Philly Hike & Heal helps women prioritize their wellness


As Aulston began to organize regular hikes over the months, she realized she had struck a chord with other black women who also wanted to spend time outdoors.

“I felt like I was filling a void…people really wanted to hike or thought it wasn’t for them. And then they started seeing other black and brown people coming together to do this out in the wild,” Aulston said. “I think it really spoke to people to say, ‘Oh, I can do that too. It could be for me.

Hike & Heal hosted a community hike on Saturday morning, October 29, 2022, along Wissahickon Creek in Philadelphia. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

For Aulston, it’s significant that other women of color are drawn to join the community she’s created — it means they feel safe in the group, she said.

“We attract black and brown people. I can’t take my blackness away and that’s black-centric wellness,” the 32-year-old founder said. “But we want other people to feel like they can join us. And they do. And they always feel seen. They always feel heard.

Hike & Heal hosted a community hike on Saturday morning, October 29, 2022, along Wissahickon Creek in Philadelphia. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

That’s exactly how Liz Fever feels. One of the original “hive hunnies”, Fever has been with the group since his first hike in 2019.

“Getting out, reconnecting with nature, finding ways to move my body were all very important to me in those days,” said Fever, personal stylist and yoga instructor. “It’s been such an amazing safe space to be able to move and thrive in the body I’m in now, without any judgment or fear.”

A woman poses, thumbs up while another person poses in the background.  Woods are visible behind them.
Hike & Heal founder Brandi Aulston makes contact with hikers during a Saturday morning hike along Wissahickon Creek in Philadelphia. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Lauren Hunter first discovered the group on Instagram by following a local hiking hashtag. As someone who loves being outdoors, Hunter decided to show up for one of the outings and has been coming back ever since. Sometimes she also takes Indigo, her 20-month-old son.

“I describe [Hike & Heal] as a fellowship based on healing and nature,” Hunter said.

“It’s a place where you can go to find yourself. It’s a place where you can make new friends, where you can go if you’re having a really rough day and just want to laugh. It’s a place you can go if you’re having a really rough day and just want some quiet time,” she said.

A mother poses with her child in the woods.
Hike & Heal member Lauren Hunter says it’s important to have a space to prioritize her own well-being, especially as new mum to 20-month-old Indigo, who is also joining for hikes. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Since arriving, Hunter, who works at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, says she’s had “a number of healing journeys.” She attended the band’s retreat in Puerto Rico last year.

“I was able to reconnect with myself,” the 40-year-old said. “Being a new mom, a working parent and also a single mom, I was able to really take time for myself, which I don’t often do,” she said.

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