Evelynn Escobar Wants Everyone to Get Outside—Hike Clerb Expands Beyond L.A.
Escobar is ready to take the “Hike Clerb universe” to the next level.
Evelynn Escobar wants more women of color out on trails. To that end, she first founded Hike Clerb in 2017 as a monthly hike for friends. Now a Los Angeles nonprofit, it has since evolved to help provide resources, workshops, and opportunities to explore the outdoors for people who may not have thought it was for them, or who didn’t grow up with access. She has created a global community, and organized hikes from California to Toronto, with the largest drawing more than 100 women out on one trail.
Escobar refers to it as the “Hike Clerb universe,” and she plans to expand with more hikes, creative endeavors, and outreach programs.
How did Hike Clerb first start and what was the inspiration behind it?
I didn’t necessarily grow up super outdoorsy. I am a Black Latina and in my household, like many multicultural households, there wasn’t an emphasis or importance on going out into nature. I started Hike Clerb as a solution to problems that I saw were presenting themselves to me as I dug deeper into hiking and just being outdoors, period. I originally created an Instagram account and told all my friends that we were going to go hiking at Griffith Observatory. I had about 10 of my friends with me the first time, my husband took photos, and then I posted them on Instagram. It really just started organically, you know, me facilitating these linkups with friends. And then, in turn, they become friends with each other, and then they invite their friends, and it just grew over time.
How would you describe your relationship with the outdoors prior to Hike Clerb?
I found a love for hiking through an aunt of mine who lived in Los Angeles. I grew up in Northern Virginia and would visit her often for summers. By the time I actually moved here, I had done most of the major hikes in L.A., which was one of the biggest motivators for me to move here, because of the access to natural environments. I visited my first national park at 23 years old, which is crazy to think about. I went to the Grand Canyon and Zion National Park and noticed people would look at me a little funny on the trail and it was just so overwhelmingly white. I thought to myself, “Oh, these are national parks, in the United States of America, it’s gonna be diverse” and they definitely were not. Through all of the self-discovery and development that was coming from me spending time in nature, I really wanted to bring together other women of color, specifically Black and brown women, to facilitate a place where they can explore nature and figure out what it meant to them in this literal safe space.
How has the Hike Clerb community evolved since that first hike?
Starting out, I really just wanted to hold and literally take up space with others. It’s really turned into its own movement beyond a hiking club that met monthly. We have people from all over the world who write to us wanting us to come and do hikes. We’re really building out what this Hike Clerb universe looks like.
How has the pandemic affected Hike Clerb’s model?
When we got into this pandemic, it was twofold. One, we couldn’t continue to go out in groups. But on the other hand, we still grew exponentially, because all these people were starting to turn to nature and realizing we were already offering safe solutions. So it’s been so crazy to see that even in this time, where we can’t physically meet as often as we’d like, we are still inspiring people outside. In the past year alone, we had 333 people out on the trails or in our workshops and mentorship events, hosted hikes in Los Angeles, Toronto, and New York, and hiked a total of 35 miles—which doesn’t sound like a lot but is when you take into account each of our hikes is less than 4 miles.
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What advice do you have for people who want to start exploring the outdoors?
I always say hiking is basically a glorified nature walk—you don’t have to be climbing Mount Everest! If you are comfortable walking long distances, you can go on a hike, just take it slow. You don’t need to have all the bells and whistles. I was hiking in my running shoes for the longest time before I actually invested in hiking shoes. Hiking doesn’t have to be this difficult and exhausting thing that you really have to prepare for; you can start small, go out with what you have, take a friend, and enjoy it.
Did the recent birth of your daughter expand your scope of the outdoors?
If anything, I feel more grounded and impacted by my own feminine power by connecting to Mother Nature and the planet with her alongside me. It’s interesting seeing how my community grows with me. We had a hike the other day that had three babies total on the trail, my daughter on my back and two other mothers with theirs. It’s such an amazing experience to be around all of these women with different backgrounds and be able to expose my daughter to that. I’ve always looked at Hike Clerb as a multigenerational platform and now that I’m a new mother, I want to give my daughter the same awareness, perspective, and connection to the outdoors that I aim to promote within our community.
What’s next for the Hike Clerb community?
We launched a program called the Bio (Building Inclusivity Outdoors) Program, where we take school-age girls and nonbinary students out of school to go on hikes. We’ve had a very impactful year and what’s ahead is just expanding on that. We have such a huge community outside of Los Angeles that supports us digitally and want to offer more variety as far as our events go. We have our monthly hikes and quarterly workshops, but want to curate bigger experiences like camping trips, national park visits, kayaking, and other activities.