Travel

First Day Hikes

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 2015 include getting more fresh air and exercise, plan 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.

“Last year went real well; we had decent weather,” Peek said. “We had 2,242 hikers who walked more than a total of 4,500 miles. For the first time, we had a hike in every state park. This year, we’ll make a run at again having a hike in every one of them.”

Eno River State Park, near Durham, began having First Day hikes decades ago; it’s the most popular in terms of number of participants. Also in the top tier: Umstead State Park near Raleigh and Raven Rock near Fayetteville.

Hanging Rock, Pilot Mountain and Stone Mountain (near Roaring Gap) are also popular. “Those hikes are for people who want the mountain-type experience, though these aren’t truly high mountains, Peek said. “People aren’t as apt to to go to the big mountain parks when it’s cold out.”

That said, there was a First Day hike at Mount Mitchell State Park; that peak’s summit is over 6,000 feet.

Parks close to Charlotte include Lake Norman, Crowders Mountain and South Mountain.

All the parks’ First Day hikes are guided; most are led by rangers. There’s no admission at state parks, and all are open New Year’s Day.

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

South Carolina’s First Day program is also alive and hiking, according to Terry Conway, who coordinates those events for S.C. Parks. “We had events at 32 of our 47 properties; now we’re shooting for hikes at all of them. Last year we had 504 participants overall and they hiked just over 1,000 miles.”

The most popular, he said, was at Aiken State Park, southwest of Columbia along the South Edisto River. Right behind it was Huntington Beach State Park, on the Grand Strand; third for attendance was Devils Fork State Park, in the far northwest, on Lake Jocassee.

“The hikes tend to be 1 1/2 to 2 miles in length. We’re just trying to give people the opportunity to start the year off on a healthy foot by giving them a reason to get out and walk. If you start this habit on ‘Day 1,’ hopefully it will become a habit for the rest of the year.”

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.

And check the weather forecast.

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

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