Founder's Interview: Shanti Hodges
What made you start Hike It Baby?
When my son Mason was born I didn’t have very many friends who had little ones. I was at a wonderful new mama group, but I wanted to be outside. So I asked a few women if they wanted to go walk with me the next week in Portland’s beautiful Forest Park. That first week five women showed up. The next week 10 women showed up and then 15 and so on. I saw this was a way for people with little ones to gather. From there it evolved. Friends of friends would see pictures of hikes and want to learn how to start this in their part of the country. That’s when I knew it was something that others wanted. My desire was to make it easier for families to get on the trail with their newborns, regardless of whether they were experienced hikers or not.
Is It What You Expected?
Yes and no. It’s so much larger than I ever imagined. I had no idea it would be so popular. Though in the first few weeks I knew it was going to be something when my cell and email all of a sudden were tough to keep up with. That’s what inspired a community calendar, and it just grew from there. It’s been an incredible past 3 years to know that not only am I making lifelong friends, but helping with providing a sense of community for those with small children.
What’s the vision?
Hike it Baby has been an entry point for getting many people into the outdoors. Sure it doesn’t cost anything to hike and anyone can do it, but we are connecting people so that they don’t have to do it alone. They don't have to have experience or make a commitment. We attract an amazing, caring group of women and men and have space for all, and will teach new people how to wear their baby, how to breastfeed while walking, or waiting and leaving no one behind. My vision is more of that. Expanding not only beyond the current 300 chapters, but allowing each of those chapters to embrace new families and to share their enthusiasm and love in getting everyone to enjoy the outdoors, no matter what their experience level or ability. We want to be a safe space for single moms (and dads) with one or multiplies. Groups provide support for whatever you scenario is. See some inspirational stories below. (I have the examples of Brandi Adams and Lindsey Frost in the email to share)
Why is it so important to you for mothers?
Motherhood can be very isolating if you let it. The earlier that you find community, the better the parenting experience can be. Often making a coffee date can be awkward but going on a hike is another story. There’s no barrier and no pressure to be best friends. You gives you instant commonality, and you join when you want to with no pressure, no strings. So if you’re kid is having a bad day, you try again the next. But there’s something about getting outside that is so healing and inspiring.
How does one get started with Hike it Baby?
To get started register on the website. Then “Find your city” on the dropdown in the menu and join the Facebook group from there. Enter the city you live in on the bar at the top of the website and hikes in your area will pop up. If there is no branch in your area we have a program where you can set a branch up and become part of the organization.