Shanti Hodges, Executive Director and Founder of Hike it Baby is on a mission to create a radical shift in how you see adventure with young children. Rather than see a short, accessible hike as boring, insufficiently challenging, or more trouble than it’s worth, Shanti wants you to see those hikes and the numerous stops to play and explore as being every bit as rewarding as a big mountain summit or descent through backcountry powder.
And Shanti would know. Pre-kid, she was an adventure travel writer who specialized in snowboarding coverage. Yes. Really. She has had more days on more mountains than most of us will ever lay claim to. Yet she sees the hikes she gets to do with her young son as MORE exciting than solo adventures at the ends of the earth. She told me that she actually prioritizes outside time more now than she ever has before. “I’m much more likely to prioritize a hike for my son than I am for myself. I know he needs it so I make it happen.”
Shanti recently took her family on a 6 day river float trip. It was magical. Mellow water, no bugs, amazing camping spot that others had overlooked, perfect temperature. As she enjoyed her time on this trip she thought “I am the luckiest person on earth that I get to be here and experience this with my son and my husband.” It’s that feeling. Those moments that she wishes she could bottle up for people and give away. These are the moments she hopes to facilitate for families through Hike it Baby and the Hike it Baby 30 Challenge.
Shanti wasn’t always so devoted to hiking. Her kid free years were heavy on the longer and more extensive adventures. Mountain biking, snowboarding, summiting big peaks. But while pregnant she found that her body just naturally wanted to hike rather than do other sports. So hike she did. Hiking helped her through pregnancy and she credits it with improving the outcome of her labor and delivery. After her son was born, continuing to take him hiking was a natural extension. “I’m really enjoying the simplicity of just going for a hike. No special equipment. I spent plenty of time doing gear intensive sports. It’s just nice to throw on some shoes and go.”
I love and appreciate how naturally she describes leaning into the changes that motherhood brings. I certainly didn’t just gracefully accept that I would be limiting my adventures for a while. I railed and fought and felt pretty lost about it all. “Yeah,” she said, “I think it freaks a lot of women out. They are worried that they might never get to do those things again. I really hope to get the message across that this sweet time of carrying them while they are little is so very short. Enjoy it. You’ll be back on the mountain in just a few short seasons.”
Hike it Baby is not only committed to building a nationwide network of hiking groups for families to connect with each other, run the Hike it Baby 30 challenge with the goal of getting 1 million families hiking by 2020, they are also committed to creating a nationally recognized system for rating family friendly and adaptive friendly trails. It can be tough when looking for a place to bring the toddler or someone who needs a wheelchair accessible trail to get good information. Far too often you ask around and someone points you to trail that is way too long for tiny legs or has you scrambling up a scree field with a baby on your back. It’s the sort of experience that can turn people away from exploring the outdoors altogether.
What is most amazing is that they are funding all of these amazing community projects exclusively from the funds raised with the Hike it Baby 30 challenge. When you sign up on hikeitbaby.com you contribute a small $10 fee to this incredible cause AND you are added to an incredibly supportive facebook group community where you can share ideas, track your progress, and celebrate your victories as you aim for 30 miles in 30 days hiking with your kiddo. I’m so in.
When you are finished signing up for the Hike it Baby 30 challenge, check out Shanti’s other projects, a “hiking with kids” themed subscription box at https://www.littlehiker.co and the coolest kid focused outdoor festival out there http://www.familyforestfest.com.
Hike it Baby 30
About: The goal is to hike 30 miles in 30 days or get outside for 30 minutes 3x per week. The challenges occur in January, April, September, and November.
Who it’s for: Families with young children
Founders: Shanti Hodges
Sabrina Carlson is on the AMI Board of Directors and is also the Youth Outreach and Education Coordinator with the Seeds of Stewardship Program of the Arizona Trail Association. She is a mama, writer, adventurer, outdoor educator, PPD warrior, fiercely passionate friend, self-care advocate, and deep lover of chocolate and bacon (occasionally together). Follow Sabrina’s adventures @mamawildnfree or read more of her writing at mamawildandfree.com.