SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – BLK Hiking Club has taken North Georgia by storm and soon they plan on coming to Savannah- perhaps even starting a local chapter.

WSAV NOW spoke with Tracy Stephens, the founder of the club, about BLK Hiking Club and what you should know if you want to get involved.

Photo courtesy of Tracy Stephens/BLK Hiking Club

“It’s important to us as a community because it introduces us as Black people to an activity that I think most of us never really did,” Stephens said.

Stephens started hiking back in 2018. He was introduced to hiking after his boss invited him to go to the mountains.

“I was hesitant because I always kind of lived by that stereotype that- y’know ‘Black people don’t hike,'” he explained.

He decided to take the chance and go on the hike.

“I fell in love right away,” he said.

Soon he was telling his friends about the hobby, hoping to get people together to hike with him. While at first a few people were willing to join him, eventually he ended up alone on his hikes. For the next three years he hiked on his own.

In 2020, he created a logo for a group he would come to call “BLK Hiking Club,” but he was hesitant to get started. He showed some of his friends and continued to hike on his own.

New Years Day of 2021 came around and he went hiking with a friend. They met a Black woman on the trail who spoke with them about her experiences. She talked about the traumas of hiking alone, seeing signs and political messages that made her fearful.

Coming back down the mountain, Stephens realized what he had to do. He had the idea; the logo already solidified. It was time to make a plan and put it in action.

“For me it was like- I’m going to create a safe space for us so that we’re together and we can enjoy nature too,” Stephens explained.

He went home, created a social media page and the rest was history.

He said that this group is important to the community for several reasons.

“It introduces us as Black people to an activity that most of us never really did,” Stephens explained. Though he grew up in the country, the closest Stephens ever got to going into the woods was for hunting or fishing purposes- never just for the sake of experiencing nature.

Stephens said that part of the reason that hiking has been so inaccessible to Black people has been because of the trauma associated with being in the woods.

“You know, our ancestors being lynched, being chased down by dogs or people,” he said. “All of those fearful things would just pop into people’s minds.”

Stephens also said that creating a group like this helps people feel empowered.

Photo courtesy of Tracy Stephens/BLK Hiking Club

“They feel like this is our space too,” he said. “I always tell them that this is our space too. We’re taking that back, and it feels good. It’s beautiful to see a bunch of black people come together and just have a good time.”

Love. Laughter. Community. According to Stephens, that’s what this space is about.

He wished people knew how much peace hiking could bring to someone’s life.

“I just feel like when you come to the mountains you can’t run away from your problems- you address them head on,” he said. “I know for me, some of the best peace of mind that I’ve had in my life has come from hiking.”

So what should you know to get involved?

First, Stephens recommends you check out the group on social media. They are on Facebook and Instagram. You can also check out their website here.

Next, you should know that any person of any race is invited to participate. While the group focuses on the Black hiking community, it is open to anyone of any race, gender, age or ability.

Photo courtesy of Tracy Stephens/BLK Hiking Club

What started out as a group of 12 hikers most recently had a hike of 112.

Now, it’s spreading across Georgia with plans of heading to Savannah over the Summer and potentially starting a Savannah chapter. You can keep up with their hikes through their Facebook page.