By Beth Peralta
A new group is in Champaign County focusing on bringing families outside together. Hike it Baby is a national non-profit organization dedicated to bringing families together outside with the motto, “you’re never too young to hike.” The organization was begun in 2013 in Portland, Oregon, and currently has 264 different branches in 8 countries, all coordinated by volunteers.
The ambassador for the Champaign County group, Ali Johnson, moved to Champaign-Urbana with her family recently, and started Hike it Baby here in February 2016. She is from Oregon, and hiking and backpacking with her father were a special part of her own childhood.
Ali shared, “I have always wanted to share that with my daughter. After having my daughter Hollyn, being outside brought both of us peace and soothing in the difficult early months. I knew right away that nature was in her heart, too! Now when we are having a difficult day, my go to response is “let’s get outside!” I also realized that experiencing nature with her completely redefined adventure for me. We don’t have to go very far or do something difficult to experience the wonder of encountering a new animal or splashing in a puddle.”
Hike It Baby does not, for the most part, require any specific level of fitness from the hikers, and all hikes are detailed on the website, including information about length, pace, and difficulty of the planned hike. Details are also included about whether a particular hike is carrier and/or stroller friendly.
Hikes are led by member parents, and anyone can sign up to lead. There have been a variety of activities done by the group – trail hikes, park and plays, coffee/urban strolls, kid led exploration walks, special events, and quarterly challenges (called HiB30). A favorite recurring hike is Tunes and Trails, where the group sings nature songs while hiking. Before setting up your fist hike, Ali mentions that a member should reach out to one of the Branch Ambassadors (Ali or her new co-ambassador, Lyssa Putis), to get everything set! Since the group is completely run by volunteers, the hikes are at times that work for the hike host and their family. If you check out the schedule and do not see something that fits for your schedule, this can be a great opportunity to become a new host for a future hike.
To learn more about the Champaign County Hike It Baby, make sure to join the Facebook Group. The group has information about Hike it Baby, hike difficulty ratings, gear discounts from sponsors, and is a positive, supportive environment for asking questions and sharing advice.
Hike it Baby Tunes and Trails: On Weds., August 17 at 9:30- 10:45 a.m. Join us for a weekly Wednesday morning hike at the River Bend Forest Preserve. This is a special hike where we will stop along the trail to sing songs about nature and getting outside! Sometimes there will be small instruments or we will play with how to use natural items as instruments. We will alternate between two quiet, wide and flat trails.
Beth Peralta is a mother of two, wife, registered dietitian nutritionist, sometimes-runner, and coffee addict. She has been living in Champaign-Urbana nearly nonstop (minus two semesters of grad school and three summers) since 1998. Follow her on Twitter @simplybethP for assorted posts related to food, recipes, Illini, health, and more.