When Keira Wickliffe Berger moved to Lexington from Michigan one year ago, she was excited for the hiking opportunities the area could offer. She and her husband are “outdoorsy types,” and she wanted to continue the hobby of hiking with her one-year-old son along.
Berger read about an organization called Hike It Baby online and discovered there was not a chapter established in Lexington. The mission of Hike It Baby spoke to Berger, so she decided to complete their ambassador training and open a Lexington branch so families could connect in nature.
“It’s for families, for anyone involved with kids,” Berger said. “The goal is to get kids outside.”
Hike It Baby is a non-profit, volunteer-based organization with branches in more than 250 cities in the U.S. and internationally. Their mission is to get families outside and on trails with children from birth to school-age. Hikes are free for all participants.
The word “hike” shouldn’t intimidate parents who are not experienced in outdoor treks. Berger said the scheduled events in Lexington include urban strolls through local parks or the Arboretum as well as hikes through Raven Run or McConnell Springs. Hikes are given a rating to let participants know how difficult it will be, if it’s stroller-friendly or easy for children to walk along.
The beauty of the group is the flexibility, since any member can host a hike or stroll. All events are listed on an online calendar and any member can add to it.
“Any member can create a walk on the calendar and lead it,” Berger said. “If you don’t see an option that works for your schedule, you can make one. All you have to do is commit to show up, sign the waiver and have a welcome circle.”
April Huber decided to join the group last spring after stumbling across the Hike It Baby Facebook page. She checked the calendar and chose her first hike to do with her 2-year-old daughter. When the host for that event had a sick child and couldn’t attend, Huber was the only one in attendance for a rainy walk through the Arboretum.
Even alone, Huber enjoyed the walk so much that she decided to lead a hike the next week. Several families came and she’s been hosting and joining hikes regularly since.
Huber has found that being part of the group helps her commit to being active and provides for some life-long memories with her child.
“The accountability is nice,” she said. “We just did a walk at the strawberry farms, we picked strawberries and there was a little petting zoo. It’s one of my favorite memories ever.”
The varying level of experience needed opens the group up to everyone, something Huber appreciates. She admits she’s not in perfect shape, and neither are most parents after having a baby.
“It’s hard work to push a stroller or carry a baby,” she said. “It’s a very accommodating, very accepting group. I don’t feel any pressure when I’m out with these people. I feel light and enjoy myself.”
A major tenet of Hike It Baby is keeping all the walks a “judgment-free zone.” Moms, dads, grandparents, nannies or any caregiver with a child is welcome to attend. The group has a “no hiker left behind” policy that includes stopping for diaper changes, toddler melt-downs, feeding breaks, or any other reason someone needs to stop.
“It’s about being inclusive, and staying focused on the outdoors,” Berger said. “Most parents don’t have a lot of experience. We’re here to get the kids outside. Some people have lots of experience, and some people don’t but they want their kids to get outdoors. That’s what it is all about.”
For more info, visit hikeitbaby.com