Jennifer Blender, an outdoor enthusiast, started the Parent and Child Hiking Group on Facebook, where members can gather and plan weekly hikes to a variety of trails around Guelph.
“Each week we try to spread out and choose a location elsewhere in the city, as some of our group members rely on public transit. The hikes are currently being scheduled for Thursday mornings from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., but some people leave early, and sometimes we wind up staying out a bit later,” said Blender.
The group was started in September, and Blender plans to continue organizing hikes throughout the winter months. She said that the location is announced each Monday through Facebook, and hikes will only be cancelled for illness or inclement weather.
So far the group boasts nearly 100 members online, and Blender said some weeks there have been over twenty people hiking together.
Blender became an avid hiker when she started scoping out locations to see fall leaves last year with her children.
“The majority of our summer outings together were spent visiting local conservation areas, particularly those who had sections of the Bruce Trail included in their own trail systems. Once school returned I didn't want our hiking experiences to be limited to weekends, and so I made a list of all the many, many trails in our city, and planned to take my daughter out one morning each week to start,” Blender said.
She tried joining an established adult hiking group, but the quick pace of the group was too much for Blender and her three-year-old to keep up with, and they quickly fell behind.
“When we got home, I thought to check with a local mom's group on Facebook to see what others' interests might be in a weekly preschool hiking group. The response was overwhelmingly positive and larger than I expected, so we started planning them right away,” she said.
Blender hopes that the hiking group will bring other outdoor enthusiasts together. She hopes that the group will become like other parent and child playgroups, but instead of having the group meet indoors they will gather and explore outdoors instead.
“Even more exciting could be the development of spin-off groups. For example, some who might like to also learn plant, tree, insect, fungi, bird identification, in addition to the basic motivation of hiking,” Blender added.
Blender also said that she doesn’t view herself as the sole leader of the hiking group, and welcomes others to jump in and organize hikes on alternative dates or different trails.
To find out more and to join the group visit Facebook’s Parent and Child Hiking Group (Guelph) here.