By Sonia Garza
Whether you are new to the area or have been a resident your entire life, you will quickly find that the South Sound is a prime location for exploring nature. Enjoying the great outdoors is what draws many to the area and both young and old are able to take advantage of what nature has to offer. So it should be no surprise that an organization was founded to offer families a way to incorporate walking trails with the pitter-patter of little feet.
Hike It Baby was founded by Shanti Hodges of Portland, Oregon, and started in 2013 after she asked a group of women if they wanted to go hiking. In one year, five hikers turned into 10, and when word of this group spread, there were over 1,000 hikers. Now there are more than 100 cities around the country dedicated to getting families together and out into nature with their children.
Wesley Molloy is the Tacoma branch lead and administrator for the group’s Facebook page. After hiking a trail in Federal Way with founder Shanti Hodges, Wesley knew she wanted to start a local Tacoma branch, and in October 2014, Hike It Baby Tacoma was born. “I felt inspired to get involved because Hike It Baby was exactly what I was looking for in my parenting journey,” she said.
Wesley was born and raised in Montana and spent most of her childhood outdoors. “I feel like my love for the outdoors all started when I was a young child, because I was allowed the freedom to run and explore nature. I wanted my daughter to have that same experience and that same love of nature.” So after she moved to Tacoma with her husband and daughter in 2013, she wanted to dive right in to the outdoors but felt unsure about hiking by herself with a small baby in tow. “So, once I heard about Hike It Baby, I knew this was exactly what I needed.”
The Tacoma branch is thriving and currently has 1,242 members with hikes ranging from 10 to 40 people, including children. Hike It Baby Tacoma holds at least one to two hikes per week, averaging about 10 to 15 hikes per month, and there’s something for just about anybody.
What’s more, all of the hikes are free, and after you have been on a hike, you are able to lead a hike, taking the group to various locations around the South Sound. “It does not have to fall within Tacoma city limits. We love exploring the trails in the areas surrounding Tacoma and a lot of our members reside in surrounding cities [like] Puyallup, Maple Valley, Federal Way, Lacey, Olympia, and Gig Harbor,” Wesley said.
Hike It Baby is designed to accommodate anyone, including young walkers or kids who are in strollers. “I have been leading a lot more child-led hikes because my 2-year-old prefers to walk these days, so I choose trails that are suitable for young children who are on foot or have a playground nearby.” Most child-led hikes are relatively flat and safe and offer opportunities to see wildlife or plants.
Here are some more benefits to joining:
- Hike It Baby is free!
- It provides a community of parents and caregivers who are all looking to get their children outdoors
- Great place for your kids to make friends
- Safe place for new parents to get outside at their own pace, benefiting mothers with postpartum depression
- Anyone is welcome on the hikes (moms, dads, partners, spouses, grandparents, etc.)
- You don’t have to have a child to come on the hikes, but the pace is slow to accommodate children
Ready to hit the ground running? Hike It Baby Tacoma is teaming up with the American Hiking Society to help get families outdoors for National Trails Day on Saturday, June 6, with a child-led hike at the Tacoma Nature Center from 10:30 a.m to 12:30 p.m. Superfeet, a Ferndale, Washington-based maker of insoles, will be giving away a pair of insoles to one lucky hiker who attends the event. For more information on how to join the Tacoma group for National Trails Day, click here.
“It’s very rewarding to watch people bond with their children on our hikes. I love watching the adults get down on the children’s level to look at bugs or plants, watching the children explore and use their imaginations or seeing our smallest hikers snuggling up inside a baby carrier while out in nature,” Wesley said. “We are a friendly group of parents and caregivers who all have the same goal in mind — to expose our children to nature and make friends along the way.”
For more information about the group, contact Wesley Molloy at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or follow Hike It Baby on its Facebook page. There you will find hike related topics and the hiking calendar of events.