It’s nearly a 600-mile hike!
A Detroiter is set to become the first Black woman to complete the Bruce Trail since the Underground Railroad passages, WDET 101.9 FM reports.
Zwena Gray is setting out on quite an adventure, the 20-year-old looking to become the first Black woman to complete the Bruce Trail since the Underground Railroad passages. Gray is a student at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario, majoring in environmental studies and science with a minor in gender and social justice studies. Gray first began connecting to the outdoors through various environmental programs across the country. Realizing that there was a scarcity of people of color represented inspired Gray to participate even more. A native Detroiter, Gray feels hiking the Bruce Trail is the best way to merge her love of community and nature.
“Being from Detroit, I really wanted to bring that connection to nature to my community. It’s not only important for Black people to be present in these natural environments, but it’s also important for us to showcase just the freedom and liberation and just ease of existing [in] these spaces,” said Gray.
The Bruce Trail is 559 miles long, the oldest and longest marked continuous trail in Canada. The last stop on the Underground Railroad more than a century ago, Gray plans to spend the next six weeks following in the footsteps of women who followed that same path to freedom. The trail runs through Southern Ontario from the Niagara River all the way to the northern tip of the Bruce Peninsula. She hopes to learn about the legacy of those who escaped slavery along the Bruce Trail, scheduling time to speak with various historians throughout her hike and learn about the community those ancestors created.
“I feel like there’s a type of liberation and connection to the environment that can provide a sense of joy, freedom and learning for BIPOC individuals,'' said Gray.
She also has plans to create a lot of content for other women of color looking to get more in tune with nature, using technology as a way to create access for those who aren’t able to join her on the journey and document the dos and don'ts of outdoor life.
“I’m going to be making natural hair videos, do videos about how do you handle your period in the outdoors, and even doing fun stuff like tent talks every week for my Instagram and then I’ll also be having YouTube videos kind of more educational about the historians that I talked to and the areas that I go through - more of a day-to-day thing,” Gray explained.
One of Gray’s friends will be joining her for the entire hike while other family members and friends will meet her at points along the trail. After her trek is complete, she hopes to share her story and the inspired art that comes from it with communities across Toronto and Detroit. It is her ultimate goal to “showcase Black joy,” and inspire other BIPOC individuals to become one with nature.
Sending you all the good energy Zwena! Because of you, we can!
Photo Courtesy of WDET 101.9 FM