I first came across Hike it Baby while casually researching tips and gear for hiking with children, way back when we were trying to conceive. I’m not even 100% sure where I first learned of its existence…I remember seeing a sticker on this sample registry on Babylist Baby Registry’s website and also, on a separate occasion, clicking a link to their website through an article I was reading. I didn’t think much of it at first because I quickly learned that there wasn’t a Hike it Baby branch in Kingston.
Over the past year, somewhere deep in the back of my mind, Hike it Baby percolated. Every now and then it surfaced and I registered that it was still there in my brain somewhere but it did not occur to me that I could do anything about it. And it was not until Huckleberry was born and I was craving social outlets that I decided to do something about it. I looked up all of the mom & baby groups in Kingston, created myself a schedule based on the ones I was interested in and then started sampling. But sitting on a floor in a room with other mothers and all of our fussy babies just wasn’t cutting it for me. I had cabin fever and restless legs. I wanted, no, I needed a group of like-minded, active, nature-loving parents (not just moms) that would spend time with me and support me on the trails. I needed Hike it Baby.
Hike it Baby is an organization dedicated to developing communities that get families outside with children from birth to school age. While “baby” is in the title, Hike it Baby is open to ALL ages and family members. Even friends, other caregivers and expecting parents are welcome.
I grabbed my laptop and dove head first into the world of Hike it Baby. I read all about their mission, how and why Shanti started Hike it Baby and how to grow a branch in my city. I talked to my husband about it at length. Then I talked to my mom and my cousin and my best friend. Then I started chatting up the women in the mom group I attended weekly and realized I wasn’t alone and this was, in fact, a great idea. And that I didn’t need to wait around for something like this to exist, I could be the one to make it happen! What a great realization that was – a Nike moment if you will, Just Do It!
I told myself that I would get out on the trail once a week at a set time to prove that I could make the minimum commitment that Hike it Baby requires (as a new mom, I wasn’t doing anything on a set schedule yet and needed to prove to myself that I could). After two weeks of that I simply decided that this was going to happen and that was that. I signed up to become a Branch Lead and started my online “training” on February 1st. Huckleberry wasn’t even 2 months old at this point but I was ready.
There’s a small administrative fee to become a Branch Lead, it helps to cover the costs associated with maintaining the website and keeping the group free for families involved, and there are lots of perks that go along with being a Branch Lead so it is totally worth it. The online training is done at your own pace over the course of 2 weeks, with facilitators and other trainees joining you in a Facebook group for guidance and support. You have an entire month to “complete” the training although it really doesn’t take long, and then you graduate into a Branch Lead group on Facebook. And if things come up, as they do with families, the facilitators, who are also parents, will do everything they can to keep things simple for you. the Branch Lead Facebook group has been an incredible source of inspiration, advice, collaboration and support for me so far.
I started inviting people to the Facebook group for Hike it Baby Kingston ON the same day I launched this blog, February 17th, and within three days there were over a hundred people in the group and 6 hikes planned. I am so excited to see this all unfold and to be part of such an incredible and positive movement! And yes, it has occurred to me that being such a big part of Hike it Baby will give me a constant source of content for this blog, there is method to my madness!
We were to officially launch on Friday, February 26th, but that didn’t happen. Our first planned hike was cancelled due to icy trails, but having several others planned shortly after made cancelling that first one a little easier to bear. Then our second first (yes, this is about to get confusing) “hike”, was planned for only 2 days later, an urban stroll that I dubbed a “Sip & Stroll” because we grabbed warm beverages on the way. Although this wasn’t my definition of a true hike, it was a great gateway hike to get people out and to kick off this wonderful new parent group in the area. But, no one came. Thankfully my husband was there because I feel like I might not have walked had he not been, and the disappointment would have been too much. We chatted the whole way about why people might not have come and it boiled down to the fact that I had posted the hike almost a week before and had not posted any sort of reminder. Lesson learned!
With all of that wisdom from the no-show, I was so on top of things this past weekend that both hikes were a great success! 18 adults, 14 children and 2 dogs came to our trail hike at Lemoine Point Conservation area. And 11 adults and 10 children came to our “Sip & Stroll” downtown. We had moms, dads, aunts, friends, babies, toddlers and kids! And days later I’m still grinning ear to ear and reliving the incredible conversations I had with these wonderful people. This is exactly what I had hoped for and more and I recommend it highly to anyone! Whether hiking is your thing or not, check out Hike it Baby because they do stroller walks, park & plays and a wide variety of other accessible activities on top of their namesake, hiking.
If you want to learn more about Hike it Baby you can visit their website, or follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest. If you want to find out if there’s a branch near you, check this page. And if you want to grow a branch, read about that here. And if you’re already familiar with Hike it Baby, and they’ve made a difference in your life, then you should make a difference for them and donate.
UPDATE: CBC Radio Ontario Morning interviewed me about Hike it Baby on Friday, March 11, 2016. Listen to the interview here.