accents.
Essay author Teresa Baker on the trail in a redwood forest. Photo by Victoria Reeder Photography

I often refer to myself as a “lazy weekend hiker.” The joy isn’t in the miles I put in, but in the beauty that surrounds me, which drives me to get outdoors more often. My favorite journeys are the ones that take me through the redwoods—along the Avenue of the Giants or closer to home in the hills of Oakland and throughout Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. These roofless cathedrals have stood the test of time; as some have crashed to the ground, new growth takes their place, and a new chapter begins.

Redwoods are truly gentle giants in every sense of the word. They have provided me with countless moments of serenity as I’ve gazed in astonishment at the beauty and resilience I find in these spaces. That’s why I hike alone: I love the solitude of being one with nature. There is nothing more gratifying than being fully present to hear the sounds and take in all the sights. I hear a lot from women on their hesitation to hike solo. (My advice: To avoid getting lost, I try to stay on familiar trails within national and state parks, where directional signs are everywhere.)

I’ve also been asked if being a black woman hiking alone is an added concern. The answer for me is “no.” I recall a moment when I crossed paths with a group of women out on a hike. One of them said it was awfully brave of me to be on the trail alone, especially in an area where not a lot of nonwhite hikers are seen. I assured her that she wasn’t the first person to share that thought.

I’ve grown accustomed to the reality of being a unique face out on the trail; this is why I work to promote inclusion in the outdoors, which is so important.

For me, nature is where I feel safe. Nature is my escape, my wonderland of adventure, my happy place, my think tank. My thoughts can become clouded with all the city noises and work commitments, but the moment I step out on a trail, those noises fade, and nature speaks. She speaks to the adventurer, the hiker, the climber, and the skier, who find purpose in the excitement of the wind in their face, the trail that never seems to end, the peak that has never been summited, or the slope that few have attempted. It is a beckoning that the wayward person finds purpose in.

And nature speaks to my desire to be a better human and a better steward of the land, with the understanding that these spaces do not belong to me, but rather to the spirits that linger and protect them in ways that man has long since forgotten. Walking among redwoods or along a coastal trail is a constant reminder of just how fragile nature is and the role we all play in keeping it protected.


Read about the League’s collaboration with Teresa Baker and the League’s work to connect California’s diverse communities with redwood forests.

About the author

As the Founder of African American National Parks Event and DEL speaker, Teresa’s vision is anchored in interacting with outdoor entities (i.e. retailers, NGOs, federal agencies) that are having difficulty engaging diverse audiences within their organization and in outdoor arenas, such as national parks. The African American National Park Event network provides communities across the country with opportunities to participate in events that speak to culture, heritage and lifestyle. She parlays this introduction into an experience that dramatically changes perceptions and behaviors relative to the national parks and, by default, fosters the next generation of diverse, informed and loyal park stewards and outdoor enthusiasts. Teresa has shown great event planning skills, as demonstrated in the recent Buffalo Soldiers trail retracing pilgrimage, from the Presidio of San Francisco into Yosemite national park. She also spearheaded the Muir Campfire discussion on Diversity and Relevancy, where she gathered over 20 different government agencies and outdoor organization for a 3 day summit. Currently working on several collaborations, Teresa continues to find time to spend outdoors, embracing the environment that she so feverishly battles to protect.

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