By Avery Peters
Hiking was invaluable to me during my first pregnancy with my son, Llewyn, as I wrapped my head around the new phase of life my husband and I were about to enter. We had just moved to Wolfville, and we found our house right next to the Woodland Trails of Acadia University. I couldn’t help myself ⎯ I was down in the forest every day with our dog. In the early stages of pregnancy, after living here for a few months, I realized that my usual trail-running didn’t work for me. So, I fully immersed myself in hiking, even if it was just for 30 minutes or so. I hiked right up until the birth of Llewyn. It did get a little more difficult throughout pregnancy (especially with all the snow that winter!). I just took things at my pace and enjoyed the trees if I had to stop for a moment.
Hiking has also gotten my family through all sorts of seasons of life, especially the difficult ones. It is a place to think and process all that is happening. We have so many good hike memories now. The most recent being a 6.5 km hike in the desert of Joshua Tree National Park in California, where one of my sisters and her family now live. It was the first time the whole extended family has been together in two years.
After Llewyn was born (just over a year ago), and as soon as I could, I was out on the trail. He was born after the winter of endless snow, so it took a while for the trails to clear. We hiked all through the summer and snowshoed through his first winter. It has been a joy to share the magic of a still winter morning, with snow gently resting on the branches, with Llewyn. We named him Llewyn Forrester after our love for the forest. He has taken to the name ⎯ his most often used sign is for “tree”. He does not have too many words yet, but it is such a pleasure to watch him, in a small moment of quiet reflection on the trail together, as he begins to sign tree while the breeze blows through the branches. I love sharing this passion for the forest with him and yet can’t wait for our hikes in the future when he walks and explores on his own.
Now I am pregnant with our second child and I find myself hiking with two babies attached to me. I will do it as long as I can, or until I have to recruit someone else to carry Llewyn (or head to stroller-friendly trails). Hiking is what keeps me happy, and Llewyn happy too. Whenever we don’t know what to do with ourselves, we just get out on the trail. The forest has been my place of meditation ⎯ a sacred place.
This love of hiking as a “newish” mother makes me want to share it with other mothers and families and to share how hiking is such a great way to get family and friends together. It’s a great way to recharge, reflect, and reconnect with ourselves, and each other, when life is good or when it gets overwhelming. It is such a powerful and simple thing. Whenever I hike, I feel better in so many ways and I think sharing it with kids right from the beginning is so important.
It is my goal to show families how hiking can be accessible at any stage in our children’s lives (including the very early stages!) and to share the joy of being outdoors with them. This is one of the reasons why I am starting a group in the Wolfville area called “Hike it Baby.” It is a non-profit international group with branches across North America and in a few other countries as well. A woman in Portland, Oregon, started it in the summer of 2013 and now there are 186 branches in five countries.
We will be hiking once a week throughout the Wolfville area (check our Facebook page by searching for “Hike it Baby Wolfville”). There will be stroller-friendly hikes, toddler-friendly hikes, and baby carrier trail hikes that will be easy or moderate. I will strive to give you as much information about each trail as possible and we’ll be creating an inventory of hikes and what is required in terms of energy/fitness level and baby gear. There are so many great pockets in the Valley, let’s explore them with our kids together.
And to keep you and your little ones energized on the trail, I just have to include my and Llewyn’s favourite snack. I got the idea from my friend Kira. She makes these all the time with so many variations of ingredients. The main thing is to use dates or apricots (or other dried fruits) as the binder. You can include some chocolate chips, but Llewyn isn’t quite old enough for those, so here’s a more baby/early toddler-friendly version that I created. Llewyn would gobble up one after another if I let him.
Hike it Baby Energy Balls
¼ cup almonds
½ cup pepitas/pumpkin seeds
Blend in food processor to reach desired size (smaller for younger children, larger if you like a little crunch). Remove to a separate bowl.
7 dates (medjool)
Remove seeds from dates and pulse in the food processor until they become a smooth paste (soak the dates in water for 30 minutes beforehand if they are more dried out).
1 tsp. lemon zest
⅛ cup finely chopped candied ginger
⅛ cup shredded coconut
¼ cup hemp hearts
Add these ingredients, and the already processed nuts and seeds, to the dates in the food processor. Blend until combined. You’ll have a nice paste. Roll them into balls and place in a container. They’ll keep best in the fridge.
Feel free to use this as a base recipe and experiment with all sorts of nuts, seeds, grains (oats work great), dried fruits, and even chocolate chips! Enjoy!