Guest post by Laurel Parkhurst
Many of my fondest childhood memories involve climbing the mountains of North Georgia with my parents, digging in the dirt next to our campsites, and running barefoot through the woods year-round.
When I gave birth to my own child, I knew immediately that I wanted to give my son all those same experiences and more. I longed for him to grow up with an “unplugged” childhood, harboring a lifelong sense of appreciation and respect for our environment.
Apparently, I wasn’t alone.
When my son was about four months old, I ran across a group on Facebook called “Hike it Baby.” This nationwide NPO (non-profit organization), based in Portland, Oregon, “aims to get families on the trails with their infants and toddlers.”
On paper, that mission sounds so simple—but in truth, Hike it Baby provides so much more than a hiking platform. Since becoming a member in October of 2016, I have been on countless beautiful hikes, met some phenomenal people, and developed several deep friendships. My son has blossomed socially, emotionally and physically (in fact, he just hiked almost 3 miles on his own this past week).
I asked several Hike it Baby Macon members to describe what the group means to them, and I received statements ranging from “a sense of community,” “a positive outlet for me as a mom,” and “a reason to get outside and get moving.”
A member went so far as to say: “We have really enjoyed HIB for many reasons! I love that it’s teaching my kids the importance of fresh air and exploring nature. It is such a refreshing outlook and I appreciate the reminder to slow down and smell the flowers.”
Hike it Baby now boasts branches in over 150 cities nationwide. Most hikes are completely free, and memberships run only $10 annually for your whole family, including a free subscription to Backpacker magazine online.
Although the name of the organization may suggest that the organization is for parents of infants, this couldn’t be farther from the truth! Hike it Baby welcomes families of all children, from pre-birth to school ages, including parents, grandparents, nannies, foster parents, and other relatives or adult caregivers of children. All levels of hiking experience are also welcomed, from first-timers to experts. The goal of the organization is to bring children and their supporters into the great outdoors to walk together and interact with the natural environment.
Hike it Baby Macon hosts hikes on almost every day of the week in locations all over middle Georgia. You can find more information on our Facebook page (search Hike it Baby Macon), and on the national website at hikeitbaby.com. We’d love to meet you all soon.