Mt. Aire

Hike date: 5/10/19

Hike number: 2 / 60

First summit hike of this series– and, shamefully, my first ever time going up Millcreek Canyon in my three+ years living in Salt Lake.

I get after it with my friend Kes–a badass trail runner and fellow outdoorsy queer. Kes loves astrology, dancing, and trail running. Together, we jog the remainder of the paved road beyond the gate, still closed for winter. The trail gets steep FAST, and I adopt my traditional pace: striding, or stopping to look at wildflowers. We pause at an especially lush crop of glacier lilies, framed by the still snow-covered Wasatch behind them. We talk about tattoo dreams and our Venus placements. We forget to have a summit dance party to Juice, but Lizzo may as well have been our imaginary third on this adventure.

As well as anyone in my network, Kes straddles the divide between the queer world and the outdoorsy world: holding down the dance floor at the bar on Saturday nights, documenting their summits and long runs on Sunday afternoons. But they acknowledge the realities of their outdoor community: “I mostly hang out with straight people.”

This phenomenon is not new to me. Outdoors culture and queer culture exist in separate, mutually exclusive spaces. The night before our run, I chose not to go to a show because I was getting up early to go on a run. I bail on a Sunday evening art show because I’m exhausted from climbing all afternoon at a climbing endurance competition. I rarely go out on Saturday nights because it makes it hard to get after it in the mountains the next day.

I’m at my most pure self when shouting about gender politics halfway up a mountain. I’ve chosen to live in a place that often feels like the best of both worlds: In Salt Lake City, I can climb an 11,000-foot peak during the day, and then go out for craft cocktails that evening. My Tinder bio reads, “Outdoorsy queer. Cleans up nice.”

This dichotomy reflects its key challenge: I often feel like I’m straddling two separate spheres. Too outdoorsy for the queers, too queer for the outdoorsy folks. The lack of queer representation and mentorship in outdoor sports means that these parts of my identity often feel incompatible. I’m constantly trying to broaden my outdoorsy queer community, and to connect with more people with whom I can reciprocally build and grow as both an outdoor athlete and a queer activist.

Mileage: 6.7 miles

Vert: 2518 ft