#FindYourPark, Find Your Path: A Journey of Self Discovery

Baltimore based Brittany Leavitt reflects on her first year as an #OutdoorAfro Leader and her deepening relationship with the National Parks
What were some your favorite activities that you lead in your first year as an Outdoor Afro leader?

My first year as an Outdoor Afro Leader was incredible. I was able to learn so much about myself and others. I have been lucky enough to be able to lead a few hikes, with the wonderful help of Outdoor Afro Washington DC Leaders. I have enjoyed all of  the  hikes that we have led, but my 2 favorite events we planned were; hiking trip up Old Rag Mountain and  an REI sponsored event, learning to climb at Carder Rocks at the C/O canal on the Maryland side.
Old Rag is an 8 mile loop in the Shenandoah National Park. This was my first heavy hike with OA. We had 15 people join us and at least 5 were brand new to hiking. This was my first time leading,  I remember how nervous I was about how would people respond to me.  Overall the hike turned out to be an amazing experience for everyone. It was awesome to have so many wonderful  people who; not only encourage each other, but had such fantastic spirits and positive vibes.
My second favorite trip was with our sponsor REI. We hosted a beginners rock climbing class at Carder Rocks. This was a great way to change up an outdoor experience. Instead of  hanging out in a canoe or walking up a mountain. Rock climbing is also great way to  practice trust and communication.

What is your favorite national park and why? 

Shenandoah National Park is one of my favorite parks to visit. The first time I ever hiked was in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Its only 75 miles away for Washington DC and for someone like me who lives in the city, this is a great way to escape. I love the natural beauty of Shenandoah including the beautiful cascading waterfalls, vistas, and peaceful wooded hollows.  Whether you are planning a family picnic or heading out for a nice back-country hike, this park is for everyone.
As an Outdoor Afro Leader, I’ve deepened my relationship with Shenandoah. For example, while trip planning, I found out some interesting Black history. The Jim Crow laws forced the park to create black-only visitor centers, campgrounds, and even picnic areas. Because of black leadership during the Civil rights Movement, the segregation in the park slowly faded away.  The Byrd visitor center has a wonderful exhibition on the story of the segregation in the park.

SHEN-Lewis Mountain Negro Area sign, RLJ

Which national park is on your “bucket list” and why?

I have so many National Parks I would love to visit. From the Great Sand Dunes in Colorado to Denali in Alaska. In April at the annual Outdoor Afro Leadership Team Training. I will be crossing off one of my top National Parks, Yosemite. As an avid hiker, light climber, and nature photographer Yosemite is the place to be.

Who are some your outdoor leader role models and why?

Ansel Adams is one of my many inspiration when it come to nature photography.  Another inspiration of mine is Chelsea Griffie. She is not only an outdoor enthusiasts but also amazing climber. She is the first African American women to climb El Capitain. She also works heavily to promote getting kids outdoors. Especially kids who may not have the accessibility to go camping or try an outdoor activity. This has become my major life goal to help reconnect people to nature.

What are some of activities that you look forward to leading in 2016?

I  loved being a part of Outdoor Afro and the impact we are making. We are showing the country that nature is one of the ways we can express ourselves and heal.We are helping people step out of the comfort zone and explore their surroundings.  Whether its leading hikes on mountains, or helping out your local city garden. We will always find away to reconnect.