ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ7) - "I'm trying to decide to bring the potty or not bring the potty!”
It’s a chilly Tuesday morning and Bekah Quirin is preparing to lead a group of moms and their kids on a hike. Helping her lead them is her own daughter, Ellie, just 20 months old. But she knows a thing or two about life in the great outdoors.
This year, Ellie Quirin became the youngest person known to through-hike the Appalachian trail – with her parents of course.
But just a few months after the end of their major trip, Bekah and Ellie Quirin are now leading weekly group hikes through Hike it Baby.
It's a national non-profit, aiming to get families outside for a world of benefits.
"It can really fight off any kind of like postpartum depression,” Bekah Quirin said, with Ellie riding atop her shoulders, which she requested by yelling “Youlders!”
“Just getting outside and getting to talk through situations with other moms just casually can really like just boost self-esteem as a new mom," she said.
Dads are welcome, but it's usually a mom's club. And in that club, you can usually find Sara Hodge.
"We actually just moved here from Japan."
Hodge, perched on a log with her daughter Everly, said before moving to Roanoke she followed the Quirin’s journey on the Appalachian Trail through Instagram. She said she felt a little starstruck hiking with Bekah and Ellie for the first time. She was impressed and inspired by the family’s journey with a baby in tow.
"It really shows you, you can get out there and do a 30 minute with your kids,” Hodge said, laughing.
Even while she said her kids complain during the hike, they always have fun. And hiking brings her peace and a sense of community.
"I'm so much happier,” Hodge said. “Just after having a baby it's a rough transition and I feel like getting outside, especially if you're already an outdoorsy parent, it gets you back to your roots."
These roots are the ones that give their kids a chance to spread their own limbs and grow with the world around them
"They just get to use their imagination and really explore,” Quirin said. “So while we're out here on these hikes, the kids just have so many things to look at and play with and see outside and also the other kids get to play with each other."
Quirin said if families go on vacation want to hike, they can find a Hike it Baby group almost anywhere. She hopes to add more hikes to the calendar for all ages and skill levels. Pregnant moms are welcome, too!
Kids get to move at their own pace.
And snack breaks are frequent.
But even at a leisurely pace, Ellie is showing them time on trail is good for the soul.
“They really see the value in bringing their kids out and seeing their kids grow and learn and of course who doesn’t want the best for their kids?” said Quirin. “And so bringing them out they can really see how much they’re growing through going on a Hike it Baby hike.”
You can learn more about the group hikes by visiting the Hike it Baby Roanoke Facebook page.