Lindsay is a Colorado native who lives with her husband, Clint, son, Cameron, dog, Rozzie, and cat, Bailey, in the woods in Evergreen, Colorado. Before becoming a stay-at-home-mom she was a third and fourth grade teacher. As a parent with a child with Special Needs, she has learned through experience how to stay motivated and enjoy hiking with her Hike it Baby group in Evergreen. Here is her story!
When did you start hiking with your baby?
My son was two months old the first time we hit the trail with the whole Ergobaby/Camelback/oxygen setup.
Did your doctors encourage outdoors time?
My son had so much going on there for a while that it never came up. But when I have asked specific hiking and altitude questions, they’ve all been supportive and think it’s great that we get out there.
Can you talk a little about your child and how you first got involved with HIB?
At our 21 week ultrasound, I was super excited to find out if my hunch about having a boy was correct. The excitement that we started out with quickly turned to fear as we found out there was something wrong with our baby. We found out that our son had a small Omphalocele, which is a condition where his tummy hadn’t come together correctly and part of his bowels were herniated out into his umbilical cord. He had surgery the day after he was born followed by a 17 day NICU stay. We thought that was the worst, but when he was three months old we were referred to some specialists due to his erratic eye movements. After months of doctor’s appointments, hospital visits, and procedures we were told our son has a specific rare gene deletion. The deletions may or may not be the cause of his hypotonia (low muscle tone), aspirating fluid into his lungs, developmental delays, and need for supplemental oxygen. There were also a couple of months in there that he needed to have an NG feeding tube, and he had to use a pump for all feedings.
While he had the feeding pump, he wasn’t using an oxygen tank during the day that I went on my first hike with Hike It Baby. I stumbled upon the closest group based out of Golden, which is about 25 miles from our house. The first hike we went on last March happened to be in our little town of Evergreen, and I was so beyond stir crazy and feeling down about all we’d been going through with our son’s health that I set that as my ONE goal for the week; to get outside and participate in this hike! I hiked most of the way chatting with the branch lead of the Golden group and was so happy to find that she could relate to some of what we had been going through because her son had been on oxygen for a few months (as it turns out, that is somewhat common for babies who live at higher altitudes). There was an embarrassing moment when my son’s feeding tube caught on something and came open. I didn’t notice until the liquid that came from his stomach had dripped down my pants. The other mom was so friendly and supportive. She stopped with me and told not to worry about holding up the group. The “no mama or papa left behind” motto was new to me, because hiking for me had always been about quickly completing the mileage. When we finished our hike that day, it became clear that three of us moms had the same idea; we wanted to start our own branch! I was so excited, because I knew I’d found my people! Now I am one of three co-branch leads for the Evergreen, Colorado branch, and I am so thankful to HIB for getting me back outside (with my son), helping lift my spirits, introducing us to fellow outdoorsy families in the area, and helping me finally drop a lot of that pesky pregnancy weight! I’m so glad I showed up that first day.
How do you choose which hikes you can go on? Short and Sweet ones? Afternoon only? Tell us the method to choosing a hike that you both can enjoy!
When I first got back out there, I preferred stroller friendly walks so that I could easily store my son’s oxygen tank (and later his feeding pump) in the storage spot under the stroller. Now that I’m more comfortable carrying my son and his tank, I opt more for trail miles, because that has always been my favorite. Cameron is pretty good at napping on hikes, so he usually doesn’t get too crabby. Since we started when he was young, he’s pretty comfortable being in his carrier.
I am diligent about researching the long hikes to be sure Cameron’s oxygen tank will last for the entire time. Calculating how much oxygen he’ll need can be complicated, because I need to take into account the higher altitudes and the higher flow he will need when he sleeps. The longest successful hike we’ve accomplished at higher altitudes (about 10,000 ft) was around seven miles. He slept a lot, but his tank lasted and we had a good time. Going forward, I’ll be more comfortable sticking to a little lower elevation with a max of about five miles.
I love leading hikes, too, because then I can pick the time of day that Cameron will do best (or definitely nap), and I can know for sure about how long the hike lasts, so I can be certain that we won’t have any oxygen issues.
What equipment do you have to carry and how do you carry it and your baby?
This has certainly been a learning experience. The first time we tried to navigate getting my son on me in a front carry with our Ergobaby, my husband put an oxygen tank in his largest Camelback and put it on my back with the tank sticking out a bit. My son was 8 weeks old at the time, and it was August in Colorado, so he got hot and uncomfortable quickly. We had to take off the Camelback with the tank, then the Ergo, strip him down to his diaper and try again! But it was taking that first step with the help of my husband that gave me a little more confidence that I could quite possibly do this on my own! Since that day, we’ve made a few changes and tweaked the way we do certain things. I acquired a Lillebaby Airflow mesh carrier that helped keep my little guy much cooler and more comfortable during the summer months. Only recently did we switch to a smaller oxygen tank, which is much shorter and easier to carry.
We have tried one frame carrier, but with the weight of the tank and my son, I haven’t been able to get it dialed in comfortably just yet. I also recently tracked down a very old and well-loved Chariot stroller that converts into a bike carrier and, best of all, a ski sled! As my son gets heavier and if he continues with the supplemental oxygen, I think this will be our best way to get out during winter and hike with snowshoes or skins on my skis!
We have learned that patience is the name of the game, and we’ve had to play around with multiple things to figure out what works for us.
What have you learned you can live without?
For now I have learned that I can live without the extra little things. I come prepared with my son’s tank, cannula, and Camelback, a Doctor Brown’s bottle, and enough formula and food thickener (because of his aspirating) for two feedings, plus water in a Camelback bladder, a snack, and a rain jacket for me that can go around both of us. We’ll definitely be increasing our layers as it gets colder.
Who motivates you the most to get outside?
I generally tend to be self-motivated because I know the outside time will make me feel better, but my husband is very supportive in making sure I get my outside hiking and exploring time – either alone or as a family. He has mentioned before that he can see a difference in me when I get to spend time out hiking or trail running. It makes me smile more, and uplifts me in a way that is hard to explain. Not long after having our son, I lost a lot of that self-motivation. The families we have gotten to know really helped us to get out on the trail back then, and continue to help motivate us now. It’s always more fun when you know you have someone to meet up with!
Who benefits the most from getting out of the house?
We all benefit from getting out of the house, but I can feel my own mood improve either during or after a hike. I like to say that finding Hike it Baby in March in Colorado saved my sanity after 7 months of doctor’s appointments for our son, and way too much time sitting inside.
How do you feel after you’ve accomplished a hike?
My mood is always improved after a hike, and if it’s a new place that I’ve wanted to explore for a while, I feel a definite sense of accomplishment. When I’ve just completed a hike on my own I’m excited to add it to the HIB calendar.
Where is your favorite place to hike?
Ouray, in western Colorado, is where I grew up hiking and it’s my favorite place to go.
Where do you avoid going?
The trails in our current town on the Front Range of Colorado can get pretty congested on the weekends, so I usually avoid the popular trails unless it’s a weekday. We try to find some of the lesser known or less popular places for our weekend adventures.
Is there a place that you have a goal of hiking soon?
There is a beautiful alpine lake hike over by Silverton, CO that has quickly moved up to the top of my “To Hike” list! I usually take any reason I can to get back over near the area where my family comes from! I would also LOVE to get out of our state and explore some hikes in Hawaii, New Zealand, Australia, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Connecticut (where my husband grew up). There are also quite a few places that I hiked as a kid that I really want to return to visit with my husband and son, like Havasu Falls, Moab, Bryce, and Zion.
Why is it important for families who have a child with special needs to find a group that is supportive and encourages you without judgment?
It’s hard enough to go through all of the stress and unknowns of having a baby with health issues, so it’s really great to know you have a strong group of like-minded people who are willing to listen, relate, and help you on the trail when needed.
What would you like other families to know about hiking with little ones who may need a bit more equipment than the average individual on the trail?
I would say try to be patient and help out when the parent wants or needs it (which we have seen so many times from the families we hike with, so this could probably go without saying). Don’t let all the equipment scare you off from getting close to that family, because they could probably really benefit from some friends. Feel free to talk about things other than whatever the child with extra equipment has going on. It’s nice for the parents to have people to discuss all of that with, but it’s also nice to experience some sense of normalcy that doesn’t center around your kiddo’s health. I’ve found that to be a nice balance with the families we hike with. Everyone we’ve hiked with around here has been super friendly and accommodating, but I think that fits with how Hike it Baby works anyway.
How do you answer other children’s questions about all of the tubes and equipment?
I was an elementary school teacher before staying home with my son, so I know to keep it honest, simple, and to the point when answering questions from kids, and encourage them to ask as many questions as they’d like.
Want to learn more tips and tricks for hiking with children with special needs? Check out our blog post here for more info! Do YOU have a child with special needs? How do you get outside with them? Tell us your story at email@example.com and we will feature you in an upcoming blog!