Hikers push to make outdoor activities more inclusive

STOKES COUNTY, NC – A group of friends who noticed they didn’t see many people who looked like them when they hit the trails for hiking started a group to make outdoor activities more diverse and inclusive.

What do you want to know

  • Ali Steele, Lisa Colvin and Charles Gbenyon created Issa Vibe Adventures in 2017
  • Group plans guided hikes on trails across the Carolinas
  • According to the US Forest Service, between 2016 and 2020, only about 2% of forest and wilderness visitors were African American

Ali Steele, Lisa Colvin and Charles Gbenyon all met while hiking twice a month on different trails through the Carolinas. The trio found different benefits to going outside, especially for mental, physical and spiritual health.

“Once we started walking together, I had a whole new outlook on life. I became happy, was able to come out of my depressed state, see a whole new perspective, and I’ve been hooked ever since,” Colvin said.

While enjoying what nature has to offer, they noticed that they were often the only ones blacked out on the trails. In 2017, they created Charlotte-based Issa Vibe Adventures. The group plans guided hikes, kayaking adventures, community events and more, inviting the black community to explore nature across the Carolinas.

“Our main goal was to bring people here, who are like us…so if that’s something we can bring to our community, that’s the main goal, and the main goal is to expose them to a place they normally wouldn’t. have a chance to see,” Gbenyon said.

Although many members of the community face physical or mental health issues, not all have access to or afford to pay for treatment or therapy. The co-founders agree that just getting outdoors can help.

“We try to provide these outlets for people to go out. These are other options that people just don’t know about, so it’s our goal to expose them to things like this,” Colvin said.

Recently, Issa Vibe Adventures traveled from Charlotte to Tory’s Den in Stokes County to explore scenic trails through Hanging Rock Park. They welcomed confirmed hikers, new hikers and children too.

“Our grandparents, their grandparents and their grandparents were very connected to nature. They could look up at the sky and tell you when it was going to rain. So it’s really about reconnecting to that part that already existed inside of you,” Steele said.

According to the US Forest Service, between 2016 and 2020, only about 2% of forest and wilderness visitors were African American. Through the work of Issa Vibe Adventures, the co-founders seek to change that.

For more information on Issa Vibe Adventures, click here.