The self-identified fat, queer hiker challenging what it means to be an outdoor person.

Jenny Bruso's foray into the great outdoors started in an unlikely way — she was just trying to impress her partner on one of their first dates.

It was 2012, and the pair took a hike through Portland's Forest Park. Bruso, who identifies as fat, femme, queer, and a former "indoor kid," was curious about the hobby her partner enjoyed and also wanted to seem outdoorsy and game for a good time. While her first hike was challenging, she says it opened up something inside her she couldn't ignore.

"Something kind of magical happened, and I found that there was this part of me that was very intrigued by it and enjoyed it, and I wanted to do more of it."


Still, Bruso was intimidated by the process, worried she didn't know what she was doing, how slow she was on the trail, or how hard she was breathing. But despite her anxieties, she kept going back.

Photo via Jenny Bruso, used with permission.

But as Bruso found herself hiking more and more, she noticed something missing on the trail — diversity.

She simply didn't encounter many people of color, with larger bodies, with disabilities, or anyone identifying as queer or gender-nonconforming. And she didn't find them in the outdoor social media accounts she followed either.

"I was just really sort of disappointed and bowled over at times how [outdoor social media accounts] were constantly featuring many thin, young, white people doing these extreme things but looking sort of effortless like they were airlifted in there," she says. "I was just kind of calling bullshit on it. This is so not what it's like for me out there."

Photo via Jenny Bruso, used with permission.

Hiking provided clarity and balance for Bruso. She wanted to connect with others who may have felt the same way, but didn't feel like they fit in with the online outdoor community. She started a blog, calling herself an "Unlikely Hiker." Before long, hikers of all stripes came forward and said, "Me too."

Bruso's "Unlikely Hikers" has now expanded into an Instagram account, Facebook page, and hashtag that other traditionally underrepresented hikers use to connect.

Anyone who may not fit the expected look or identity of a typically outdoorsy person, anyone who's found their place in nature, healed their body and mind on the trail, or really anyone who sees themselves as an Unlikely Hiker is welcome.  

Fans submit their stories and photos by tagging them #UnlikelyHiker on Instagram, and Bruso shares them with her nearly 20,000 followers.

From local treks or more epic journeys along the Pacific Crest Trail, Bruso's hashtag has helped draw together hikers of all abilities — along with  swimmers, climbers, and other outdoor (supposedly unlikely) adventurers.

The stories and photos are powerful, filled with moments of healing, survival, and peace found while getting back to nature. Unlikely Hikers is a celebration of community-building and persistence.

"I started hiking a few years ago after horseback riding in the Blue Ridge Mountains for the first time & realizing how much you can really miss out on if you're just sticking to the road on a roadtrip. The experiences & memories you gain exploring new places are so much more intimate while on the trail. Being queer, fat, & also battling chronic autoimmune conditions + chronic pain, I face quite a few challenges, but mother nature embraces us completely as we are. Following communities of other unlikely hikers has really been SO inspiring. I'm in the process of planning my first backpacking trip and couldn't be more excited to start my thru-hiking adventures!" -Aura / @adventurousaura • Tag #unlikelyhikers or #unlikelyhiker to be featured!

A post shared by Unlikely Hikers (@unlikelyhikers) on

Because everyone belongs in the great outdoors. That's what makes it so great.

It doesn't matter your skill or ability or size or what you look like: Nature is a place where anyone can find solace, peace, and a fresh perspective. It can be life-changing and awe-inspiring, and no one should have to miss out because they feel uncomfortable. If you're worried or intimidated about going on a hike, Bruso suggests facing your fear and getting out there anyway.

"Don't let the fear of what other people might be thinking stop you because what you might find out there is so much bigger than that, and you deserve it. We all deserve it."

Family
Sony Pictures Entertainment/YouTube


A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD - Official Trailer (HD) www.youtube.com


As a child, I spent countless hours with Mister Rogers. I sang along as he put on his cardigan and sneakers, watched him feed his fish, and followed his trolley into the Land of Make Believe. His show was a like a calm respite from the craziness of the world, a beautiful place where kindness always ruled. Even now, thinking about the gentle, genuine way he spoke to me as a child is enough to wash away the angst of my adult heart.

Fred Rogers was goodness personified. He dedicated his life not just to the education of children, but to their emotional well-being. His show didn't teach us letters and figures—he taught about love and feelings. He showed us what community looks like, what accepting and including different people looks like, and what kindness and compassion look like. He saw everyone he met as a new friend, and when he looked into the camera and said, "Hello, neighbor," he was sincerely speaking to every person watching.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture
via ManWhoHasItAll

Recently, Upworthy shared a tweet thread by author A.R. Moxon who created a brilliant metaphor to help men understand the constant anxiety that potential sexual abuse causes women.

He did so by equating sexual assault to something that men have a deep-seeded fear of: being kicked in the testicles.


An anonymous man in England who goes by the Twitter handle @manwhohasitall has found a brillintly simple way of illustrating how we condescend to women by speaking to men the same way.

Keep Reading Show less
"Why is Dad So Mad"

Army veteran Seth Kastle had everything going for him when he came home from serving 16 years overseas. That's why it was so confusing to him when his life began to fall apart.

He had a job, a loving wife, family, and friends. He knew things would be different when he moved back to Kansas, but he didn't think they'd be that different. But he felt an extreme anger building up inside, a fire inside his chest that he couldn't explain or get rid of.

Kastle was unknowingly suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), an anxiety disorder that can develop after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event — like war.

Keep Reading Show less
Family
True
Verizon

If you're a Game of Thrones fan, then Gwendoline Christie aka Brienne of Tarth needs no introduction. While there was disappointment surrounding the finale, and the last season in general, Christie's character was one of the few to remain near and dear to the hearts of fans throughout it all.

Fans wept when they finally witnessed Ser Brienne of Tarth get knighted after six seasons of being one of the most honorable and integrity filled characters to grace the Game of Thrones screen.

Similarly, Brienne of Tarth's final tribute to Jaime Lannister left people both misty-eyed and eager to dedicate countless memes to the moment.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture