ALASKA with Amanda, Elaina, and Abigail

Thinking of Alaska, grizzly bears, epic mountains, and quite possibly, a rugged life might come to mind. But have you ever wondered about the local tribes and the people who are native to these wild lands? Or what skills and traditions they carry on today to keep them in relationship with the land?


Many are familiar with Denali, the highest mountain peak in Northern America, located in the Alaska Range. Deenaalee is the mountain’s original name in the language of the indigenous, Dene, Athabaskan. The native peoples of this area are a resourceful people that glean many resources from the land.


Summer days are much fewer than the long winter nights, and in order to make it through another winter, there are many activities throughout the summer to support the winter plight. Three women, proudly preserving these traditions, are Amanda and Elaina, both born to the Dene people and their friend Abigail who is Hispanic. They are often found traversing the land that their ancestors and friends roamed for hundreds of years. Alaska provides beautiful trails, glaciers, and mountains to explore and waters to fish in.


You will find these friends carrying on the wisdom and resourcefulness of the people they come from as they pick berries along the trail; berries to can and preserve for winter months, berries for making pies, or berries simply popped in the mouth for a snack on the way home from a long day of foraging. And you will find these friends out on the water fishing for salmon, converted later into dried fish strips, salmon dip, or smoked salmon. Salmon with everything! That is the Alaskan way.


When you are with Amanda, Elaina, and Abigail, it’s immediately evident that nothing is wasted. Moose and caribou provide meat, their hide provides warmth added to clothing, and bones become jewelry, utensils, or handles for the tavash (Deg Xinag). Everything has a purpose, a duty, a task. This resourcefulness is born of respect for the gifts from the land and the water. It is this relationship between people and nature that gives a sense of balance and harmony.


These are modern native women. Always adventuring and enjoying the outdoors. You will usually find these friends out on trails, making memories, laughing and taking pictures. They stop to fuel up with salmon dip that a mother packed for them. Then the adventure presses forward, journeying to catch that certain light in a place where light is either abundant or scarce depending on the season. They go exploring with sons and mothers, the mountain air always promising joy.


When you see Alaskan native women out in the sun, laughing together, and enjoying the land of our Creator, you see a glimpse of the past and peer into the future. If you pay attention, you can hear and see their mothers, grandmothers, and ancestors that came before them. You’ll see them in their faces, their hands, and within the iris of their eyes. You will see strong women who have endured the land, endured hardships, and through all of this, you will see beauty. It is that great beauty that these three women represent.

Strength and beauty will always follow them. It flows in their veins, through their children and grandchildren. There is nothing too hard for them. For if they can’t do it alone, they have their community to support and help them. Alaskan life, full of strength and beauty in all ways.

Blog content provided by Jaylyn Gough. Read more here to learn about her travels in Alaska.

ALASKA with Deenaalee Hodgdon

“Got Salmon on my mind (as usual). My excitement, as we begin to look toward Salmon Season, is coupled with a little dread,” says Deenaalee Hodgdon.


Deenaalee is one of the incredible human beings born of the Dene People Deg Xit’an Dene and Sugpiaq Peoples. Deg Xit’an Dené/Sugpiaq. They are an enrolled member of the Tribe of Anvik and a shareholder of Doyon, Limited and Bristol Bay Native Corporation fisherwoman working in Bristol Bay, Alaska. They are a leader in their community, and they have been carrying on the fight to protect their waters, their fish, and the land of their ancestors.


Every year, roughly 40-50 million salmon make an epic journey from the open ocean to the waters of Bristol Bay. Bristol Bay is located at the easternmost arm of the Bering Sea and sits at 400km long and 290km wide. It’s home to many wildlife species, including great numbers of wild salmon. The salmon provide sustenance to both humans and wildlife. Bristol Bay’s salmon supplies around 50% of the world’s commercial supply of wild sockeye salmon. This resource generates more than a billion dollars for the Alaskan economy and employs over 14,000 fishery workers. It is the largest and most lucrative wild salmon fishery in the world.


The health and sustainability of Deenaalee’s home, of Bristol Bay and its incredible salmon resource, are facing tandem threats – mining and climate change. The land and it’s waters are threatened by the proposed Pebble Mine. In November 2020, the US Army Corps of Engineers denied a federal permit to begin building the mine. The permit was rejected as being non-compliant with the Clean Water Act. This was a small, celebrated victory for the many tribes, fishermen, local communities, and environmentalists who have been fighting this battle for 13 years. But they know all too well that this region is not fully protected from future mining endeavors. The area still lies in threat evidenced by the fact that just last month, on January 25, 2021, an appeal was filed by Pebble Limited Partnership (PLP) challenging the permit denial. The proposed mine has lived many lives over the course of the last 13 years. Though the permit was rejected in November, due diligence and permanent protection of the Bristol Bay watershed is necessary for long-term sustainability. We know this battle isn’t over because our land and waters continue to be raped by the hands of greed.


In the summer you will find Deenaalee working on a boat in the Alaskan waters, hawling in those fish that we love to eat. They know all too well that climate change presents ever increasing challenges in this area. “The hot weather we faced in 2019 caused salmon to go belly up in our bays and rivers. It is estimated that anywhere between 100,000- 200,000 salmon passed away while trying to return to their spawning grounds across Bristol Bay and in the Kuskokwim. With climate change comes sea rising temperatures and fish, particularly salmon become dazed and confused at around 70F. While I look forward to being out on the water with my stellar crew again, I wonder what we will witness? To what temperature will the water rise too? When will the salmon return and in what numbers? Will my fellow commercial fishermen recognize the extent to which we need to have a real conversation about the impacts of climate change on the watershed, the fish, and Indigenous Lifeways?” says Deenaalee.


For Deenaalee, their waters and the land are everything. They live and breathe them. They run in their veins alongside the strength of their ancestors. As they wander the mountains, hunting or hiking, as they traverse the waters, fishing or exploring, they embody the spirit and power of their People. Deenaalee is strengthened by the knowledge that they follow the same journey as their ancestors. Their ancestors fished these waters and sought to live in harmony with the land. They too fought to protect their four-legged and water cousins from invaders, the colonizers. One sees the journey in their eyes, through their swift movement on water, and the pounding of their feet as they gracefully play with their pup. They are home and their ancestors embrace them fiercely.

On The Land Media Collective

Save Bristol Bay

United Tribes of Bristol Bay

Blog content provided by Jaylyn Gough. Read more here to learn about her travels in Alaska.




How These Black Founders of Hiking Collectives Are Creating A Sense of Belonging On The Trails

The outdoors are intrinsically for everyone. However, finding a sense of belonging on the trails can be challenging for many. Colour Outside, Colour The Trails, and Abundant Life Adventure Club are challenging this narrative.

These three Black led hiking organizations are exploring everywhere from the Smoky Mountains of Nashville, Tennessee to the snowy peaks of Salt Lake City, Utah. While charting these trails they are changing the face of the outdoor industry. 

We spoke to the founders of these three Black hiking collectives to learn what prompted their start, the role authenticity plays in sustaining a thriving community, and what creating a sense of belonging within the outdoor industry looks like to them.

Nailah Blades, Founder of Color Outside, Salt Lake City, Utah

DSC07840Photos by Nicole Dossous

HOKA: When did you come to realize that you needed to create your own hiking collective? 

Nailah Blades: I started Color Outside at the end of 2016. My family and I moved from Southern California to Salt Lake City, Utah. This was a huge cultural shift. I had just become a new mother, my daughter was just a little over the age of one, so I was trying to navigate motherhood. I also had a business that I wasn’t entirely sure that I wanted to continue. I just felt like I had a lot of upheavals. Once I started exploring the outdoors I felt so much more at peace. 

I felt like I was rediscovering parts of myself. I felt like I could make a lot of the decisions I was trying to make a lot easier, and I just felt like other people, other women, particularly other Black women needed to experience the outdoors as well. I started Color Outside because it was the community that I needed. I wanted to explore the outdoors, and I wanted to do it with other Black women and women of color.


HOKA: What was the process of starting your own hiking collective? 

Blades:I started with a meetup group. I sent out a note about a hiking event, and put that out into the world, and I was shocked. I thought that only two or three women would join the group initially, but I had over 100 women join which was shocking. 

About eight women showed up to the first event, and we hiked to this spot called The Living Room Trailhead, it was just so much fun to be out there with women who looked like me, had similar experiences finding their footing and their community.

HOKA: What role does authenticity play in creating this thriving community that you have? 

Blades: I think authenticity is huge and I think especially for Black women. We know when something just doesn’t feel right to us. I think that’s one of the bigger draws to Color Outside. We are a community who is striving to get outdoors, fight for joy, and take up space. 


HOKA: What is one of the most memorable hikes that you’ve ever been on? 

Blades: I think one of the most memorable hikes that I’ve done with the group is the first hike that we ever did at the retreat in Heber Valley, Utah, it was in September, and it was totally beautiful. It snowed that weekend which we weren’t anticipating. I made sure I had all of this extra gear for people. 

We hiked around the hill, we slid, and no one was complaining about anything. It was just one of those moments where things didn’t go the way they were planned, but it worked out the way it was supposed to. Hiking around in the snow might not be something that I would do in my everyday life, but the women were open to doing it and embraced a spirit of adventure.

HOKA: What does creating a sense of belonging on the trails and in the hiking industry look like for you? 

Blades:When you belong, you feel it in your bones. We all deserve to take up space in the outdoors and feel like we’re meant to be there. I’m striving to create a sense of belonging with Color Outside, whether that’s coming out and hiking with us as a group or scrolling through our social posts, and that encourages you to say, yeah I belong there. I deserve to get outside and do what I want to do. 

Judith Kasiama, Founder of Colour The Trails, Chapters Across Canada 

DSC_2217Photos by Pavel Boiko 

HOKA: When did you come to realize that you needed to create your own hiking collective? 

Kasiama: In 2016, I decided to create my own hiking collective with friends, but it quickly grew. There were a lot of interested hikers, but they didn’t have a community that looked like them. Colour The Trails developed from the desire to connect with my community and create a safe space to go hiking. 

HOKA: What was the process of starting your own hiking collective? 

Kasiama: The initial start was just posting on Facebook. Some people weren’t necessarily super into hiking, but they were curious about it. There was a lot of word of mouth, a lot of Facebook posts, and then with time Colour, The Trails started to grow more of a presence.


HOKA: What role does authenticity play in creating this thriving community that you have? 

Kasiama: Authenticity is important. I didn’t start Colour The Trails to be recognized by the industry or by brands, I started it because I love hiking. There’s the fear of racism and hiking is a very white space, even if there are other people of color doing it. It’s important to me to make sure those who are curious about the outdoors know that it’s accessible to them. 

It’s not about the publicity for me. It’s more about the fun of exploration and the fun of bringing people along because when I take people on hikes and they begin to see all of the beauty they are like wow this is something out of National Geographic. You can go use your own body and have a beautiful peaceful time in nature. I just want to share that experience and it has nothing to do with being recognized. I think that’s what remaining authentic means to me.

HOKA: What is one of the most memorable hikes that you’ve ever been on? 

Kasiama: This past summer at the Canadian Rockies. It was a two-day hike for one of them and then the other one was four days of trekking. So the four-day tracking one was a very long hike and it was in Mount Goodsir in British Columbia and it’s just one of the most beautiful trails that I’ve done. 

I just didn’t know how to describe it, there is just this beautiful glacier up there and beautiful blue color lakes by Mount Robson. The funny thing is so many people who have gone through this hike haven’t gotten this view because of the unpredictable weather patterns, but where we went we had two beautiful nights of really warm weather in August and it was just beautiful and then the second part of that was a four-day trek to The Rockies to this area called Rockwall, which is this entire rock facing mountain, which goes for huge kilometers and you spend a night at each different stop, and the first part was very hard because it was very forestry, but then once we got to the actual rock wall facing side and it was just like endless beautiful scenery, and it was almost like Patagonia. I haven’t been to Patagonia yet, but I’ve been doing my research because I’m planning to go to Patagonia.

Then with Colour The Trails just outside of Whisler there is a hike that we did called

Wedgemount Lake and Wedge Mountain. A really big group of us went out and did this very advanced trail. It was just very fun to have an entire crew of Black people, people of color on that hike. 


HOKA: What does creating a sense of belonging on the trails and in the hiking industry look like for you? 

Kasiama: Ultimately, we’re all looking at social media and advertisement. Imagery and stories shape us as a culture and as well society. Unfortunately, for a long time, all we saw were white men going and climbing mountains trying to conquer Mount Everest, but we never really take a moment to stop and think about how the locals are charting those trails. 

It’s important to recognize that we did exclude a lot of people from the outdoor space. It has to do with history, it cautions a lot of Black people with how they engage themselves in the outdoors. There are so many Canadians from different parts of the world who are refugees and immigrants. A lot of times so our parents aren’t prioritizing taking us out into nature, because as immigrants you are worried about taking care of your kids, paying rent, and all of that. I guess the first generation of us who went out there was like, okay we can have the luxury of enjoying the outdoors

I think that we have to recognize the history and the stories of the past and also work hard at showcasing diverse experiences, so there is no longer just a single story of white men in the outdoors.

Claude and Dr. Kim Walker, Founders of Abundant Life Adventure Club, Nashville, TN 

Hoka_TyreGrannemann_AdventureClub-11Photos by Tyre Grannemann

HOKA: When did you come to realize that you needed to create your own hiking collective? 

Dr. Kim Walker: It all just formed organically, after we were hiking and discovering the outdoors on our own. We started to invite friends to come with us. Then we created this learn how to hike series that we posted online and invited people intentionally whether we knew them or not, we had a few people come out and we did that about six times. 

We went to the same park and did different trails and we realized that we should really become an organization, try it out and see how it goes.

Claude Walker: Our love for hiking was triggered in 2017 when we went through a major lifestyle change. The major lifestyle change allowed us to be more active, and we became more curious about doing things to keep our bodies well.

HOKA: What was the process of starting your own hiking collective? 

Dr. Kim: We created a flyer on a whim inviting people to come out to our beginner hiking series, learn how to hike, and discover the awesomeness of nature. We put it on each of our personal Facebook profiles and that’s really where it all started. Eight people came out and they loved it. We were just going to do it that one time, but everyone loved it so we did it again. We created a Fall hiking series and we just kept putting it on our personal Facebook pages. People started sharing it with their network, their friends, and after we had those six hikes towards the end of that year. Then we decided to fully commit to it and called ourselves the Abundant Life Adventure Club. 


HOKA: What role does authenticity play in creating this thriving community that you have? 

Claude: Our community developed organically and I think it developed that way because Kim and I have always been authentic. We’ve always been our true selves. We feel like being your true selves allows people to come and be rejuvenated for the week. I feel like providing that space for people resonates with people.

Dr. Kim: It also helps them to feel more comfortable and helps them to feel more welcome and like they belong with our community, because especially in our area and many areas it’s just a lack of outdoor spaces where Black people feel welcome and like they can be themselves. 

I know for a lot of our members our adventures might be the only place where they aren’t the only Black person. They might be the only Black person, but here we can share our stories, listen to music, and our culture without screening ourselves.

HOKA: What is one of the most memorable hikes that you’ve ever been on? 

Dr. Kim: We went to the Smoky Mountains and did a 10 ½ mile hike. It was straight incline, but some of the things that we saw on the way, it was just like God looking at us. It was beautiful, so we got to the top of the mountain, had lunch,  we really just looked at the view of the mountains all around, and basically thanked God for even being able to do that. It was a very transformative experience for us. 

We said we have to share this experience with our people. We were hiking for 8 hour that day. We did not see another Black person at all, and  we were in the most highly populated park in the country.

Two years later we worked to recreate this experience for our community. We have people of different fitness levels, ages, and experiences on the hike. When you go to places like that on the top of a mountain. It gives you a different perspective on life, which is needed in that moment.


HOKA: What does creating a sense of belonging on the trails and in the hiking industry look like for you?

Dr. Kim: Creating a sense of belonging means feeling safe and like you are supposed to be there. Unfortunately, a lot of people feel the opposite. They feel unsafe and like they aren’t supposed to be there or they are unsure whether it is okay for them to be there, because no one in the space looks like them. 

When you go they give you an awkward stare or ask, what are you doing here? We still get that, so just being in a community that is excited that you are there, and you aren’t the odd ball out. No one really likes to feel that way, so that’s what we keep in mind even when we created our experiences. 

Claude: I think you have to be intentional when you want to make someone feel welcome, and I think it almost can make someone feel like they are going out of their way to make someone feel welcome, but sometimes it is about going out of your way to make someone feel welcome. It’s more than just monetary things that make someone feel welcome. 

Blog content provided by Priscilla Ward.

Native Women Running with Verna Volker

Verna Volkner is an ultra runner and a Diné woman from New Mexico, who currently resides in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Diné is what the Navajo People call themselves in their own language, which means “The People”. Upon introduction, the traditional way a Diné person introduces themselves is naming their clans.  This tells you where they’re from and who their family is. Verna’s clans are Tódích’íi’nii (Bitterwater) nishlíi, Hashtl’ishnii (Mud People) bashishchiin,  Ta’neeszahnii (Tangle) dashicheii, and Tó’ áheedlíinii (Water Flows Together) dashinalí. These identities express Verna’s background and her quest to bring forth the Native People into the world of running.  


Verna created a social media group through Instagram called, Native Women Running (NWR).  This group was created out of her great frustration at the lack of Native representation. Verna never saw anyone who looked like her in the running world, which was upsetting because running is such a sacred experience for many Native runners.  Running is a celebration of connection to the land – the drumming of the feet hitting the earth, the prayers that are breathed in and out of the lungs, the power of the legs pushing forward, giving you the ability to make one more stride.  Running invites you to observe the beauty of the land that you pass through – the sage brush, the trees, the grass.  Running invites you to be in communication with our four-legged cousins – the birds of the air, and the insects that fly or crawl. When we run, we feel and experience it all. 


In 2009, Verna started running. As a mother of three children, she started running to lose weight and to help engage a healthier lifestyle. It was tough and it was hard – even simply running a mile wasn’t easy.  But as hard as the beginning was, it pushed her forward and showed her that she can do something she never thought she could do: she could run. Slowly that mile became two and she began to recognize something else – someone else. As the miles increased so did her awareness of herself. She found a passion; she found a new journey.  


NWR represents a group of strong resilient Native runners. It’s a rare gift when a social media group somehow feels like a family, but this is exactly what Verna created.  The space she holds and brings forth is one of beauty, strength, pain, and resiliency. Women share personal stories of joy and affliction. They share adoration of the land on which they run on.  Inspiration moves throughout the group, they encourage each other, they push each other. But more importantly they support one another.  


A passion that is especially uplifted by this group is advocacy and awareness of Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women (MMIW).  The numbers of stolen sisters are staggering – our women and girls are being taken from us at an alarming rate.  Native women are murdered at a rate of 10 times higher than other ethnicities and it’s the third leading cause of death for beloved family members.  The majority of these murders are committed by non-Native people. Due to the lack of communication between state, local, federal, and tribal law enforcement, it’s difficult to begin the investigation process.  We can’t begin to tell you about the violence that our women face. And it’s not just on the Reservations, it’s down the street –  in urban neighborhoods, and in suburban homes. What’s also staggering is that 84% of Native/Indigenous women will experience violence in their lifetime.  Violence against Native Women is everywhere. Verna and NWR raise a voice for the voiceless.  May 5th is the international day to honor our MMIW and dsVerna created a virtual run to honor our missing and murdered sisters.  It was powerful to witness the vast number of supporters, who wore red and came together to honor our women and children.  

Through NWR, Verna expresses her greatest hope: to create more visibility for Native runners. And not just one runner, but all runners.  To learn more about NWR, visit their website, and follow them on social media, Instagram and Facebook, @nativewomenrunning.   


Verna is featured wearing the Bondi 7.

Photography and blog content provided by Jaylyn Gough.

Reclaiming Trails with Joy By L. Renee Blount

When I’m out hiking, I recognize I’m quite visible at times. My goal is to always reclaim a trail through visibility and my joy— a push against only thinking about the summit. Instead, it’s about the joy of the journey. My presence, words, and visuals are meant to be a visual and textual representation of what being a hiker can be.


A hike is simply walking in nature. It often feels way less accessible to many who are new to it. But the truth is you are likely not new at all. In fact, you are already an experienced urban hiker. You understand the sidewalk trails and urban landscapes. When I define hiking in those terms, it is what it should be— much more accessible as an activity. 

Don’t think for one second you are not capable or qualified.  I encourage you to embrace taking back the term. When I explain hiking in this, I find more people, especially folks of color, feel more at ease in joining me.


I’m a climber first. I started hiking out of necessity to get the climbing areas that can be often be deeply nestled in. Prior to climbing, I never viewed what I was doing as hiking, which means I was dissociating my nature experience rather than claiming it.  And then I spent a few summers out West and hiked constantly. There are days when I want & need the intense push as an athlete & adventure photographer. But then there are days I where I use hiking as a restorative exercise.  I’m inspired by seeing rad landscapes and microclimates. I do it to make my soul smile. I even dance on my water breaks.


I tend to go to heavily-used trails if I’m solo for safety. I now live in the Bay Area full-time, and this is one of my favorite hikes up on Mt. Tamalpais on ancestral Ohlone lands. The Dipsea Matt Davis Trail, a well-trafficked loop, that I begin near Pantoll Campground. Hike through a forest and it opens up to a seascape where you can see where the Pacific meets the San Francisco Bay. It’s a beautiful trail run, hike, or photo adventure. If you’re super adventurous, hike all the way to the bottom and grab fresh oysters at Stinson Beach at the Parkside Cafe. Bring your camera. Bring your joy.


I want this to be an invitation for you to reclaim your local trail or even sidewalk. Hike anywhere. Hike your city. It’s just a walk in nature for the soul.

About L:

Featured on a recent cover of Outside Magazine, L (short for Lanisha) is a climber, photographer, athlete, and innovation strategist. 


Lanisha is featured wearing the Tennine Hike GTX.