Hiker completes 900-km Bruce Trail in project promoting diversity in the outdoors

·2 min read
Zwena Gray is an environmental sciences student at Trent University in Peterborough, Ont., who is from Detroit. (Submitted by Zwena Gray - image credit)
Zwena Gray is an environmental sciences student at Trent University in Peterborough, Ont., who is from Detroit. (Submitted by Zwena Gray - image credit)

Reflecting on her recently completed 900-kilometre journey along Ontario's Bruce Trail — a project called Black on the Bruce — Zwena Gray recalls how the trip ended: with a lot of silence and scenery.

Toward the end of the trail, the height of the escarpment allowed her to look back and clearly see the landscape she had just hiked through.

"I just remember how silent it was, and there was this clear water and it was just pure serenity as we started to get further north," she said. "It seemed like the perfect closing to our journey."

Submitted by Zwena Gray
Submitted by Zwena Gray

Gray, an environmental sciences student at Trent University in Peterborough, Ont., who is from Detroit, wrapped up the 39-day hike in Tobermory, Ont., earlier this month.

She and a friend started at the beginning of the trail in the Niagara region.

The project was inspired by her love of camping and outdoor adventure, and a desire to promote diversity in those spaces and "showcase what Black joy can look like in nature."

Along the way, she also wanted to learn about the history of the Underground Railroad in the areas she visited, such as Niagara and Owen Sound. She met with two historians who were descents of those who came to Canada via the Underground Railroad.

"Getting to hear those stories from a very personal connection meant a lot," she said.

Toronto Bruce Trail Club/Instagram
Toronto Bruce Trail Club/Instagram

Support kept her going

Some days were harder than others. One of the journal entries she made consisted only of the words "cold, wet and miserable," but Gray said the support she's received allowed her to continue on.

"I definitely think what kept me going was just the community that we were building as we were hiking and having the support of so many people while doing the hike," she said.

The trip has allowed her to tap into new conversations, and given her the opportunity to connect with Black women who are also in the outdoor adventure space, she said.

She wants to continue her project by sharing some of what she learned on the trail with the community.

"I hope to invite people out to campsites and share stories and do more specific educational workshops too, like how to pack your bag, and I've made a lot of [social media] postings like ... What do you do with your natural hair on the trail — what I did at least — and how do you deal with your period?"

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

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CBC
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