One of the first Hike it Baby hikes in October 2013
“But in every walk with Nature one receives far more than he seeks.” – John Muir
Four years ago when my son, Mason, was born, I never imagined that the simple act of going for a hike, something I had done hundreds of times before, would change my life so profoundly. It all started with me just being an ordinary mom, sitting in a new mama group inside a windowless room, wishing I could be outside with my son. As our babies rolled around on the floor on muslin cloths, I wondered if anyone else wanted to go outside as much as I did.
“Does anyone feel like going for a walk in the woods next week?” I asked my newfound friends.
That next Tuesday, five women showed up at Lower Macleay trailhead in Portland, OR. I had a stroller with a carrier tucked in the bottom. I was too scared to put Mason in it because I thought I would smother him. No one judged. We all just said hello and five minutes later, took off on a hike. About ten minutes into it, one of the women noticed my carrier underneath and asked if she could help me put it on. I was relieved and said, “Yes, please.” We parked the stroller and took off on the trail.
That one hike lasted about 45 minutes and gave me so much confidence. That night, I felt alive and told my husband how excited I was to get out on the trails with Mason. It was then that I knew I could do it! I could hike with Mason, especially if I had other women to hike with.
A few weeks later, I started a newsletter, built a website and started a Facebook group. That’s how Hike it Baby began.
Hike it Baby has become different things for different families. For some, we are a safety net to help families with new little ones explore trails. For others, we are their weekend ritual in a similar way that some use church. We are community, we are advice, we are a new friend maker. People move and take Hike it Baby with them and start branches in their new cities. We travel and find each other around the country and share awesome spots. We are the outdoors advice source for everything, from what rain boots are best for hiking to how to find a flat open trail for a child who has a walker.
When I started Hike it Baby, I never imagined it would spread all over the country or become such a powerful voice in the outdoors world. I thought that could be cool; but to go from thinking, “Wouldn’t it be cool if I could have a community to help me find hikes all over the country?” to actually having that happen has been an amazing journey.
On this 4th birthday of Hike it Baby, we have launched a campaign called #TogetherWeHike. The goal is to get as many families on a trail as we can. Hike with us or hike on your own … the goal is to just get out there.
To help inspire you, here are five good reasons to get out there and Hike it Baby for our anniversary and in the weeks following!
Hiking elevates mood – Cranky toddler, tired parents? We have all felt it while raising our little ones. In a 2009 study published in International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, researchers wrote that healthy adults could find instant mental recovery from fatigue by simply stepping into nature for a short period of time.
Healthier brain development in children – With over 2 million children suffering from ADHD, giving kids any extra advantages matters. More time in nature has been proven to reduce the levels of ADHD, ADD and behavioral issues in children.
Trail stewardship – Children who grow up with an appreciation of nature from a young age are more likely to protect the environment as adults.
Hiking builds bridges – Families come in all shapes and sizes. Hiking can pull everyone from the newborn baby to the elderly parent together, especially if safe, easy-to-use trails are easy to find. Hike it Baby helps bring mulit-generation and fitness levels together.
Better overall mental health – In a recent survey answered by Hike it Baby branch ambassadors, 72 percent reported feeling anxiety following the birth of their child. Of that same group, 87 percent reported that getting outside helped them alleviate that feeling.
Happy hiking and I am excited to share this special day with you all. Make sure to register your hike (or park hang out! We just want everyoneoutside) for a chance to win a BOB stroller, a Deuter pack or KEEN shoes!