Age / Location / Passion
38 + 33 / Portland, OR / Hiking
Also stoked about?
biking, trying other outdoor activities
Favorite place to get outside?
The Columbia River Gorge is just 35-45 minutes from Portland & offers many hiking options that we love. The Gifford Pinchot National Forest is about 1.5-2 hours from Portland and hosts many gorgeous hikes.
Go to gear?
What’s your story?
Summer: I grew up in Minnesota. The only family vacations we could afford were driving to National Parks or camping on lakes in northern Minnesota. We never hiked though. In the summer, Minnesota’s state bird (the mosquito) makes a lot of outdoor activities less enjoyable. In the winter, it’s really too cold to do much besides playing in the yard building snow forts. We moved around a lot which forced me to got used to constant change. Now, I crave movement and change often. I satiate this need with adventure day trips and hikes near or far from home.
Lezley: I grew up in southern New Mexico where the land was nothing but desert. To keep us entertained and out of trouble in our small town, my younger sister and I would keep ourselves busy with school sports, working part-time jobs and exploring abandoned mines and the places that were mentioned in town folklore. After getting my degree, I moved out of the state to Nevada where I spent some time until I had a calling to move to the Pacific Northwest where my passion for hiking intensified. Now, I explore everything that the Pacific Northwest has to offer and enjoy the beautiful scenery. It has made me truly appreciate the land around us and hopefully, I can go back home and re-do the things I took for granted when I was younger.
What’s something coming up this year that you’re stoked about?
A filmmaker from Canada contacted us last spring about filming a documentary called Fat Hiking Club. She came to Portland with a production crew & filmed us hiking. We also did a sit-down Q & A with the filmmaker about Fat Girls Hiking. The film is still in production and we are planning on filming a hike in Canada this spring. Then the film will be entered into festivals in Canada. We are so stoked to have our story told and to have some representation for body positive, fat, queer women and women of color who want to empower others in the outdoors.
Who inspires you?
We get so inspired by the Fat Girls Hiking community. We have met so many folks online or on group hikes that are doing brave & daring things in the world. It’s inspiring to hear the stories of other people’s challenges and how they overcome those challenges.
Why Fat Girls Hiking? What’s it all about?
Fat Girls Hiking is a diverse, body positive outdoor community. We lead one group hike a month in the Portland, Oregon area and pop-up hikes every few months in other locations. We believe that all folks should be represented in outdoor media. We are called Fat Girls Hiking because that is who we are: two queer fat women, who love to hike. We want to take the shame and stigma out of the word “fat” and empower it. As a society, we spend so much of our time and energy tearing people down because of the color of their skin or their body size. We wanted a community that embraced it.
Our motto, Trails Not Scales is to focus on self-love in the outdoors instead of weight loss. Trails Not Scales reminds us that the more we hike, the more love we have for ourselves & our bodies just as they are. We want all people to feel comfortable outdoors and to be able to claim their space on the trail. We know that bodies of all shapes and sizes are capable of anything. Our community is for those folks who have felt like they didn’t fit the typical hiker mold.
Why is what you’re doing through Fat Girls Hiking important?
Hiking and the outdoors is still generally geared toward men. There have been a lot of outdoor women’s communities created in the last year in response to that feeling of being left out. We love seeing so many communities for women. However, we don’t feel like a range of women are being featured & seen in these communities. We still rarely see people of color, queer folks, trans and gender non-conforming folks and people of varying body shapes and sizes. That is why we are here. We want a place where all people can feel represented. Representation matters. The lack of representation creates a barrier to the outdoors because if we don’t see reflections of ourselves in the outdoors, then we think the outdoors doesn’t include us.
What stereotype are you challenging that people leave behind, on and off the trail?
The stereotypes that we deal with because of the way we look. The assumptions that bother us the most are the ones that imply that we are hiking to lose weight. We want to be clear that we aren’t about weight loss, diet talk or body shame in any way. We know hiking has become a new fad in weight loss motivation but that is not what motivates us. We are motivated by the self and body love that we gain from hiking. We are motivated by the way we heal our minds and hearts through hiking. We are motivated by the beautiful surroundings that are only accessible by walking to them. These challenges and assumptions people have are only further motivation to continue the work we do with Fat Girls Hiking.
When you’re not getting outside with Fat Girls Hiking, what are you up to?
Summer: I am an avid reader and am seriously obsessed with library books. I am also a photographer, writer, and crafter. I’m a fan of whiskey, dive bars and fried chicken. My dog is my best friend.
Lezley: I geek out on board games, films and YA books (yes I did just say that). Then there are those times when I’m plotting how to take over the world.
In this rat race of life, what’s something that you think is really important?
Summer: I’ve mostly worked for small businesses or been self-employed as an adult, so I’ve actively avoided the “rat race.” However, I’m not immune to the expectations that are put on us. The expectation that money and success equals stability and happiness isn’t a perception that I believe. I think it’s important for my mental well-being to have a job I like. My life is tremendously better under these circumstances. I pay my bills and make it work. Money isn’t important to me. Happiness and making a difference in people’s lives is what is truly important to me. Lezley: Too many times, we focus on making more money and
Lezley: Too many times, we focus on making more money and overworking ourselves to climb up the corporate ladder. After experiencing a yearlong setback, it made me appreciate the things I have and what I want to experience verses getting the latest iPhone model or a flashy new car. Live for experiences not materialistic things.
What’s one bit of advice that you’ve found to be a game changer that’s helped you balance adventuring + everyday responsibilities?
Summer: There can be these expectations that hikes have to be a certain length or elevation gain to be considered a real hike. When you go hiking, it doesn’t always have to be some trailhead down a gravel road fifteen miles into the wilderness, with a destination that is over 1,200 feet elevation gain to count. A hike is any walk on a trail in nature. Most cities have hiking trails; those are hikes too. A hike is a hike. Don’t worry about those expectations, your gear, how slow you hike and where you’re hiking. Everyone has their own experience while hiking, so make each hike your own and let those voices of doubt fade away.
Lezley: Relax and enjoy life. Get out in nature if you’re feeling stressed or in a funky mood. It helps all.
One Instagram account that you’re crazy about?
Brown People Camping is a phenomenal outdoor account. We discovered the account about a week after it started up in August and promptly contacted Ambreen about her work. We have been emailing with her ever since and now consider her a friend. She takes amazing photos and writes thought-provoking captions. She has such an important voice in the diversity outdoors conversation.
Favorite post-hike reward + ritual?
Summer: We always leave flip flops in the car to put on after a hike. I love peeling off my sock and sliding my foot into tflip-floplop; it’s such a sweet relief. Also, Beer, fried Chicken or a Bloody Mary and a burger.
Lezley: Getting a cold beer or Coke and burger.
Thanks for sharing your story with us. See you out on the trail soon.
Stranded on Land