We've all seen the ads and photos of hikers (typically rail-thin women) who hit the trails in trendy workout gear and somehow manage to reach the mountaintop without sweating off their makeup or mussing their hair.
“Don’t believe the hype about what it looks like and means to be ‘outdoorsy,’” Bruso says. “Nature doesn’t give a fuck.”
Bruso, 35, describes herself as a “queer, femme, fat, former indoors kid” who discovered her love of nature by chance. "[M]y first date with my partner, Brie, was a hike up the Maple Trail in Forest Park. I pretended I was into it because I liked her," Bruso recalls. "It changed my life right then and there. We got to a viewpoint and something clicked into place in my head. I found myself hiking more and more. Nature was calling to me."
Who is a “real” hiker? . Whether you hike a mile or fifteen, or only a few times a year; if you use a mobility device on trails, or don't see anyone who looks like you; You Are A Hiker. When we base our worth as hikers on how many miles and feet of elevation we crush, or on our physical abilities, or inabilities, we miss out on the journey, healing and connection to all-that-is that can be found in nature. It’s not a race. You don’t get to stop and smell the wildflowers or dip your tired feet in a creek on a race. . I invite you to move your body in ways that feel good, for the joy of it. Be in your own journey, don’t compare it to someone else’s. It’s the doing it that matters. . It’s ok to challenge yourself. It’s ok to want to do more, harder, faster, longer, but it doesn’t make one a “real” hiker. That standard Instagram summit photo at golden hour is beautiful, but it doesn’t tell the story of a “real” hiker. . The outdoors is for everyone. If you need an invitation, this is it. If you need an invitation to quit these thought patterns, this is it. . If you hike, you are a hiker. Welcome ♥ . #sponsored #REI #ForceOfNature #optoutside . Location: Ozette Triangle aka Cape Alava Loop, Olympic National Park, Washington #olympicnationalpark
A post shared by Unlikely Hikers (@unlikelyhikers) on Jul 13, 2017 at 4:05pm PDT
Bruso grew up in an abusive household and she used to cope with her depression and anxiety through alcohol and drugs. Hiking and a love of nature have provided her with a healthy coping mechanism that sustains her even on her roughest days.
She launched Unlikely Hikers on a whim after becoming frustrated with the stereotypical image of what a hiker looks like. "I get tired of seeing the same kind of [hiker] over and over again online," Bruso explained. "How many times can you see photos of a flawless, thin, white woman on a summit looking like she got airlifted in? I tell you, that’s not what I look like when I’m on a summit. I look haggard and like I just worked my ass off to get up there. I’m invested in being another face for the outdoors."
When Bruso launched her Instagram account last year, it was an instant hit. Since then, she's featured hikers including a woman in a headscarf enjoying Antelope Canyon, people in wheelchairs, and transgender individuals.
Although Bruso prefers to hike alone, she's begun organizing Unlikely Group Hikes. "I want them to be a different experience: It’s not about crushing miles and bagging peaks, it’s about being in nature and moving your body in any way that feels good," she says.
Despite the barrage of messages we receive about what an "athletic" or "outdoorsy" person should look like, Bruso's account proves that hiking and nature can be enjoyed by anyone, regardless of their shape or size.