Evelynn Escobar is a force of nature. As a new mother, creative, and the founder of Hike Clerb, the non-profit championing inclusivity of the outdoors, she applies a degree of thoughtfulness to her endeavors that can only be described as “powerful.” Her intentionality in creating holistic experiences and reshaping environments through the lens of equity for herself and those around her speaks to her intrinsic connection to her indigenous ancestry, while her work takes a distinctly contemporary approach to cultivating community.
An LA resident by way of Virginia, Escobar has been exploring the outdoors since childhood. “Growing up, I would come out west to visit my aunt who lives here, and we would go hiking and do all sorts of fun, outdoorsy stuff. I even spent a summer here in college, and from that point-on I knew I wanted to get back to LA from an environmental perspective,” she says. Eventually arriving in her early 20’s, Escobar found herself rediscovering the outdoors as a full-time California resident, sparking a realignment within herself that brought peace and mental clarity, but not without raising the question of, “why aren’t there more people who look like me here?”
Seeking to address this problem, Escobar founded Hike Clerb in 2017. In its most basic form, Hike Clerb operates as a club giving safe, guided hikes for Black, Brown, and Indigenous women - but through the awakening of Escobar herself, the mission has been elevated into the realm of social justice. “We have a liberation mindset. We want to combat the colonization of the outdoors and reconnect people with nature as a form of healing, while also educating them on why the outdoors has become so homogenous.” Through this mission, Hike Clerb launched “The Racist History of the Outdoors”; a series of unlearning and relearning the history of the outdoors and recreation in America for a clearer view on how Black, Brown, and Indigenous cultures have been erased from the narrative. The work serves as a form of resistance to inherited notions of the outdoors and the ways in which consumerism seeps into access, while also providing a safe space for exploration of oneself in the land.
In its most basic form, Hike Clerb operates as a club giving safe, guided hikes for Black, Brown, and Indigenous women - but through the awakening of Escobar herself, the mission has been elevated into the realm of social justice.
Barriers, mindsets, and stereotypes are all shattered by Escobar as she blazes a new trail towards inclusivity and intrinsic connectivity with nature and each other. “Our connection to the land is so strong from an intuitive perspective and nature honors that connection even when society doesn’t,” she tells me. At a time when rest and recreation have become the new form of protest in a world that forces disconnection, Escobar and Hike Clerb are leading the way towards new perspectives and equitable environments for women and allies alike.
Below, I speak to Evelynn Escobar on her experiences in the outdoors, her inherent connection to nature, and how she is initiating change through Hike Clerb.
In our latest editorial, Evelynn is photographed in her home-base of LA by her husband, Franco. She is wearing F/W21 selections from Salomon Advanced, Acne Studios, Eckhaus Latta, Reese Cooper, Stussy, and Nike x Notre Dunk.
What was the impetus for starting Hike Clerb?
It was really just an intuitive call to create a literal safe space, simply based on experiences that I was having in the outdoors. By the time I had moved to LA, I had done most of the major hikes here so I started venturing out. I took a road trip to Zion and then went to the Grand Canyon, which was my first time in a National Park. I had assumed that since it was a National Park it would be diverse with tourism, but what I found is that it was very white and homogenous. I remember going up one of the most popular trails and people giving me curious stares and I just thought to myself, “I look more like the people whose land this actually belongs to, yet I’m the outsider?” So I felt compelled to start something that was united in a way that we could think of space and an avenue where we could facilitate an experience around discovery in a way no one was doing at the time.
I remember going up one of the most popular trails and people giving me curious stares and I just thought to myself, “I look more like the people whose land this actually belongs to, yet I’m the outsider?”
How are you combating the erasure of black and indigenous people of color in nature?
The most physical and tangible way is us literally gathering every month with me personally leading women out into nature on hikes and providing programming to help them connect in different ways. This also comes to life virtually through resources and conversations on this topic of indigenous history and the ways we have inherently been connected to the land. I raise questions around why we are made to feel disconnected from nature and why we’ve been historically excluded from the recreational side of the outdoors, and then I make it my mission to reconnect us back with the land and our essence.
During the pandemic, we launched a program called, “The Racist History of the Outdoors” that details the history of the National Parks and how black and brown people have been forcibly removed as the protagonists of the story. My goal was to show people why they feel excluded and highlight that the system was designed for our exclusion. It really opened a lot of people’s eyes and solidified the work we’re doing at Hike Clerb.
The outdoors has been commercialized and subject to gatekeeping, which in and of itself presents barriers for equity and access. How is Hike Clerb rewriting this narrative?
We don’t talk too much from the point of consumerism, other than about the fact that the outdoors have been very whitewashed. That is just who everything is marketed to, though. When you think about the original cowboys for instance, they were not white. Our history in this country is just so whitewashed that it has rewritten the narrative and sold it back to us. Our point of entry is our inherent connection to nature, though, and not necessarily the “stuff” that you’re told goes along with it. You’re told you need all of this gear to go outdoors, but we attempt to speak to people on the node of it being accessible because you’re able to start out where you’re at with what you have. We’re ultimately working to remove these cultural and inherited barriers to access.
You’re told you need all of this gear to go outdoors, but we attempt to speak to people on the node of it being accessible because you’re able to start out where you’re at with what you have.
In what ways are you creating a safe and healthy space for other women of color to explore the natural world and also explore themselves in it?
The two big factors that went into forming Hike Clerb were being an avid hiker and wanting to feel safe in that environment, and the journey towards healing and connecting with myself through nature. I felt awakened by taking these trips outdoors and I could hear myself more clearly with each one. With Hike Clerb, we’re not only providing an experience that is warm and welcoming, but we are providing safety in numbers when venturing outdoors. We’re a group of women, a collective, which doesn’t leave anyone behind and supports one another as we explore new spaces. It’s really beautiful to see.
Can you put into words the intrinsic bond that you have with nature?
I think it’s very poetic to see how my life has taken shape since going out to quiet what was happening internally. I’ve been able to hear myself in a more direct way than I ever was able to before. I am black and also K’iche’, which is indigenous to Guatemala, so going out into nature has provided this opportunity for reconnection with myself that has been immensely powerful. I feel as though I’ve taken myself home; I’m so much more in touch with my ancestors and with my purpose, and feel an overall clearer direction in life now. This journey to reconnecting with the land has probably been the most powerful modality I’ve tapped into yet.
How has nature been restorative to you as a woman and a new mother?
I look at my journey in life, from when I moved to LA to when I started to reconnect with nature in a bigger way, and I’ve hit these hard inclines in my own personal progress as far as healing and growth is concerned. I always come back to this journey being a major catalyst for me discovering my purpose, which is to create this space for myself and others to tap into abundance. Being in nature and being able to quiet myself so that I can hear the conversations that need to happen, and develop the courage to make them happen, has been the soundboard to my highest self. Through that, I’ve been able to get to a place that I could only have dreamed about; a place of transcendence.
Being in nature and being able to quiet myself so that I can hear the conversations that need to happen, and develop the courage to make them happen, has been the soundboard to my highest self.
Do you have a daily ritual that grounds you?
Right now is a unique time for me because I’m finally getting back into my flow after having my baby. I actually just did my first yoga class after having given birth! I’m really trying to get back into my wellness routine and be consistent with my breath work or meditation, and obviously head outdoors. I take regular walks and spend time in the park, but I’m not quick to subscribe to this idea that you need to “snap back” after giving birth. I just want to realign with my intuition and fill my cup back up in a way that is holistic and natural. It may seem unorthodox in today’s culture, but I naturally default to intuitive flows that keep me aligned.
What is your hope for the future of Hike Clerb?
The beautiful thing about it is that we’ve only been operating on 1% capacity for so long. We’re such a small team with so many big ideas, but we’re finally growing and now we’re able to execute on them. The direction that we’re going is the antithesis to the colonizer mindset of world domination, and instead we’re working towards a liberation mindset. We want people to be able to reconnect with the natural world by any means that feels most natural to them, so we’re serving experiences and opportunities in ways that are out of the box. There will be a lot of fun to be had, but fun that is rooted in liberation and equity because the current framing of the outdoors is unnatural and counterintuitive. We want to get people back to the essence of the outdoors being an all encompassing, inclusive place that centers and empowers women. Our connection to the land is so strong from an intuitive perspective and nature honors that connection even when society doesn’t. I see the future of Hike Clerb as a broadening of perspectives around cultural origins and sensitivity to how we engage as a community with the outdoors in a way that makes a positive mark on the world.