Increasing diversity, community, and friendship on the trail
The sun was barely up when Nicholas Collins and 30 other trail runners and hikers met at the Tilden Park Steam Trains on a recent Saturday morning. From there, they carpooled over to Redwood Gate to meet fellow members of the 510 Hikers. Nicholas founded this Oakland-based hiking group in 2013.
The combined group of more than 40 set out on the Ridge Trail together around 8:45. There was a sweet 4.25 mile loop through Redwood Park for those who wanted a relatively short option. But the early risers blasted all the way back to the steam trains. This nine-and-a-half mile stretch of Ridge Trail traverses Redwood Regional Park, Huckleberry Botanic Regional Preserve, Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve and the hills east of Grizzly Peak before getting back to Tilden. 510 Hikers caters to hikers of all speeds and abilities–but the core group always inspires people to challenge themselves. The lead group finished this hilly 9.5 miles in just two hours.
It was Stage 3 of a four-part 510 Hikers series that Nicholas designed to raise awareness about the Ridge Trail. The series, which takes place over four consecutive Saturdays in December, treats participants to about 36 continuous Ridge Trail miles, from Lake Chabot to Wildcat Canyon.
“I’ve hiked over 100 Bay Area trails in the past few years, so I end up seeing Ridge Trail signs all over the place,” says Nicholas. “But it was only recently that I decided to do the research and find out what it’s all about. Now I see the RT as an unbelievable gift to the Bay Area, and I want to spread the word.”
510 Hikers is a large and growing group that welcomes all comers. “All types, speeds, colors and everything else,” says Nicholas, who is African American. Bothered by the general lack of diversity on trails, he made a conscious effort when he first founded the group to entice people of color to join. But, he explains, the way he promotes the group has shifted organically over time. He now emphasizes inclusivity, regular attendance, and to leave all attitude, prejudice and pretension at home. He encourages participants to push themselves physically and–just as importantly–to take part in the community service projects the group does.
“We focus mainly on homelessness right here in our neighborhoods,” he says. “Serving hot meals and putting together shoe and coat drives are a few of the many things 510 Hikers have proudly come together to do. Our group’s philosophy is that, yeah, hiking increases fitness and physical strength, but it can also heal the soul. The trails are great, but it’s just as much about connecting with people face-to-face. The trails are almost secondary to the friendships built over time between so many of our hikers.”
To find out about the next 510 Hikers adventure–on or off the Ridge Trail–visit the group’s Facebook page.