The first time third-year Environmental Science student Zwena Gray stepped foot on the Bruce Trail, they had an idea – to hike the entirety of the footpath while highlighting their journey. Now, she has hiked all 900km of the Bruce Trail, and is sharing her experience to encourage diversity in hiking and outdoor exploration.
Originally from Detroit, Zwena says it was their interest in environmentalism that drew them to Trent University.
“The connection between land and the campus was a big appeal of Trent University. Being surrounded by nature provides me with a sense of being and reminds me why I aspire to do what I want to do,” says Zwena.
Active on campus as a member of Champlain College, president-elect of the Trent African and Caribbean Student Union (TACSU), and working with the Spiritual Affairs department, she still finds time to experience the outdoors, including as a member of the Trent Outdoors Club.
Upon moving to the area, Zwena discovered the Bruce Trail and was determined to explore it.
“I knew immediately I wanted to hike the entire 900km and use it as an opportunity to create a community around hiking and celebrating Black joy in the outdoors,” says Zwena.
The Bruce Trail runs northwest from the Niagara region to Tobermory, at the northern tip of the Bruce Peninsula. Zwena and her hiking partner did the trek as part of their project, Black on the Bruce, which aimed to highlight diversity in hiking and the outdoors. They also took time to learn about the history of the Trail.
“I want to showcase Black Joy in nature and encourage Black people to experience liberation and connection to the environment. Second, I want to highlight the history and heritage of the Bruce Trail by learning the history of its roots and role in the Underground Railroad. And third, I want to highlight the sustainability of the Bruce Trail.”
After 39-days, Zwena and her hiking partner finished the trek earlier this month, with support from the community and her friends from Trent who helped with preparations for the long journey.
“We are so thankful for the community of support behind the #BlackontheBruce project who have helped us prepare for the 900km hike,” says Zwena. “Together with friends, we spent hours dehydrating meals and packing clothing and gear for the hike.”
What’s next for Zwena?
Entering her fourth-year at Trent, Zwena says they are going to prepare for their future in the environmental sciences while being involved on campus as president of the TACSU.
“I hope to continue to expand on the tools in my toolbox throughout the rest of my time at Trent, along with being able to organize community events for Black students on campus.”
While they aren’t planning any more 900km hikes, Zwena says after graduation they will be looking for more opportunities to combine their background in environmental sciences with promoting diversity in the outdoors.
“Post-graduation I will be pursuing bigger and longer journeys in the outdoors accompanied with pursing my master's degree,” says Zwena.