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Trail Tales

Making Nature Accessible To All

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It’s been said that our nation, and especially our youth, suffer from “Nature Deficit Disorder”, a term coined by respected author Richard Louv in his bestseller Last Child in the Woods. At a time when only half of all Americans participated in an outdoor nature activity in 2013, we need more than ever to recognize the restorative benefits of nature and make access to the outdoors easier for all walks of life.

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Scenes like these should not be the purview of only a lucky few. Let's take more steps to get more people outdoors. All images: Aaron Hussmann

The Problems: Not Enough Time Outside, Lack of Diversity

The average child spends more than 6 hours per day in front of an electronic screen and fewer than 30 minutes per day engaging in unstructured outdoor play, according to a 2005 study. That means they’re not getting the physical, emotional, and mental benefits that come from spending time in nature.

This may also lead to less appreciation of the environment. And that means fewer advocates protecting our wild spaces.

In addition to simply getting more people outdoors, it’s important to get a more diverse audience outside. In a 2009 survey, 78% of all visitors to the National Park System were Caucasian, while only 9% were Hispanic, 7% African-American, 3% Asian, and 1% Native American. Similarly, 80% of employees with the National Park Service are White and 63% are male.

Obviously this is not reflective of our nation’s diverse demography. More, it risks alienating those who are not white or male from pursuing careers in the outdoors.

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Partners Working on Solutions

As this issue comes to the forefront of environmental discussions, passionate organizations and individuals are working hard to ensure that the outdoor experience is an inclusive one.

The folks at the Muir Project (of Mile, Mile and a Half fame) did a stunning job of documenting recent campfire discussions in Yosemite National Park to address diversity and inclusion.

Meanwhile, groups in Tahoe like the Tahoe Rim Trail Association and Tahoe Mountain Sports are working hard to facilitate access to the outdoors for a wide range of folks. To that end, the 3rd Annual Tahoe Rim Trail Challenge has cast a wide net, and on Saturday, August 1st, Tahoe Mountain Sports hosted a free trailhead demo day for more than 50 Rim Trail Challenge participants.

Tahoe Rim Trail Challenge

Tahoe Mountain Sports partnered with a strong contingent of outdoor retailers, including Oboz Footwear, to offer free hiking boot demos for all those interested. Adam Baillargeon with Tahoe Mountain Sports agrees that, “it is important to get a diverse range of people outside for these kind of events as it helps them discover the incredible resources available right in our backyard in the Lake Tahoe region.”

Offering free demos of hiking boots has the potential to take down financial barriers that might prevent families from experiencing the trail.

“By participating in the Tahoe Rim Trail Challenge, hikers of all abilities can push themselves to take on new adventures, in a comfortable setting, while opening their eyes to the beauty of the Tahoe Rim Trail,” said Baillargeon.


One of the first steps we can make in striving toward inclusion in the outdoors is to address the barriers that exist and make it easy for folks to get into nature.

As individuals, we can continue to enjoy the outdoors with a new eye for inclusion by sharing our experiences with others and inviting them to join. Outdoor organizations can strive to be more inclusive in both their hiring practices and their branding strategies while encouraging more diverse populations to get outside.

Together we can create a new generation that spends less time in front of screens and more time wandering through their own backyard wilderness.

At the heart of everything we do are the folks who make the magic happen. A group of likeminded footwear-industry vets who left our big-brand jobs back in 2007 intent on doing business a better way. 

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