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First Day hikes

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Harry Lynch - HARRY LYNCH
New Year’s Day hikers makes their way across a suspension foot bridge over the Eno River.

The first thing you do on Jan. 1 is crawl out of bed and into a new year. But then what?

If your resolutions for 2014 include getting more fresh air and exercise, you may want to plan ahead to take a First Day hike. The N.C. State Parks program has had people strolling since Jan. 1, 2012, according to public information officer Charles Peek.

“This will be our third year,” he said. “The first year, the hikes were extremely popular – there was decent weather over most of the state – and we had 1,392 people show up. We had lousy weather New Year’s Day 2013, but miraculously, 470 still showed up.”

Last year, participants walked more than 4,500 staff-led miles at 40 parks. There’s no admission charged at state parks, and all are open New Year’s Day.

“Because of the time of the year, most of the parks’ staff isn’t that busy,” Peek said, “and they like getting outdoors.”

Most parks last year offered one First Day hike, but several had two hikes and one – Eno River, near Durham – had three. At that park, hiking on Jan. 1 is a tradition.

“Eno River began this before anybody in the country,” Peek said. “About 40 years ago when we were starting the park, the Eno River Association started having them on New Year’s Day.”

First Day hikes were held last year at such close-to-Charlotte parks as Lake Norman, Crowders Mountain and South Mountain. There were hikes down on the coast at parks like Hammocks Beach and Jockeys Ridge.

Due to weather, staging First Day hikes in mountain parks can be dicey, according to Peek. That said, there were “hardy souls” who started 2013 with a hike at Grandfather Mountain.

For details, go to www.ncparks.gov, then click “Search” and type “Events” in the window.

There’s a similar First Day program in South Carolina; hikes are held from Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site to Oconee State Park; from Myrtle Beach State Park to Table Rock State Park.

Details: www.southcarolinaparks.com.

In all cases, do your homework ahead of time: On either site, find a park where you’re comfortable with the terrain and length of hike. You’ll need to know what time the hike begins and where the meeting place will be.

Bring water, dress for the weather and wear the appropriate type of walking shoes or hiking boots.

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