Suraya Foster was nine miles outside Boston, leading a group of total strangers on a hike through the Middlesex Fells Reservation.
As she hiked the Fells, a state park that covers more than 2,200 acres of land in five different towns, she started chatting with a woman who had brought her 5-year-old son on the trip. The woman told Foster that she had moved to Boston from the mountains of Nepal to give her son a better life, and that this was the first time she was ever able to take him outside the city.
“That really stuck with me,” says Foster, a fourth-year chemistry major at Northeastern. “Being in the outdoors was such an important part of my childhood, but it’s easy to forget how much of a privilege it is.”
Foster’s story exemplifies the kind of work that she does as the executive director of Mass Hike, a nonprofit founded by Northeastern students and alumni to provide guided hikes, activities, and round-trip transportation to parks, state reservations, and recreation areas near Boston.
To book a trip, all users have to do is go to the organization’s website, select a hike they are interested in, and input their desired pickup and dropoff address. Participants can enjoy a relaxing afternoon in nature, or take part in some kid-friendly activities, such as scavenger hunts.
Foster, who has been chaperoning hikes since Mass Hike was founded in 2017, says that the company strives to make the trips affordable for everyone. Tickets are $15, but people who receive federal aid pay $2.
Michelle Mouw, the chief operating officer of Mass Hike, says that she joined the organization because she believes in the restorative and healing effects of nature.
“This company is important to me because I believe access to nature is not a privilege, but a right,” says Mouw, a third-year student who is majoring in psychology.
This year, Mass Hike was selected to receive funding from IDEA, Northeastern’s student-led business accelerator. Scout, Northeastern’s student-run design studio, built the company’s website. Mass Hike also formed a partnership with a courier service that transports participants to and from their hiking destinations.
The company runs about one hiking trip per month, says Mouw. “I hope that our hikes can continue to foster feelings of environmental stewardship, connection, and joy,” she says.