Trail Moments | A Conversation With Chelsea Murphy of She Colors Nature
This article is part of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s Trail Moments initiative—to elevate new and tried-and-true trail voices around the country, and how trails impact the lives of Americans. Learn more at trailmoments.org and #TrailMoments on social media. Share your story, or view a collection of trail moments stories.
Recently, we were able to sit down with Chelsea Murphy to talk about her Trail Moments. Chelsea is a self-proclaimed “adventure mom,” who simply loves getting outdoors and inspiring others to do the same through sharing her experiences on She Colors Nature and building a welcoming community.
Learn more about Chelsea and what motivates her, plus check out her recent Trail Moments along a section of the Great American Rail-Trail™!
Could you please tell us a bit more about you, what you do and what inspires you to do it?
My name is Chelsea Murphy, and I am a mother of two girls who are 9 and 5 years old. We love to get outdoors as a family, which mostly includes hiking and biking, camping, and snowboarding in the winter.
I live and work and play with my family on the ancestral lands of the Wenatchi peoples. If you aren't from Washington State, you might have heard about a little Bavarian-themed town called Leavenworth; that’s where we are, it's a rural community in the heart of North Central Washington.
I am a creator; a writer; a speaker; a new film director; a lover of all things outdoors and the people who exist in it; and the founder of She Colors Nature, which is a community built on advocating for racial equity and diversity in the outdoors.
I am on a mission to create a better, more inclusive world for my kids and everyone outside. I work to extend belonging in the outdoors to people of all backgrounds. I believe that, as a community, we need to expand what it means to be outdoorsy, and expand who we see outdoors doing the things that we all love. I want to encourage a more inclusive and equitable outdoor community and also celebrate Black motherhood.
That’s what I do and what I love.
Can you share a little bit more about how you got started doing what you do?
I grew up in Tacoma, Washington, and always loved nature and getting outside—but never in the “adventure-outdoor recreation” style. Now, I consider myself to be an “adventure mom.” But when I first moved back to my husband's hometown, Leavenworth, I really didn't have a connection to the community, or really a feeling of belonging.
So, I started hiking and getting outdoors with the handful of people I knew and just loved it, and I was able to find joy and a solution for mental health, wellness and postpartum depression.
I quickly realized, however, that there was a lack of diversity in the outdoors and in the community that surrounds it. So, I started She Colors Nature in 2019, with just a hope and dream of connecting with other Black, Indigenous and People of Color who are also getting outdoors. In a way, She Colors Nature was a callout for community during that time.
What motivates you to get outside and to share those experiences with the public through She Colors Nature?
I wear many hats now, but no matter what I do, I always think back to the importance of seeing my daughters get outside and feel that confidence and independence that I feel when I am outside.
By sharing my experiences, I’m able to build community not only for me but for others who want to experience the outdoors, too. I’ve met people pretty much in every state who love to get outdoors and connect with nature, and it has made me very confident in the fact that there are Black, Indigenous and People of Color who love to do similar things like me.
I think I have exceeded all that I hoped. She Colors Nature has just been an extraordinary journey for me and super transformative. It’s been this awesome way of connecting here, within this rural community in Washington State, to others who are also getting outside and enjoying nature like I do, but also to people around the country.
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Related to special adventures with your family, you recently visited the Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail in Washington State, which is a part of the Great American Rail-Trail. Could you please share more about that experience—your “Trail Moments”?
Over spring break, the girls and I went to the Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail in South Cle Elum, Washington—and it was great! We were able to use the TrailLink app to learn more about the trail in advance, including checking out the user reviews and photos, which is really helpful when you’re preparing for a trip with young kids.
The trail was super accessible and had a gentle grade, so it was something that we could all do together. Given the time of year and availability of snow, we considered cross-country skiing or snowshoes, but we ended up just getting out and seeing how the early spring season had affected the area.
The girls ended up having fun exploring what was on the ground and around the trail, but you can also bike, hike, bring dogs on a leash and go horseback riding. We were impressed by the signage and that private and public lands were so well marked, so we could easily tell where we were supposed to go along the trail.
The trail itself is long (more than 250 miles), and its part of the larger Great American Rail-Trail, which extends between Washington State and Washington, D.C. It’s awesome that the Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail is nearby and that, through it, we can get on the Great American Rail-Trail—and I love that so many other people will be able to have access to it, too.
When I told my kids that we’d be able to go across the country on the route, without worrying about cars, my daughter started talking about biking all the way to Chicago!
RELATED: BEVERLY BRIDGE OPENING MARKS MAJOR JUMP TOWARD STATEWIDE TRAIL CONNECTIVITY IN WASHINGTON
Have there been any other standout Trail Moments?
Gosh! Have you ever seen my Instagram account?! We’ve had a range of moments. One that stands out was from last summer, when my 5-year-old daughter was first starting to get into mountain biking. I was pumped for her to try, so we headed out to this little trail system near our house … and she decided to tackle this fairly significant hill. (She's my youngest, and she's kind of a “safety third” kind of person.)
Although it was a bit scary to let her be a wild and free little kid in that moment, and her handlebars wobbled a bit, she made it down the hill. And I thought, she survived; we survived. I also realized how strong she has become on her bike. What could have been a make-or-break moment on her bike led her to want to try new trails and experiences. I just love how confident she is, which makes me more confident in her abilities—even though I wasn't fully in that moment. It's something that I will never forget, because it showed me how resilient my kids are and how rewarding these new moments can be.
Is there anything else—exciting updates or wisdom—that you’d like to share with everyone?
I would be remiss if I did not share about this awesome film project that I've been working on called Expedition Reclamation. I am one of the co-directors alongside my friends Erin Joy and Sanjana Sehkar. The film features 12 women who are Black, Indigenous or other People of Color, and focuses on their relationship to the outdoors and that innate connection to nature.
It is beautiful and moving, and it is one of those films where we are working to start a movement and a community around decolonizing outdoor recreation and outdoor film. So, it's not your average outdoor film with not your average outdoor film crew, and that is kind of the best part about it all.
We are really excited to have people check it out. If you’re interested, please go and check it out at bravespaceproject.org or follow us on @bravespace_media on Instagram.
Share Your Trail Moment
Have you recently discovered trails, or are you a long-time trail enthusiast? Either way, we hope you’ll share your “Trail Moments”—and the stories of how trails have impacted your life during COVID-19. Take the survey below, or share using #TrailMoments on social media.