When Andrea Heath had a baby in April, she found limited opportunities to get active with her newborn. She was adjusting to life as a mom, shifting priorities from a busy working life to a slower pace, and didn't want to sit around.
"I started looking around to try to find a mom's hiking group just to meet other moms and get in the outdoors," Heath said. "There wasn't anything going on."
That's what prompted Heath to start a community of her own. Wild and Tiny YKA is based on a similar group in Vancouver, connecting parents through Facebook to meet for hikes with their babies. Children as young as six weeks of age have explored with their moms the trails at Paul Lake and Lac du Bois.
"We hike all over Kamloops, using all the city's parks systems and then, as well, the group has gone out to McConnell Lake," Heath said.
More than 200 people have joined the Facebook group and between seven and nine moms consistently turn up for the weekly get togethers. Heath said it can be tough getting back on track fitness-wise after having a baby. Her son Caden adds 18 pounds of extra weight in Heath's hiking backpack, which can carry a child up to 45 pounds. Mom is getting a workout, but Heath said the babies enjoy coming along for the ride and expressed the importance of exposing children to nature at a young age.
"I read lots of different articles on the importance of introducing smells as early as six weeks," she said. "It really helps your child grow cognitively in a very quick way. Even though they're still young, it helps them socialize."
It's not uncommon for the babies to do what they do best.
"If they're crying, we don't care," she said.
Hikes will continue as the temperature continues to drop. Heath is on maternity leave from Tourism Kamloops and has seven years under her belt as a hiking guide in the Rockies.
"I have a lot of experience with different weather systems," she said, noting she can advise parents about appropriate attire and where to buy second-hand hiking gear.
For more information, search for Wild and Tiny YKA on Facebook. The group posts its hikes as events and the plan is to eventually add a ski group. Dogs are also welcome.