In 2013 Shanti Hodges was thousands of miles away in Portland, OR as a new mother yearning for a strong circle of fellow mom friends. She resolved this by inviting the moms that she did know and their children on a hike with her and her newborn. After a few months of casual hikes with friends and their children she noticed the group slowly growing larger by word of mouth. Families wanted to be outside in the fresh air, but while socializing with other families. It was not long after her first hike that Hodges created Hike it Baby, a non-profit organization dedicated to connecting families to one another and getting them outside to connect with nature. Now, Saratoga mothers rejoice! A Southern Adirondack branch has joined the ranks of more than 300 Hike it Baby branches throughout the country, including branches in the Capital Region and the Catskills, in thanks to local chapter ambassadors Rebecca Hosley and Natalie Kendrach.
Hosley was a new mom to a preemie baby living in a brand-new place. She was having a hard time making new friends. She tried several mom groups but nothing seemed to stick. She then found the Hike it Baby Capital Region branch. “It took me a few months to get up the courage to go on my first hike with them, but I finally joined in on a hike near me. I instantly knew that this was the perfect fit for us,” she said. “We were getting fresh air and we were around a wonderful group of kind, hilarious, and laid-back families.” It was a few months later that Hosley began hosting Hike it Baby events for the group. Fifteen months after she took that first hike, she has taken the plunge to start a branch that focuses on the growing number of members living in Saratoga Springs and north.
Kendrach moved to Saratoga Springs when her first child was six-months old. “After moving I knew that I needed to find a new support team so I didn’t feel isolated like I did right after having my daughter,” she said. Having participated in hikes with another group, Kendrach was familiar with the Hike it Baby concept and became involved with the Capital Region branch. Kendrach has spent the last two years hosting 1-2 hikes a week because she “absolutely loves the people who come out to hike.” For Kendrach, the lasting friendships she has made in the last two years have all stemmed from Hike it Baby. “They are the most welcoming, kind, non-judgmental people I’ve ever met,” she said. When there was an opportunity to help Hosley set up the Southern Adirondack branch she jumped at the chance. “I look forward to seeing it grow and flourish like the Capital Region branch has.”
Hike it Baby is unique in comparison to other hiking organizations because it focuses on getting families with young children (birth to school-aged) outside. Hosley explains that Hike it Baby has a set of values for its members follow: “We leave no family behind. We are a strong community. We are free of judgment. We are raising a generation to love the outdoors. We respect nature. We inspire wellness.”
Thinking back to myself five years ago as a new mother I am fairly certain that I was in no shape to do an intense hike with my newborn son. But, Hosley says that is OK! She reiterates that members don’t need to be expert hikers to join the fun. “We host a variety of events, so there is something to meet every level. The vast majority of our events can be easily completed by beginning hikers,” she said. “These include playground meet-ups, toddler-led walks in the woods, low mileage trail hikes, and paved stroller walks.” Snow doesn’t slow them down! The branches host events year-round and schedule at least one event each week. Hosley says they are planning special events for the winter season: including jingle-bell hikes, candy-cane hunts, New Year’s Day hikes, and urban coffee/hot chocolate strolls. It is all weather dependent and based on the safety of the group.
Hike it Baby, which in 2017 implemented a $10 yearly family membership to offset administrative costs and liability insurance, also offers an award-winning blog rated in the top 20 hiking blogs on feedspot.com. The blog provides tips for parents hiking with kids, how to dress yourself and children for hikes in all types of weather, and personal stories of how nature positively impacts everyone.
Hosley acknowledges that for any new parent “it can be scary to put yourself out there, especially if you don’t know anyone in the area. If someone has a fussy, hungry baby, the group stops for a snack/feeding break. We take care of each other and create a community of acceptance.”
For more information on Hike it Baby visit its national website: https://hikeitbaby.com
For the blog visit: https://hikeitbaby.com/blog/
For the Southern Adirondack group visit their Facebook page: www.facebook.com/groups/hikeitbabysouthernadriondacks/
By Emily Marcason-Tolmie