“Hike it Baby was one of those things in my life that I didn’t know was missing until I found it,” says Spokane mom Carrie Dorrell. Along with her daughter, now two years old, she goes hiking three to five times a week with fellow members of the Spokane branch of Hike It Baby (HiB), a non-profit organization based in Portland with more than 200 branches across the country.
“My daughter can hike over 2 miles of real trail all on her own, and usually keeps up with most adults. This group keeps me healthy, not only physically, but mentally. It is wonderful having this group of women to talk to with no judgment about the difficulties, joys or unexpected moments of parenting, and it is so refreshing to know we are not alone in this crazy adventure called parenting,” says Dorrell, who recently gave birth to her second daughter and continued hiking throughout her pregnancy.
The Spokane branch of HiB was formed in 2014 by MaryBeth Bryant after she heard about the organization from a friend in California. “Hike it Baby has taught me to slow down with my child and let him have unstructured time in nature,” says Bryant about her 2 year-old son. “If we want our kids to embrace nature, we have to let them embrace it in their way. I’ve learned its okay to make it 100 feet down a trail, spend an hour playing on the rocks, then head back home. The trail will be there tomorrow. Allowing myself to slow down and rediscover nature through [my son’s] eyes has been a humbling process. I feel like this particular lesson has been so crucial in shaping who my child is and how he engages the world around him.”
HiB is not just for moms and their babies and toddlers, though. A broad age-range of adults and children are represented, from expectant mothers to parents of high schoolers, Bryant says. “We also have lots of grandparents, aunts, uncles and other caregivers join us.” Today, there are about 1,900 families who are involved in the Spokane HiB branch and about 500 families with the Coeur d’Alene branch.
Hike It Baby is open to anyone with children, regardless of hiking experience or fitness level. “We truly have something for every level – leisurely paced ‘urban strolls’ that are stroller-friendly, walks where your kids get to set the pace and explore the world around them, and trail hikes to explore some of the best areas of Spokane,” she says. “We never leave anyone behind. We always finish together. It’s so humbling to see how everyone steps up to support and help one another.” Hike it Baby-Spokane can sometimes have over 25 group hikes each week during spring, summer and fall, Bryant says, and in the winter there are usually 5-15 hiking events. “Don’t be afraid of being too out of shape, or not having the right equipment, just get out there and try it out,” Dorrell says. “There will always be someone there waiting with you in case you need to change a diaper, feed a baby, deal with a toddler tantrum, or if you just need to catch your breath.”
While free to join, before arriving for your first HiB event, all new members are asked to sign and submit an online waiver available at Hikeitbaby.com. Keep up on scheduled hikes through the local HiB Facebook group. //
Family-Friendly Outdoor Recreation Groups
- Spokane Mountaineers: This local branch of the national organization offers dues-paying members group activities such as hiking, backpacking, rock climbing, biking, paddling and more. Spokanemountaineers.org
- Washington Trails Association: Join other volunteers on projects to improve public trails at parks and public lands around the region. Day work parties are open to ages 10+ (some physical requirements apply). Wta.org/volunteer/volunteering
- Dishman Hills Conservancy: Volunteers are needed for service day events, adopt-a-trail projects and more. Dishmanhills.org
- No Child Left Inside (Inland Northwest): Based on the national movement, this is a local coalition of parents and community members who are committed to providing local children environmental education opportunities and outdoor recreation and nature-based activities year-round. Facebook.com/groups/NoChildLeftInside.InlandNW
- Every Kid in a Park: This national program provides free entrance to national parks, forest land and more for children in fourth-grade (through August 31, 2016). For parks and sites that charge per-person entrance fees, a pass admits all children in a group/family who are under age 16 and up to three adults for free. Everykidinapark.gov
[Feature photo by Shallan Knowles]