STOKES COUNTY, N.C. — A group of friends who noticed they didn’t see many people who look like them when they hit the trails to hike created a group to make outdoor activities more diverse and inclusive.
What You Need To Know
- Ali Steele, Lisa Colvin and Charles Gbenyon created Issa Vibe Adventures in 2017
- The group plans guided hiking tours at trails across the Carolinas
- According to the U.S. Forest Service, between 2016 and 2020, only about 2% of forest and wilderness visitors were African American
Ali Steele, Lisa Colvin and Charles Gbenyon all met while hiking twice a month on different trails across the Carolinas. The trio found different benefits to getting outdoors, especially for mental, physical and spiritual health.
“Once we started hiking together, I had a whole new look on life. I got happy, I was able to get out of my depression state, see a whole new outlook and I’ve been addicted since,” Colvin said.
While they were enjoying what nature has to offer, they noticed they were often the only people who were Black out on the trails. In 2017, they created Charlotte based Issa Vibe Adventures. The group plans guided hiking tours, kayaking adventures, community events and more, inviting the Black community to explore nature across the Carolinas.
“Our main thing was to actually get people out here, that look like us… so if it’s something we can bring to our community, that’s the main goal, and the main focus is to expose them to a place that they wouldn’t normally get a chance to see,” Gbenyon said.
While many in the community deal with physical or mental health challenges, not all have access or the means to afford treatment or therapy. The co-founders agree just getting outdoors can help.
“We try to provide these outlets so people can get outside. These are other options that people just don’t know about, so it’s our goal to expose them to things like this,” Colvin said.
Recently, Issa Vibe Adventures traveled from Charlotte to Stokes County’s Tory’s Den to explore picturesque trails cutting through Hanging Rock Park. They welcomed experienced hikers, new hikers and children too.
“Our grandparents, their grandparents and their grandparents were very connected to nature. They could look up to the sky and tell you when it was going to rain. So it’s really about reconnecting to that part that already existed inside of you,” Steele said.
According to the U.S. Forest Service, between 2016 and 2020, only about 2% of forest and wilderness visitors were African American. Through the work of Issa Vibe Adventures, the co-founders are seeking to change that.
For more information on Issa Vibe Adventures, click here.