An international group dedicated to getting new parents outdoors with their babies has started a Rapid City branch. 

The local branch of Hike it Baby began organizing weekly hikes in October, and today it will host the first Hike It Baby — Hike On event at Founders Park.

The organization was founded in Portland, Oregon, in 2013 by Shanti Hodges and is run entirely by volunteers. There are 125 branches with more 37,000 members worldwide. The local Rapid City branch is slowly gaining new members as more families hear about them, said local branch leader Christel Peters.

“I hope that events like the Hike it Baby — Hike On will entice more families to join us on our hikes, walks and playdates,” Peters said.

She said that this is not a high-intensity hiking group. “This is a No Hiker Left Behind group. We stop for anything — diaper changes, meltdowns or feedings. Our pace may not be fast enough for some people, but we go as a group,” Peters said.

Peters originally joined the group in Anchorage, Alaska, where she was living at the time, when her son was about 5 months old. “I needed to get out of my house to escape the isolation I was feeling,” Peters said. “Getting out with other families who understood and had no judgement or irritation when you need to stop to change a diaper or feed a baby makes getting out so much less stressful.”

When Peters moved to Rapid City in October 2014, she knew she wanted to continue this group and contacted the founder, Shanti Hodges, to start a local branch. Peters has been branch leader ever since, with another volunteer acting as co-branch leader. They organize and lead hikes in town and around the Black Hills.

Megan Vander Heide went on her first hike with the group in December when her daughter was only about a month and a half old. She plans on attending the Hike On event. “Hanson-Larson Memorial Park trails was our very first hike with Hike it Baby, and we haven't been able to hike it since,” Vander Heide said. “So we're excited to do it again.”

One of Peters’ favorite hikes in this area is the Spring Creek trail system. “Because it is such an accomplishment to cross those plank bridges with 30 pounds of baby on your back,” Peters said.

For beginners, Peters suggested their Stratobowl hike, because it has a nice, wide gravel trail and it’s a relatively short hike at only around 1.8 miles round trip.

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Peters said every hiker’s equipment varies depending on the type of hikes they are doing and the ages of their children. Even for stroller walks, Peters recommends a jogging stroller so the tires last longer and the ride is less bumpy for your child. For parents who need carriers, she suggested researching before purchasing or coming to a Hike It Baby event and asking to try their carriers.

She also stressed the need for appropriate footwear. “I learned my lesson with cheap hiking boots resulting in bloodied feet,” Peters said.

Vander Heide likes the kid-friendly policies of the Hike It Baby group. “Hike it Baby has a no mama left behind policy. That means if you need to change a diaper, feed your little one, or anything else, we'll stop,” she said, before adding a word of encouragement for new parents.

“Don't worry about being out of shape. We've all been there. It is a great way to get out of the house, socialize, and everyone gets some fresh air and exercise.”

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