The outdoors is a refuge for many, including my fellow mamas. There is something about the fresh air and movement that has a calming effect on little ones and on us, for that matter. I discovered an organization called Hike It Baby that puts together meetup hikes for families all over the world. I wanted to give it a try and see what I could learn from others about hiking with my baby and maybe make some new friends. They also happened to be starting the Hike It Baby 30 challenge which is to hike 30 miles in the month of April. So I signed up.
My first Hike It Baby hike was at the Redmond Watershed Preserve. I had never been there, but it seemed like a mellow place to start and the website said it was even stroller friendly. I was really hesitant to use the stroller on the trail, it just didn’t seem like a good idea to me, but I assumed the trail would be nice and flat and the other moms were using their strollers so I just assumed it would be fine.
The five of us with our kiddos hit the trail and got to know each other a bit. All the other moms had worked in the tech industry before they had kids and we talked a lot about work-life balance and how it is a bit of a myth. One mama said she had to get a doctor’s note to reduce her hours to 40 hours a week instead of her standard 60 when she was pregnant. Not surprisingly, she never returned to her job. Another emigrated to the US from India while she was pregnant with her second and had to adjust to a completely new country and culture. These mamas were no slouches.
Then something happened. One of the moms had two 4 year old boys in a double stroller. One was out of the stroller and walking ahead, the other was strapped in. As we were coming down a hill, she stopped to take a break when the stroller got away from her. It flew down the hill right into the other kid, knocking him over and then went over an embankment and flipped over and landed about 10 feet down a ravine. I stopped and made sure my own baby was secured on the hill before climbing down to get the boy in the stroller. I flipped him over and unstrapped him and checked him over for any injuries. To my astonishment, he had only a small scrape on his head. The other boy was fine too, just a bit shaken up. Their mom was visibly shaken up, understandably. But we got them everyone calmed and went on our way.
We continued in silence for while and I held onto my stroller with white knuckles. I learned some really important lessons that day. The first was to listen to my intuition. I was uncomfortable using a stroller on the trail but in my sleep deprived state I didn’t really think about what the dangers could be and allowed myself to follow along with the crowd. I didn’t do my research to find out more about the terrain of the trail before going out and I didn’t even bring my usually daypack with a first aid kit. I suddenly felt incredibly ill prepared and like a terrible parent. I vowed to never ever take a stroller on a hike again and to not let my guard down just because I’m hiking in a group.
I ventured out again with Hike It Baby in April, this time to Wallace Falls for a “carrier only” hike. There were again five of us and our kiddos. One had two kids, ages 1 and 2 strapped in tandem, one on the front and one on the back. She had to be carrying at least 60 pounds in awkward child weight and I thought for sure she wouldn’t make it to the falls. But she did, and I learned that she was an ex-marine who spent months at a time road tripping all over the country with her kids when they were infants and camped and hiked every day. Another mama in the group talked about how Hike It Baby saved her life as her husband left her shortly after she had their first baby and she had to work two jobs, one as a nurse with nighttime hours, to make ends meet. I asked her when she had time to sleep, she said she didn’t really. She carried her now 2 year old boy on her back and his favorite thing to do was giggle to make others start giggling too. Another of the moms with her 5 month old boy talked about how Hike It Baby saved her too as she was battling with postpartum depression. She was going for “no zero days” during the month long challenge and would end up hiking every day (during the rainiest April ever recorded) and racking up 60 miles with her two kids.
These mamas, with applesauce in their hair and trail mix raining from the children on their backs, are amazing and inspired the crap out of me. They are incredibly strong both physically and mentally and I felt honored to be part of their little posse for a day and to learn from them. It is not easy being an adventurous mom. It takes a lot of planning, patience and courage, but those kids were having the time of their lives. On the way down the trail, one of the 2 year old boys passed out on his mama’s back with a half of a PB&J in each hand and peanut butter smeared on his face and I thought, it didn’t get much better than that.