#UndergroundTrailMode: BlackPacking the Appalachian Trail

Written By OutdoorAfro

Published on Sep 4, 2016

In Furtherance of our Mission to Celebrate and Inspire Black connections to Nature, Outdoor Afro Invites You to Hike History October 6-9, 2016

By National Program Director Zoë Polk
This October, Outdoor Afro is going Blackpacking again! Last year, hundreds of Black people around the country honored the Buffalo Soldiers’ trailblazing of Mount Whitney through #WhitneyHiking.  In 2016, we will lift up Harriet Tubman and all of the freedom seekers of the Underground Railroad by getting in #UndergroundTrailMode

BlackPacking the Appalachian Trail

From October 6-9, 2016, six members of the 2016 Outdoor Afro Leadership Team  will hike the Maryland Portion of the Appalachian Trail. Beginning at the Pennsylvania border, our team will Blackpack along the South Mountain Ridge Top to the Harpers Ferry National Park. Their 40 mile trek will be done in tribute to the thousands of African Americans in history who found their freedom in nature.

Meet the Team:

PicMonkey Collage (1)
Beky, Outdoor Afro Leader, North Carolina Triangle                            Brittany, Outdoor Afro Leader, Baltimore, MD

Cliff, Outdoor Afro Leader Bay Area, CA                                       Melody, Outdoor Afro Leader, Baltimore, MD
Kelly, Outdoor Afro Leader Newark, NJ                                       Chris, Outdoor Afro Leader Chicago, IL


Val, Outdoor Afro Leader Chicago, IL

The Appalachian Trail and the Underground Railroad
Before the Appalachian Trail was founded in 1937, formerly enslaved Americans of African descent crossed the Potomac River, trekked through the Appalachian Mountains, and made their way to freedom. Harriet Tubman was one of the most famous “conductors” on this intricate system of hiking trails and safe houses. Abolitionists, freed Blacks and slaves referred to these paths as the Underground Railroad, and they used railway metaphors as code to discuss escape plans. Slave catchers stated that when Black people were on those trails they seemed to just “disappear underground.”
In fact Black people on the Underground Railroad weren’t traveling via loud machines on trails made of concrete, iron and steel. They quietly hiked on grass, dirt, moss, and through rivers. They relied on the illumination of the moon to light their paths. They foraged for herbal remedies and food. Their leaders, Harriet Tubman and other “conductors,” weren’t steering massive machines and shoveling coal into fires. Instead they were following memorized paths, gazing up at the vast night sky to identify the Big Dipper and the North Star. They studied birdcalls and mimicked them to communicate danger and safety. They used their relationship with nature to get them to freedom.


Artwork by Kadir Nelson


#UndergroundTrailMode: A National Black to Nature Movement

In remembrance and in honor of these #OutdoorAfros of their time and in solidarity with our Blackpackers, we invite you get in #UndergroundTrailMode with us Indigenous Peoples’ Day weekend, October 6-9, 2016:

*Join your local Outdoor Afro leader on a solidarity hike

*Discover and Hike the #OutdoorAfro history in Your City

*#FindYourPark and Find Underground Railroad Stops and Passages

* Assemble your Friends and Family for a Hike October 6-9, 2016 and share your experience using #UndergroundTrailMode on Facebook,  Twitter, and Instagram.

Thanks to The North Face Explore Fund for their generous support!