Colour the Trails Encourages Diversity in Outdoor Pursuits

Colour the Trails, a social group that hosts outdoor excursions for Black, Indigenous and people of colour, plus their allies, says outdoor enthusiasts can and should be anyone.

Zahra Abdullahi. Photograph by Jared Sych.

Proximity to the great outdoors is one of the biggest selling points for would-be Calgarians. With an abundance of hiking and biking trails and rivers to raft, it’s not unusual to find yourself surrounded with other nature lovers, from novice hikers and young families to the most experienced backcountry campers. But who are those adventurers and what do they look like?

Colour the Trails, a social group that hosts outdoor excursions for Black, Indigenous and people of colour (BIPOC), plus their allies, says outdoor enthusiasts can and should be anyone.

“People assume that people of colour are not outdoors, but we’re definitely out in the outdoors,” says Zahra Abdullahi, the club’s Alberta leader. “We want to create that safe space in the outdoors and show up as our full selves.”

The organization, formed in British Columbia in 2017 by Judith Kasiama, maintains a strong social media presence, with photos and videos of their members participating in a wide variety of sports and trips, to fill the gap in representation. “And that’s the good thing about social media,” says Abdullahi. “You meet so many people that are in every type of sport, that are excelling in it, and that’s not usually what you see in an outdoor magazine, or tourist videos.”

Abdullahi, an avid hiker herself, helped establish the Alberta chapter in July 2020 with a group hike to Picklejar Lakes in Kananaskis Country. Between heightened public awareness of racial injustice and the restrictions of a pandemic, Abdullahi says it was the right time to ensure a welcoming space was available for BIPOC to escape to nature without worrying about feeling othered. “Not everybody has a friend who’s outdoorsy, and there are more people that want to get outside. So how do those people get access?” says Abdullahi.

Navigating weather and social gathering restrictions, Colour the Trails has since hosted a handful of activities year-round, like an introduction to ice climbing, for all skill levels, with plans to expand into kayaking, mountain biking and more.

To learn more or register for events, visit colourthetrails.com

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This article appears in the March 2021 issue of Avenue Calgary.

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