BILLINGS – During a six-week rush to go to eight national parks whereas driving greater than 7,000 miles, podcaster Misha Euceph’s worry of being a Brown girl touring throughout America to wild locations dissolved.
“I feel like I went into the show expecting to learn how to nature,” she mentioned in a current phone interview, “and came out of it realizing I’ve always been a part of nature, and that there is really no right way to engage with it.”
Euceph was born in Pakistan. Her household moved to Los Angeles when she was 11 years outdated. While attending a meditation retreat within the desert she realized concerning the idea of America’s national park system. Intrigued, the CEO and government producer at Dustlight Productions took a deep dive into educating herself.
Now she’s sharing her data, fears and the experience of park specialists in a brand new podcast known as “Hello, Nature,” which is particularly focused at serving to different Black, Indigenous, folks of shade entry parks, in addition to recounting the historical past of previous BIPOC work in parks.
“I had a lot of fears going in,” she mentioned. “I was scared of hiking alone, scared of bears, I was scared of the dark out in the wilderness. I had just come off of an injury, so I was scared of hurting myself. And on top of that, being a Brown immigrant woman I was kind of nervous about how am I going to be perceived.”
Those fears slowly dissolved as Euceph and her producer, Jonathan Shifflett, visited the parks in a whirlwind tour.
“I met a lot of people throughout the country from all walks of life who were welcoming and kind and vulnerable, willing to share their stories,” she mentioned. “So I found the country to be a very beautiful and warm place.”
That’s not all the time the case for BIPOC people within the open air, as Portland out of doors fanatic Pam Slaughter famous. She based People of Color Outdoors (POCO) Meetup group after encountering racists when she tried to take pleasure in nature within the Northwest metropolis.
POCO was an outgrowth of the Portland chapter of Outdoor Afro. When different folks of shade mentioned they had been being harassed in nature, she expanded the group to Asians, Hispanics and Indigenous folks, ultimately morphing it right into a nonprofit.
“I think that it’s important for people to go out together expecting to have a good time, and expecting to see what’s beautiful out there – whether it’s a bird or leaves, or fragrances or the sounds of water,” she mentioned. “It’s all very healing.”
REI Co-op Studios partnered with Euceph on the “Hello, Nature” podcast, seeing it as a car to increase the Seattle-based out of doors retail retailer’s objective of getting extra BIPOC people open air.
“We have a responsibility to engage our member community and future members with new shows that inspire them and challenge historically narrow depictions of the outdoors,” mentioned Paolo Mottola, REI’s director of content material and media, in a information launch.
“This podcast series is part of REI’s goal to prioritize storytelling from BIPOC, LGBTQ+ and other historically underrepresented communities and groups, as well as stories that reflect the human impact on and opportunity to protect the environment,” the corporate mentioned.
“We have always been here, from Indigenous people who have lived in these lands long before American colonization and genocide, to enslaved people who first explored Mammoth Cave to (Asian American Pacific Islander) scientists and artists, to present day LGBTQ+ outdoor recreation groups,” Euceph mentioned within the information launch. “And we will always be here. It’s finally time our voices tell the story of the national parks and the story of America.”
In Yellowstone National Park – the third park Euceph visited after beginning in Yosemite and Arches – the duo met with podcast visitor Taylor Bland, a younger Black girl who leads excursions for Yellowstone Wolf Tracker.
“It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen,” Euceph mentioned of Yellowstone. “From the geysers to the wildlife which is so big and prominent throughout the park.”
The journey included the “craziest weather experience” of the whole journey, a snowstorm in May that squelched plans for tenting out, sending the workforce to a Gardiner lodge.
“It definitely tested my nature abilities, for sure,” Euceph mentioned.
From there, the duo drove to Glacier National Park in northwestern Montana, tenting out at Big Creek Campground, which she known as “one of the most beautiful campgrounds” of all those they visited.
“We were right next to this gorgeous stream,” she mentioned. “There were deer literally frolicking around. No grizzlies, thank God.”
One of their podcast friends in Glacier was information Derek DesRosier, a Blackfeet tribal member who guides for his household’s Glacier Sun Tours alongside the east aspect of the park. They visited Two Medicine Valley, in addition to the group of Browning, as DesRosier recounted the world’s significance to the tribe.
Out of the eight parks she visited, Euceph mentioned it was onerous to choose a favourite.
“They’re all so beautiful in such different ways,” she mentioned. “It feels like they’re different versions of heaven.”
For her, nonetheless, the park that “spoke” to her, feeling as if it was a “warm hug,” was Glacier.
“It felt like I belonged there for some reason,” she mentioned.
Looking ahead, Euceph mentioned she sees two hurdles for Black, Indigenous, folks of shade to beat to allow them to benefit from the open air and national parks. One is inside and the opposite is systemic.
“I think if we look at the national parks as a system, and the stories that have been told about the national parks, and the outdoor industry in general, it hasn’t traditionally been a space where people of color, the Indigenous people, the Black people who have been in these spaces, have been recognized at the center of the story,” Euceph mentioned. “So I think the biggest hurdle, despite not being center stage, is being willing to put yourself out there and try and learn more about maybe the connection you might have to that land.”
She additionally sees her fears and getting out of her personal manner as being one of her largest enemies.
“I was so afraid of racism and of looking like I didn’t know what I was doing, and you get out into these spaces and you realize that people are actually very, very kind,” she mentioned. “They see you struggling on the trail and they want to help you.”
Portland’s Pam Slaughter, then again, has created her personal group to journey with and be supportive of one another, ranging in age from toddlers to nice grandparents.
“What we’re trying to do is help people heal, people who have maybe had a traumatic experience in nature, maybe they’ve been harassed or attacked and they’re afraid,” she mentioned. “It’s a mild, very therapeutic, very nurturing house.
“Our main thing is getting people into the habit of getting outside,” she mentioned, utilizing nature as an alternative to celebrating occasions, as an alternative of ice cream when completely satisfied, or to combat off melancholy as an alternative of hiding out in entrance of the tv with a bag of potato chips.
For the folks she interacts with, Slaughter mentioned the most important impediment to experiencing nature is transportation – attending to a spot to take a stroll, particularly for youthful and older folks – in addition to an absence of data about the place to go with out worry of harassment or being attacked.
The reception her group will get when open air has grow to be extra optimistic because it was based in 2015, she mentioned, which is encouraging.
Co-op Studios, which is REI’s new in-house content material arm producing movies, podcasts and editorial packages, is dedicated to racial fairness and local weather motion. Consequently, the studio is prioritizing “storytelling from people and communities that are Black, Indigenous, people of color (BIPOC), LGBTQ, women, and any other historically underrepresented groups as well as stories that reflect the human impact and opportunity to protect the environment.”
Euceph’s first two reveals on Yosemite and Arches can be found with new episodes added each Friday till Nov. 5. The Glacier episode is scheduled to drop on Friday, with Yellowstone airing starting Oct. 15.
Chelsea Davis, REI Co-op senior program supervisor and content material strategist, mentioned she hopes listeners of the “Hello, Nature” podcast “walk away with a new understanding of the parks and are inspired to visit and protect these places.”
The suggestion Euceph obtained earlier than her travels that has caught along with her is pretty easy.
“Probably the best advice I got was to take a poop shovel, which we never used for poop at all,” she mentioned, laughing as she made the remark. “We actually ended up shoveling snow off of our car with the poop shovel in Yellowstone. Had we not had that, we might have been stuck there.”