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Natural Hair, Don’t Care (Except I Do Tho) by Tiffany Tharpe

I knew going natural was going to be hard for me. My hair is one of the top three things I’m overtly self-conscious about, so my hair was always straight, braided with extensions, or hidden in a weave. More often than not, however, my hair was pressed with the heat that I, naturally, shied away from. I hated having heat in my hair. I’ve had my fair share of burns and close shaves; it was also pretty expensive once my mom stopped paying for it.

The fact that I spent so much time outside, it was annoying worrying about my hair sweating out or froing up all the time. I love to swim, but if my hair wasn’t in braids it was a no go for me. After spending much time on Instagram and seeing so many beautiful black women rocking the natural look, I made my decision: it was about damn time to start my natural hair journey.

Months 1 & 2

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Wash n’ go at Vasquez Rocks

The beginning was easy. After taking my birthday weave out (featured picture above), I washed, conditioned, and just let my hair be for the first time. I started to prepare and research what exactly I needed to do during my hair transition. I purchased a slew of hair products, mostly products from Shea Moisture (including a beginner kit to natural hair), growth oil from The Mane Choice, and coconut oil, and learned a little bit about protective styling. I mostly wore my hair in a bun, or two buns, when I was out hiking or at work, then put my hair in cornrows for a few weeks after getting a feel for the long journey ahead.

Month 3

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It’s trying to do… somethin’

After taking the braids out.. month three happened. Month three was super hard for me. I work full time and don’t have a lot of patience when it comes to styling my hair, I soon learned (especially when my shifts usually begin at 7 AM). I never really played in my hair because it was always straightened, but after taking the braids out and washing it myself, I got a feel for the different textures in my hair. There was constant de-tangling and breakage. The protective styles I tried didn’t seem to work out. My hair felt unmanageable and gross and I wanted to just return to my hair stylist. My aunt kept suggesting different products, one of which was conditioner from Maui Moisture, but they didn’t seem to work out. I would soon find out that not every product that worked with someone else would work for me. And what I thought worked for a while would stop working later.

A lot of naturalistas encouraged me to keep at it, saying I would be fighting two textures of hair for a while, to try new products if it didn’t seem like the ones I was using were working out, and to NOT GIVE UP. I decided to do more research but, in the meantime, I put my hair back in braids. It seemed the easiest way for someone like me to continue to moisture and condition my hair without using heat and without having to worry about styling, while enjoying my time outdoors with no real struggles.

Months 4 & 5

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Rockin’ twist extenstions in Zion National Park

Months four and five passed with no real conflict, and then I took the braids down and utilized some new products after learning more about my hair. I found out that I had a mixture of 4C and 4D type low porosity hair. My hair didn’t like to retain moisture and some of the previous products I had bought didn’t help with that. My mom came through and bought me some Fantasia Curl Custard to help with styling and Eco Style Black Castor and Flaxseed Oil Leave-In-Conditioner. The latter left my hair feeling so soft after washing!

It was the first time after a wash that I felt satisfied with how my hair felt after detangling it and letting it air dry. I couldn’t stop patting it, it was amazing. I then tried the curl custard and, while I didn’t get full curls because the ends of my hair refuse to curl and need to be grown out or chopped off, the roots were looking hella curly. I had almost a fro and it felt great!

Month 6

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Post deep conditioning

I’m now coming up on month six and have about three inches of new growth. I can tell where my new, healthy hair ends and my dry and damaged hair begins. I am debating cutting it and just letting my new, natural hair grow out, but I still have worries and debates. I’m afraid that I won’t look good with short hair and won’t be able to rock the look. I also like seeing and feeling the change in my hair and having that line of demarcation as proof of how far I’ve come. But I also dislike the constant struggle of the different textures. See, I stay debating with myself over this.

I do know one thing: I still have a long way to go, but I’ve come pretty far from where I was in the beginning. I’ve been heat-free for six months and I think my hair is definitely starting to thank me for it.

Personal Story

Finding My Park and Finding Happiness by Tiffany Tharpe

Yosemite 2016
Taken in March 2016, Yosemite Falls in the Background

I’m not quite sure what ultimately led to my decision to visit Yosemite National Park in the summer of 2015. I had spent most of the year hiking in and around Los Angeles, working towards a personal goal of accomplishing 50 hikes that year, and decided to go a further distance than what I was used to. Why Yosemite? I wasn’t sure. I’d never been to a National Park before, and Joshua Tree, Channel Islands, Sequoia and Kings Canyon NP were all technically “closer” so I don’t recall why my sights were set on that enchanting valley. My friends and I stayed right outside the park and, me being me, I already had most of our hikes planned. We hiked all four days, but it was the second and third days that would ultimately change my life forever, and for the better.

The second day in Yosemite was mostly us exploring the valley and taking those Instragram-worthy photos; sticking our feet into the freezing cold water pouring from Yosemite Falls, scrambling up rocks from the almost dry Bridalveil Falls, and checking out the Yosemite Visitor Center. It was in that area that we ran into Shelton Johnson, a park ranger.

I read about him before, but didn’t expect us to actually meet him face-to-face. I was beyond excited. He expressed his excitement to see us too, and we got into a discussion about the lack of diversity in National Parks and how he was working to change that. During my visit and while hiking in and around LA (with the exception of Runyon Canyon and Griffith Park), I too noticed a lack of people who looked like me, but never really did anything about it. I continued to hike, but felt weird at times because I felt like I “stood out” or was “out of place.” This conversation I had with Shelton Johnson would stick with me and ultimately spark the creation of Black Girls Trekkin.

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Taken in June 2015, near Yosemite Visitor Center with Park Ranger Shelton Johnson

The third day in Yosemite was the day we were set to hike the Mist Trail. Now, initially we were going to just go to the top of Vernal Falls and turn back, because I was still new at hiking and the Mist Trail was marked as “strenuous” everywhere I looked. They weren’t joking. The incline up to the footbridge of Vernal Falls and then those stairs leading up to the top of Vernal Falls were brutal on my newbie hiking legs, but something wanted me to keep going. I felt that I could make it up to the top of Nevada Falls. It was tough, and my friends and I stopped multiple times, even wanted to turn tail and head back, but we kept forward. I continued to cheer everyone on until we rounded that last brutal switchback and saw the top of Nevada Falls right in front of us. I actually broke out into a run and we all cheered and hung out up there for a pretty long time just taking in the gorgeous views of the valley, Half Dome in the near distance, the Merced River, and the overall beauty of it all. I was awestruck.

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Taken in June 2015, victory poses at the Top of Nevada Falls

That initial visit to Yosemite would prompt me not only to continue hiking, but to pay homage to the park I had fallen in love with when I could. I went back for a visit in 2016, 2017, and now have a trip planned for summer of this year as well. Each visit has brought new experiences and new challenges. There’s just something about that place that made me feel at peace, and something about being outdoors that just brings me joy. The love I’ve developed for the outdoors just makes me want to preserve and protect it, and that’s one of the other reasons I started Black Girls Trekkin. I wanted to create a platform for people like me to show solidarity and show that we ARE outdoors, to show that they’re not alone and that we’re out here enjoying and protecting this wonderful planet we call Earth.

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Taken in June 2017, around lower Yosemite Falls trail