Black and Nursing While Hiking in Utah's National Parks

Bryce Canyon National Park, May 2012 with Eva Luna (9 months old). She nursed 1/2 the time during the 7 mile hike.

I wanted to share this with you. It is from May 2012.

May 11, 2012

I just got back from a 7 day road trip that started in Denver CO and ended in Berkeley CA. I spent most of my time in Utah. I went to Arches National Park, Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Canyonlands National Park, and Capitol Reef National Park. My favorite was Bryce Canyon. We did the Peek a Boo Trail and it made me cry. But first:

Dammit, where are all the black folk? I mean, I know it’s Utah, but these are National Parks people! The below video from was filmed at Zion National Park.

Ok, back to the brilliance and beauty of Bryce Canon and nursing for hours while hiking.

When walking the Peek a Boo trail hike, India Arie’s song, “How I know that god is real” kept on circulating through my brain.

Peek a Boo Trail hike is 7 miles. Doesn’t seem like a lot. But add a 20lb baby strapped to your back while carrying 50oz of water in each hand, while going all the way down the canyon then walking all the way back up and you’ve got yourself quite an amazing feat. Oh, and add to that that 20lb baby sucking on you, extracting breast milk 3 hours out of that 6.5 hours it takes to complete that 7 miles because it’s so hot and arid, she is thirsty all the time. I swear, my 9 month old must have sucked out 700 calories of milk from me per day. She wasn’t used to the high elevation and the arid climate so she was thirsty all the time.

Sun, 3 years old, on Mama’s back at Zion National Park

But I loved it. I loved every minute of watching the divine that is Bryce Canyon. I loved the burning of my butt and legs as I went up and down difficult parts of the trail. I loved how my baby girl , when she wasn’t nursing or sleeping, giggled with joy and reached out to touch the rocks, the trees, and my face. At 9 months old, she knew that Bryce Canyon is a very special place.

I notice two significant things during my time in Utah’s National Parks:

(1) Just about everyone I saw commended me for going on a 7 mile hike with a baby strapped to me. I only saw one other person doing this in Bryce Canyon Peek a Boo trail.

(2) There were 2 black people that I saw during my entire 7 day road trip through 5 National Parks in Utah (hence, my video rant).

Okay, so first of all, I am getting the impression that most people think it is impossible to go hiking and or camping with infants and toddlers, without losing your damn mind…and then add that to a 7 day road trip 1/2 across the country with them strapped to the carseats for hours, you’d think that would be a recipe for disaster. But, it’s not. You just have to plan it the right way. My 3 year old and 9 month old loved the trip. My toddler loves camping. My infant doesn’t seem to care where she is as long as she can get her mama milk (what we call breast milk). I recommend an Ergo carrier. Buy an Ergo cargo pack (for food and diapers) to attach to the carrier for the infant or toddler you want to haul. I hauled Sun around at Zion National Park. You can use the Ergo Carrier for a child up to 40lb. It’s light and they can fall asleep with a headrest to cradle their heads. Some people prefer the Deuter hiking system but I think it’s overpriced, heavy, and uncomfortable. The Ergo Carrier can have them on your side, back, or front. Perfect if you are a nursing mama. Deuter can’t do that.

But I have to be up front and say you can’t just do a 7 mile hike like Bryce Canyon, in a hot and high climate, with a baby, food, and water in tow, if you haven’t been working out regularly. Before you embark on something like what I did, practice walking around in an area in your neighborhood that is hilly with your kid strapped on you. If you have access to a step aerobics machine, use it. Go biking. Swimming. Whatever you enjoy to get you ready for these types of hiking adventures.

(The below passage was added on August 14, 2013).

Many omnivores I meet are really shocked and/or impressed that I am able to nurse and burn this many calories and still get the nutrients I need without eating animals or animal products. If you’re interested in what it is that i do to feed myself and my baby so I can endure high calorie burning activities while nursing, check this out: How to eat a whole foods vegan diet during pregnancy and lactation period.

Also, the Sistah Vegan Project is having its first web conference this fall called Embodied and Critical Perspectives on Veganism by Black Women and Allies. It is September 14, 2013. One of our speakers will be discussing Black vegan parenting. Check out the speaker line-up and registration line-up here.

4 thoughts on “Black and Nursing While Hiking in Utah's National Parks

  1. Breeze requested I repost a comment made on facebook. I commented that park rangers are increasingly militarized and this can be inhospitable (to use a nice term) to folks of colour. Here’s what I mean:
    I teach at a university that has a nationally prestigious park ranger program. In fact, the park ranger training room is down the hall from my office. Every so often, I’d peek into the class as I passed by. Nearly every time, I was taken aback by their curriculum. Powerpoints read “how to subdue a suspect”, “suspect rights”, “how to look for drugs”, and I swear there was one about dead bodies and investigation. Also, the trainees wear their uniforms which include some kind of gun-like thing. So I started asking around. One of my students has a friend in the program. He confirmed that yes – they get police-like training. Then I ran into a retired-but-still teaching-faculty member. This faculty member was high-up in the armed forces before moving into academia. He said he does guest lectures for the park rangers program all the time – hence further solidifying the link between the rangers and militarism. He was quite proud of this training. He said “more people visiting parks = more crime”. He also said the training turns people off. Potential trainees arrive at this prestigious program and instead of learning how to protect, teach about, love and promote the outdoors, they get police-like training and they decide not to pursue it because expectation doesn’t meet reality. I also added that I’m in Arizona, sadly known for racial profiling and criminalizing migrants. We know that many migrants trek through parks to avoid border officers. There is a tragic phenomenon known as “dying in the desert” because individuals die in their ‘off-roading’ attempts due to exhaustion, dehydration, dysentery, exposure, etc. I bet rangers are asked to work as immigration officers/border control, which is another way they are militarized.

    1. The covert militarization of our total existence is frightening and sad. Check

      Current TV’s Spitzer program 5/7 for three whistle blowers reporting on the surveillance by NSA-FBI-CIA of citizens. This is why I tell Breeze, “get the babies elsewhere.”

      GREAT report Breeze. Bryce and Zion are my favorite parks as well. I forgot and tried to run up and down a hill–not even inside a park. Yes, the altitude.

  2. Absolutely spot on, I love this post. There’s a real racial legacy here that could easily change. I don’t know if it’s due to the small and notably non-diverse towns around these areas being less than welcoming in the past, or what the main barrier is or was. But I can go one further than your observation about seeing only one or two black people in what I regard as the more popular areas of the national parks. You see this MAGNIFIED if you actually gear up and go on a much longer hike ACROSS the mountain trails for a week or two. All white is all I saw for 6 days in the interior of the Wind River range. And unlike certain places where I get the vibe that maybe there’s few minorities because of some disturbing racial undercurrents, the feeling I got in the mountains is that it is simply a matter of the rest of the population waking up one day and realizing they own the land too and it is actually easily within their grasp to experience it. It is definitely cheaper than vacationing at a resort where plenty of minorities can definitely be found if you buy reasonably inexpensive gear. I hope your hike extends in to a backpacking trip soon with some good friends and family, and you pass that skill on to your child, as it is really something that I see that gets handed down in families for generations.

Leave a Reply to Georgette Wonders Cancel reply