There is a strange trap of parenthood. Your "before" life—filled with impromptu activities like hiking, camping, and skiing—gets tossed aside the minute your new little bundle takes a breath. It is so easy to accept a life of staying within yelling distance of the crib, couch, and changing table. But, if you thrived on getting outside before Junior was born, it would be a Colorado sin not to get back to the trails as soon as you feel comfortable.
OK, so you say you're ready. Now, which trail is infant appropriate? What happens if you twist an ankle? Do you need to pack the entire nursery? There is no need to try and handle this new adventure all by yourself. Colorado Mountain Mamas is a pack of mothers ready to be your hiking buddies. The group started a decade ago when new mom, Joy Opp, wanted to get back on the trail with her infant daughter, but was unsure about going solo. After a quick poll of her local mom's group, she had a crew signed up for the "ultimate playgroup."
CMM sets up weekly hikes that dot the Front Range with all hiking abilities and fitness levels welcome. Opp schedules all the hikes and the Wheat Ridge-based mom and her other hike leaders meet you at the trailhead. Don't worry about not recognizing your new hiking friends: They're the ones with the kids strapped to them.
The "babies" group puts the little ones, ages two and under, in a pack on mom so the group keeps moving. By insisting the babies—even if they can walk—stay in packs, moms get the exercise and pace they crave. The hikes last less than an hour and a half. Mamas (dad's are welcome, too) can usually get back into the woods when they are cleared for exercise around four to six weeks postpartum (hikers have been as young as 26 days old).
Prep is easy: You just need a pack, some water, and your babe. Dress the baby warmer than what you would wear for the hike, as they won't be doing any of the work. Worried about the diaper situation? Opp says in her 10 years of hikes, there has only been one stop for a change. Feed and change your little one right before the trek starts and they should be good. (It's true. On my recent hike with the group, no catastrophic diaper emergencies occurred.) And if something did need immediate assistance, you're never really that far from the cars.
That's important when it comes to safety, as well. Where I used to be OK hiking on my own because I knew that if I got hurt I could probably hobble down or get help from a fellow passerby. Add the stress (and weight) of a crying baby and the situation suddenly isn't so simple. With the CMM group, you'll never hike alone.
By the time your group makes it back down the trail, the babies are sleeping or squeaking happily, and the mamas have had adult conversation, gotten some mountain air, and logged some exercise. So, just as you thought motherhood had changed life as you knew it, this modern mom group will help steal back a little part of your former self—and encourages your little one to love the outdoors as much as you do.
Too big for the pack: If you have a little explorer two to six years old, try the toddler hikes, which are much shorter with no real expectation of a destination. The toddler group is more focused on learning the basics of discovery, learning to stay safe, and how-to respect the outdoors.
Want to join? Membership to the Colorado Mountain Mamas is normally $50 annually, but 50 percent off until Christmas with the discount code: winter2013.
—Image courtesy of Joy Opp
Follow editorial assistant Lindsey R. McKissick on Twitter at @LindseyRMcK.