Outdoor Afros in the Redwoods
Outdoor Afro Leadership Team (OALT) member Zoe Polk led her second outdoor event last weekend in Oakland, California’s Redwood Regional Park – a unit of the East Bay Regional Park District. Each OALT member is committed to lead one trip per quarter and write a blog about it – here is Zoe’s!
On a sunny, cloud free day, over 50 Outdoor Afros convened in Redwood Regional Park in Oakland, California. Since it is one of my favorite spots to hike and be in the greatness of nature, I couldn’t have been happier to share that experience with so many enthusiastic and interesting folks.
Following signs that said “Welcome Afros,” we assembled at the Anna Costa Picnic area in Redwood Bowl. As we did introductions, including names, hometowns and favorite activity, I was struck by the strong contingent we had from Minnesota and the diverse interests of the participants. Camping, white water rafting, skiing, fishing, and lawn chair lounging were among the activities enjoyed by members. Before we began the hike, I asked everybody to pay attention to the changing scenery, particularly my 3 favorite trees: Eucalyptus, Madrone and Coastal Redwood. I hoped that the smell of the Eucalyptus, the bright orange bark of the Madrone, and the overall majesty of the Redwoods would make outdoor afros return to this park as often as I do.
We also discussed the safety aspect of paying attention to your surroundings and keeping away from poison oak! And with that, we were off!
The hike was a little under a mile and a half and everyone was finished in 2 hours or less. It began with a most flat but bumpy path followed by a deep descent down the Madrone trail to the base of the redwoods. Hikers were encouraged to think about the history of the park, including the presence of grizzly bears long ago. I also shared the important role the redwood trees played in building and rebuilding the San Francisco Bay Area. And of course, we couldn’t leave out the beautiful ferns that joined with the trees to provide a beautiful lush setting.
Before we began the “Great Ascent,” we talked little about the gear that I wore, including a knee brace, a camelback, hiking boots and hiking sticks. With the help of these items, I am not limited by my personal handicaps and better enjoy outdoor activities.
Taking our time and pacing ourselves, hikers made their way up and back to the picnic area. While some Outdoor Afros sped to the top no sweat, many of us kept a slower pace, taking deep breaths and resting as needed. When the canopy of redwoods gave way and sunlight poured onto the trail, we knew we were at the top and ready for some BBQ.
If there’s one thing that all of us know how to do outdoors, its how to throw down on some barbecue and Saturday was no exception. While Stevie Wonder played in the background, many of us enjoyed fruit salads, steak, red velvet cake, plantains, and Otis’ deliciously marinated grilled chicken. To conclude the day, Kristi Davis, Director of California Wilderness Coalition made an emotional presentation about her deep connection and love for the outdoors. She encouraged everyone to be their own grassroots activist to protect California’s natural spaces.
The hike was a success on many levels. I look forward to seeing everyone again soon at the next Outdoor Afro event!