I found Hike It Baby in the midst of a big transition in my life, going from career-driven to abruptly becoming a stay-at-home-mom. I was a zookeeper for 10 years. I would have lived at the zoo if they let me. Even after I had my first daughter, I was ready to get back to tossing fish to otters, coaxing gibbons to take medications, and making comfy beds for coatimundi. Then I became pregnant with twins and had to go on bed rest at seven months.
The twins arrived in July 2014 and so did the end of my maternity leave. We decided that I would stay home with the kids. I went from being outside all day, moving around at a fast pace, to staying inside trying to tandem nurse two babies and keep a toddler entertained. Of course there were a lot of wonderful moments, but I missed being active.
Fast forward to early 2015. A mom in an online group posted about Hike it Baby, specifically the Austin branch. I read through the website and everything the group stood for just resonated with me. I decided to start a branch in Evansville and went through lead training in April. I put a few hikes on the calendar and then a few more. Soon I was hiking and walking three to four times a week.
Recently my husband had back surgery that prevented him from lifting any of our children for six weeks. Hike it Baby was a real bright spot for me. It’s not easy taking out three kids under age three, but knowing others were counting on me to lead helped motivate me to get out the door instead. And once we got outside, the magic of the outdoors helped the hours pass quickly. I had scheduled a big trip to a cave followed by a challenging hike thinking my husband would be recovered enough to go along, but he wasn’t. Other Hike it Baby members stepped up and helped me complete the trip. I really feel like I have found friends.
Hike it Baby has helped me meet a lot of great families and to feel a sense of accomplishment. It has also inspired me get back in shape. I have lost almost 25 pounds. The Evansville branch is still relatively new and on the small side at 170 members, but my family and I are having so much fun getting outdoors and encouraging others to join us.
As far as the zoo work, I am viewing it as a chance to recharge so when the kids go back to school, I’ll be ready to clean and feed animals again… in a place where I get paid for it. In the meantime, the zoo is one of my favorite places to schedule a hike!
Evansville Branch Lead