For those interested in burning off excess holiday calories and getting started on the right foot with resolutions calling for more exercise, free guided hikes will take place Jan. 1 at 10 West Virginia state parks and forests, led by park superintendents and naturalists.
Attendance at West Virginia’s First Day Hikes has ranged from zero on days when temperatures dipped to zero degrees or colder, to as many as 300 on more temperate dates.
“We can’t control the weather, but if folks show, we go,” said Paulita Cousin, naturalist at Blackwater Falls State Park. Hikes led by Cousin at Blackwater Falls typically attract up to three dozen participants, and include stops for interpretive stories and to take in the winter scenery.
First Day Hikes trace their roots to an annual New Year’s Day hike led by the superintendent of Blue Hills Reservation State Park in Massachusetts. The first New Year’s Day hike at the Boston area state park in 1992 drew 380 hikers and continued to grow.
Twenty years later, the program went national under the sponsorship of America’s State Parks. Last year, First Day Hikes in all 50 states attracted 55,000 hikers who logged a total of 133,000 trail miles.
“Winter hiking is a unique experience,” said Sam England, West Virginia’s state parks chief. “Seasonal changes can make the same trail hiked in June unfamiliar in January due to foliage, wildlife activity and temperatures.”
Those taking part in the hikes are urged wear sturdy boots or hiking shoes, bring water and a snack, and arrive at the designated starting point 10-15 minutes prior to starting time. Additional information about the hikes is posted under the events tab at www.wvstateparks.com.
First Day Hikes taking place in West Virginia on Jan. 1, include:
- Kanawha State Forest — Two hikes, both starting at 1 p.m. from the Forest Headquarters, led by Superintendent Chris Bartley and Dave Dendler, forest naturalist.
- Blackwater Falls State Park — Hike led by naturalist Paulita Cousin starts at 10 a.m. from the Nature Center near the park’s Pendleton Lake.
- Cacapon Resort State Park — Two hikes, led by park naturalist Valerie Chaney and Master Naturalist Clark Dixon, both start at 10 a.m. from the park’s Nature Center.
- Cass Scenic Railroad State Park — Hike starts at 1 p.m. from the park’s visitor center, led by Kailey Price, park naturalist, and Superintendent Marshall Markley.
- Chief Logan State Park — Hike led by naturalist Lauren Cole starts at 10 a.m. from the Museum in the Park.
- Holly River State Park — Hike begins at 11 a.m. from the Anderson Activities Building, led by Superintendent Doug Wiant.
- North Bend State Park — Hike departs from the park’s Nature Center at 10 a.m., led by naturalist Ken Zebo.
- Pipestem Resort State Park — Hike begins at 1 p.m. from McKeever Lodge lobby, led by naturalist Julie McQuade.
- Twin Falls Resort State Park — Hike led by Cully McCurdy, Bugs Stover and park naturalist Tammy Cooper begins at 1 p.m. from the Falls Trail parking lot.
- Tygart Lake State Park — Hike starts at 1 p.m. from Tygart Lake Lodge, led by naturalist Jacob Jackson.
- Ridenour Lake in Nitro — Friends of Ridenour Lake and Nitro Get Out and Move team ask participants to meet at shelter #4 at the lake for the hike, which will begin at 10 a.m.