Shalin Desai

June 2018

Shalin decided to transition from thru-hiker to Trail advocate after identifying some negative experiences he had on his journey. “When I thru-hiked the trail, I counted less than a handful of thru-hikers of color. Worse, there were a few instances of racial insensitivity or outright racism I and other hikers of color experienced on their thru-hikes.” Shalin said. “Why is there so little diversity on the Trail when the path goes through some of the most diverse areas in the United States?”

After identifying this shortcoming, Shalin was delighted and inspired that the same year he thru-hiked, ATC released their Broader Relevancy goal that focused on making the demographics of the A.T. more diverse. He began working with clubs and ATC and was eventually nominated for the Board of Directors. Shalin accepted the position and has been working to help form ATC’s future not just within the scope of youth and diversity, but also strategically on the whole.

In addition to his position on ATC’s Board of Directors, Shalin is an active participant in Stewardship Council and its committees. He is leading the launch of a pilot program of Affinity Groups, sharing his skills and passion by providing structure, support, and opportunities for underrepresented communities and like-minded groups to hike, volunteer, and give to the Trail. According to Julie Judkins, the Director of Education and Outreach for ATC, “Shalin’s vision and ability to find inclusive solutions make him an incredible asset to the organization and to the Trail.”

Since his thru-hike of the A.T., Shalin has anything but satisfied his passion for hiking. “Thru-hiking, for me, is addictive and finishing one trail gives me more confidence and enthusiasm to start the next trail.” He has since completed thru-hikes of the Long Trail in 2015, the Pacific Crest Trail in 2016, and the Oregon Coast and Continental Divide Trails in 2017. He graduated from the University of Chicago in 2005 and received their Young Alumni Service Award in 2016.