Black and Nursing While Hiking in Utah’s National Parks

Outdoor Afro A. Breeze Harper writes about her experiences hiking in Utah as a new mom and appeals for more black people to get outside and into our beautiful 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 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:

Where are all the damn 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 1000 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 family 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. They love hiking. My toddler loves camping. My infant doesn’t seem to care where she is as long as she can get her mama 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. 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. My husband prefers 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 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.

A. Breeze Harper started The Sistah Vegan Project focuses on how plant-based consumptive lifestyle is affected by factors of race, racisms, sexism, heterosexism, classism, and other social injustices within the lives of black females. Breeze Harper is the editor of “Sistah Vegan” (Lantern Books 2010) and a PhD candidate in critical food geographies at UCD.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001461109362 Marin Guy

    I really enjoyed this story and was so very proud of this young ladies perspective, abilities to get out and explore and her encouragement to those who have never experienced nature at it’s best. I to mirror the sentiments conveyed through her story.I sincerely feel we limit ourselves by the things we do. Instead of getting up on a Saturday morning to head to the local mall or the gym, why not get out and explore the areas in your communities(park, museums, rural farms and ranches) or instead of planning a weekend trip to Vegas, visit the Hoover Dam, Death Valley National Park, etc. Open you horizons. We as Black people have so many obstacles to over take in everything we do, so why limit yourself? Even other cultures are saying the same statements this young lady is saying, they never see black folks in nature and maybe that’s the way they want it. I say ‘Hell no, I’m gonna Go!’ I live up in Marin County, Ca./Sausalito, Ca. and I seem to never experience any comradarie with black people ever in the local area trails and the black friends in this area prefer to just go out to eat and drink. I’m hiking a lot by myself. So Black People, listen to the message conveyed here, Get out and explore nature. You can start in your local areas and then hit it big by venturing into Yosemite, Bryce, Grad Canyon, Alaska or even further abroad! Great Story and message, Thanks!

  • http://changeyourliferideabike.blogspot.com calitexican

    i lovelovelove this post. you are not only appealing for POC to go outside, but also for new(ish) moms who want to want to expose their kids to things deemed nearly impossible to do in our modern times. thanks so much!

  • Barbara

    Amazing! Its hard not to be inspired by the display of such passion and beauty! Bravo!

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the admonitions to the non-white people. Reminds me of the crass stereotype-reinforcer “Stuff White People Like” craze of a couple of years ago. Emblematic were: Bicycles and Gore-Tex. I say this as a passionate outdoorsman and an adoptive father of a latino kid. I’ll share what I love with my children anyway, but it would be nice to think that I was giving them a world-wide inheritance rather than some peculiar pain-loving recreational habit of my own race. There’s plenty of beauty and physical strain to go around.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sophie.mcfoy Sophia Ann-Marie McFoy

    We were in Zion this February after visiting a friend in Vail. We had a nice cabin at the lodge, and we went on some fantastic hikes. Unfortunately, in the 3 days we were there, I was the only black person that I saw. But there is hope! You’re taking out your little one, and she’ll grow up spending a great portion of her time outside, and she’ll do the same with her kids and so on and so on :-)