When I decided to leave my job as a mental health professional to become a full time dad, I was scared. I was going to be responsible for the care of my 1 year old twin girls. I didn’t know what to expect, but one of the biggest of my concerns was just how to spend the time productively with them. I wanted to be able to promote learning and social development, so I knew I needed to get involved with something. That’s where Hike it Baby came in. I met a branch ambassador at the library and she invited me to come out. At my first event, I felt the warmth and welcoming environment that I have come to know through my Hike it Baby experience.
Instantly, I felt included as part of the group. My girls and I went on a few trail hikes and many urban strolls. The “no hiker left behind” philosophy was simple, but important. I enjoyed knowing that everyone would remain a part of the group, regardless of individual ability or fitness level. As an avid indoorsman, I was not in world class shape. I received an awesome amount of support and encouragement from others in the group. I was encouraged to push my boundaries and during HiB 30 in April, the girls and I covered more than 100 miles! I felt great to have reached a goal I wasn’t sure I could. When some encouraged me to take the girls on a toddler led hike, I was nervous. But, when the Hike it Baby founder came to join one of our toddler led hikes, I figured the time might be right to give the girls a chance to lead. It was, as I expected, difficult to try to follow two girls who rarely seem to be headed in the same direction. Still, with a group, there were other eyes to help me keep track of them. That’s what made the toddler led hike possible.
Recently, I went on a hike in Glacier National Park with my family. My wife and I each carried one of the girls. We were accompanied by my mother in law and my brother in law and his wife. She carried their 4 month old and he carried their two year old. We did not establish any rules, such as ” no hiker left behind.”
I started the hike with confidence high and we decided to take a 2 mile hike up to a mountain lake. I did not foresee an issue and we started along the trail. My brother in law and his wife are relatively fit and active people, whereas my wife and I are not so much. It wasn’t long until I watched their backs disappear from my view.
My mother in law and my wife hung back closer to me, but it became clear, rather quickly, that they were capable of keeping a much better pace than I was. The difficulty involved was that the trail was steep and there were large rocks to step over.
It felt like a 2 mile staircase to me.
As we continued, my wife and her mother got further ahead of me on the trail. I was slow, feeling pain, and struggling. Absent the encouragement of my fellow hikers, self doubt started to enter my mind. Those who know me, are aware of my issues with self doubt. When my wife stopped to let me catch up, I told her I wasn’t going to make it. Perhaps I was blowing my pain out of proportion, but I’d had a while to convince myself I couldn’t do this and I didn’t.
My wife and I turned around while the rest forged on. Heading back down the trail, I felt weak and embarrassed. We decided to stop carrying the twins and let them walk. That was when something inspiring happened. The girls led us the entire way back down the trail. It was the furthest they had ever walked in their entire lives. I was so proud of them.
So, my positive takeaways from a seemingly unsuccessful hike were that I rely on the encouragement from my group. Hike it Baby has given me that and I value it highly. Also, I’ve raised little hikers! Hiking with my daughters became the best part of the afternoon. I’m glad to be a part of this organization and I’m ready to get my daughters involved with more toddler led hikes. Oh, and I promise not to be so hard on myself. See you on the trails!
Dave is a full time father of twin girls. He lives with his wife of 8 years, Jamie, in Boise, ID. He’s a novice but enthusiastic cook, writer, and hiker.