Hiking events

Body Liberation Hiking Club hikes through the Hudson Valley

A meeting of the Body Liberation hiking club. Courtesy of Alexa Rosales

A Hudson Valley The editor joined a body-positive hiking group she discovered on social media and it changed her life.

It was a typical April night. I was lying on the couch, extremely bored and mindlessly browsing Facebook – DIY videos, wedding updates, cheesy quotes… Then I came across a page that caught my eye: a hiking group of the Hudson Valley full of people who look and think like me and live life like I do.

The group was called Plus-Size Hikers of the Hudson Valley (it has since changed its name). I thought, I am a plus size female who lives in the Hudson Valley and loves to hike– so I clicked the “join” button. Suddenly, my feed was inundated with images of scenery, encouraging posts from members, and an event posted by founder and Newburgh resident Alexa Rosales. The group met the following Saturday to hike the Klara Sauer Trail in Beacon. I clicked the “leave” button and felt good. But it wasn’t until I completed the 5 mile round trip trail a few days later that I finally felt a heavy weight lift off my shoulders.

And that is exactly the goal of the group, now called Body Liberation Hiking Club (BLHC). It was born out of a therapy session: Rosales, 31, was talking with her therapist about the joys of hiking and admitted she hadn’t explored nature in a long time. “I’ve felt connected to the outdoors since I was a kid,” she says. “But I stayed away because I associated it with negativity and failure. It felt like the hike was a marathon, a race.

After this meeting, Rosales realized that she could offer bodily release (which she describes as “being who you are in the moment and living in your true self”) for Valley residents who felt like she. “I wanted to create a space for people to come together and feel supported.”

A meeting of the Body Liberation hiking club. Courtesy of Alexa Rosales

Since its founding in June 2021, BLHC has gained more than a thousand members – a group of “unlikely hikers”, whom Rosales describes as hikers “who do not meet societal standards”. The club’s rules are simple: there’s no calorie counting, no weight-loss talk, and no self-mockery. The goal is to make friends, share experiences, and bask in positivity. “[BLHC] is for people who don’t want to change who they are,” Rosales says, “As soon as you bring up weight loss or change yourself by force, it takes away the joy.

Each season, Rosales posts a hiking schedule on Facebook and Instagram (@bodyliberationhikingclub) with details on where to meet, trail length, elevation, and even what clothes to wear. Past hikes include Minnewaska State Park, Cornish Estate Trail in Cold Spring, Anthony’s Nose, Fahnestock State Park, and Black Rock Forest. In addition to hitting the trails on the weekends, the group gets together for other fun activities such as summer days at the beach, sunrise or sunset hikes, and seasonal overnight camping trips. Trek.

I have learned so much since joining BLHC and made many new friends. Wendy told me about “Kili Big,” a documentary about tall women who climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania; I found out that collapsible kayaks were a thing when Julia pointed one out at Lake Minnewaska; and asked the members about their favorite sandwich at Rossi’s in Poughkeepsie. (The number four.) More importantly, I learned that we unlikely hikers deserve to experience nature and foster community like everyone else. BLHC encourages members to accept themselves, love the outdoors, and hit the trails as often as possible. I hope to see you there.

Related: How climate change is affecting the Hudson Valley