I was sitting at the table for an early breakfast on January 26 when the sound of sirens racing by en route to a crime scene interrupted the morning calm. Like any journalist would do, I immediately put down my coffee and plugged in to scan Twitter, Facebook, and newsfeeds to figure out what had happened. There were too many sirens—in too short of a time—for it to be a routine situation. It wasn’t: Seventeen-year-old Jessica Hernandez had been shot and killed by Denver police.

The shooting helped focus an ongoing national conversation about race—one that didn’t start in Ferguson, Missouri, but was certainly fueled by it—in the Mile High City. It’s a discussion that isn’t going to (and shouldn’t) end soon because there’s too much to talk about. Too often, though, the conversation ends here, at our computer screens, much like mine did that morning at my breakfast table.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. On Sunday, March 8, you can lace up your sneakers and hit the trail on Colorado’s second “Healing Hike,” an event held by the NAACP State Conference of Colorado, Montana, and Wyoming and the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Sierra Club. The short trek—around 2.5 miles at Aurora’s Star K Ranch—will start with personal statements from the hikers about why they are there and where they are coming from. Rosemary Lytle, president of the local NAACP chapter, says that this helps create an intention and begin an “exercise of hope” that continues with each footfall.

While the idea may seem oh-so Colorado, it is part of a national call from Oakland, California-based Outdoor Afro, a group that encourages African-Americans to explore the outdoors. In December, the organization encouraged people across the country to use nature as an icebreaker to talk. Colorado took up the challenge and the first Healing Hike was held on February 17 (pictured above) at the Carson Nature Center.

Healing Hikes aren’t about reaching a summit or logging the best time. Instead, the group of hikers stops frequently for moments of reflection and discussion, using the natural surroundings as a way to connect. “America is in need of a healing,” Lytle says. “If we can get more people in nature together maybe we can break down some of the ‘isms’ that make us separate when we are in the cities, in our jobs, in our classrooms. If we do this, we can all began to heal.”

Register for the free hike here (families and pets are welcome).

Follow senior editor Natasha Gardner on Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest.

Natasha Gardner
Natasha Gardner
Natasha Gardner is a Denver-based writer and the former Articles Editor for 5280.